The Cathedral Grove is a gin and sherry cocktail that I developed for a competition. The organizers asked for a recipe inspired by Pacific Northwest. The winner would have received the title of best bartender in the region. Nobody entered the competition. They canceled it. They didn’t give me details, but I assume I was the only person who entered. I labor under the delusion that I won the title by default. I don’t like to make a big deal of it, but I wear the title with pride.
This is my entry. It starts with cedar and smoke top notes. The flavor is rich and warm, filled with date, raisin, and fig. Perfect for waiting out the rain or watching storms roll in off the Pacific.
Gin and Sherry Cocktail
Aroma and Flavor
Smell has an incredible ability to evoke a sense of place. It is also a great way to enhance the flavor of a cocktail. I find this fascinating. When we smell the experience is direct. Aromas have incredible power to evoke emotions and recall memories. Both individual and collective
Rain, sea salt air, and the deep forests are among the distinctive smells of Vancouver Island. I’ve been experimenting with a series of drinks built around those aromas
The Scent of Ancient Forests
Cedar is one of the most recognizable smells associated with the region. Cathedral Grove is a protected remnant of an ancient forest on Vancouver Island. In the heart of this forest, there are thousand-year-old cedars. These trees had their bark stripped and used for ceremonies long ago. This is the inspiration for a cocktail that starts with cedar aromatics. and layers of oak, maple wood flavors.
If you are planning a drink inspired by a region you start with local ingredients. Vancouver Island is fortunate to have several great #gin distillers. I started by choosing a local oak aged gin as the base. I’m a huge fan of a gin and sherry cocktail. I decided to combine the oaked gin with oloroso sherry. Gins aged in oak pair well with oloroso sherries raised in oak casks.
Aromatic Tree Sap
The list of flavor compounds in maple syrup is a lot like the flavors found in wines raised in oak casks. That made maple syrup the obvious choice as a sweetener. Maple syrup production is also one of the unique cottage industries on Vancouver Island. Unfortunately, the result was a little too harmonious.
I wanted to bring out some richer flavors in the drink. In the end, I used a combination of pomegranate molasses and maple syrup as the sweetener. The combination worked. The pomegranate enhanced the raisin and fig notes in the sherry. It added the complexity I was missing.
Smoke is another distinctive aroma of the British Columbia and the Pacific coast. Wood is a common heat source around here. On cool mornings the smell of wood fires hangs in the air.
Smoke also works well as a flavor enhancer in a cocktail. It is a complimentary flavor to oak. The smell of smoke seems to tie flavors together. Conditioning a glass with smoke is dramatic. It is a technique that gets people’s attention at the bar. People’s eyes always light up when they bring the glass to their nose. Then they get lost in nostalgia for sitting around the fire.
The Cedar Essence in this cocktail is a cedar scented spray. It works like twisting an orange peel over the top of a drink. The oils enhance the aroma of the drink.
For the spray, I used two drops of a food-grade cedar oil and one drop of neroli oil. The carrier was a neutral spirit. If you are making this yourself a high proof vodka works just fine.