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Holiday Treats from Alberta

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Winter's Kiss from Eau Claire Distillery Winter's Kiss from Eau Claire Distillery

By Dan Clarke

Taste California Travel and all of its predecessors have had a strong wine orientation.

We’ve been analyzing wines for more than three decades. It’s a topic where we feel comfortable. We enjoy spirits, too, but don’t claim any particular expertise in that broad category.

As much fun as it might sound, launching anything like an ongoing comprehensive review of other alcohols is just beyond our capabilities. However, we do enjoy an occasional taste of something other than wine and beer—especially if it sounds like it might be a palate-expanding experience.

Such was the case when we heard about Eau Claire Distillery in Turner Valley (Alberta), said to produce “Canada’s premier, farm-to-glass spirits.” Though other distilled products are apparently in their repertoire, the two suggested by Eau Claire’s representative were their Parlour Gin and Prickly Pear EquineOx.

I enjoy gin. For years, my everyday gin was Gordon’s; the weekend and special-occasion choice was Beefeater’s. I still like those brands, but there are so many options these days. In the wake of craft beers have come craft liquors, some very appealing. I assume that gin contains the influence of juniper and other ingredients included in the general category of botanicals. Parlour Gin was purported to feature “hints of rosehip, Saskatoon berry, coriander, lemon, orange, mint and spice.” Well, I might have been familiar with some of those components, but Saskatoon berry . . .what California boy would have had such experience?

Prickly Pear EquineOx is “a distillation of the essence of Alberta—blue skies, mountain-fresh water, prairie grain and distinctive ingredients like the prickly pear cactus,” said the publicist. Well, somebody else might have been able to resist, but I certainly couldn’t. Saskatoon berries sounded like they could be part of that “farm-to-glass” authenticity, but Prickly Pear Cactus? Cacti grow in Canada? Who’d have thought?

I was intrigued. The whole thing seemed quirky enough. Send samples, I said.

Though we tried both products over a month ago, our brief tasting notes languished until we were reminded of Eau Claire’s existence when the distillery sent seasonal drink recipes. We tasted both the Parlour Gin and Prickly Pear EquineOx at room temperature and “neat” with just a little water on the side. We liked the gin very much and could imagine it in a Martini or gin and tonic. We weren’t sure about the Prickly Pear EquineOx. After all, we’d never experienced something remotely like it. Though we haven’t tried either the Winter’s Kiss or Frosty Lady cocktails accompany this report, we’re confident that they’d both be pretty tasty.


Dan's notes: Prickly Pear EquineOx, 80 proof

“Floral. A delightful aroma, but I can’t immediately identify it (maybe banana or melon--cantaloupe?).

First taste seems banana-like (didn’t like it), but taste finishes with some spice and alcoholic heat and spice. Not a big fan of this, but it might grow on me or work in a mixed drink.”


Winter's Kiss

(pictured top of page)

1 oz. Prickly Pear EquineOx

½ oz. St. Germain

1 oz. simple syrup

2 oz. rose

Fee Brothers Cranberry Bitters



Dan's notes: Parlour Gin, 80 proof

“Quite spicy. Not ‘hot’ spicy, but white pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, etc. spicy. This spice is apparent even in the nose, but more so on the palate and in the finish. Enough different to be appealing, but not so much as to dominate in a mixed drink. Expect it to be complementary in such circumstances. Liked it.”


frosty lady pic resized Picmonkey


Frosty Lady

(pictured above)

1 oz. Parlour Gin

½ oz. Triple Sec

½ oz. lemon juice

½ oz. simple syrup

½ oz. egg white

Garnish with rose petals


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