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Nov 17, 2014


It's snowing.

Yesterday was the Santa Clause parade, this weekend will be American Thanksgiving, it's officially the Holiday's. I think they should start at the beginning of January instead.The six weeks on this side of the calender aren't in need of any help. It would make more sense if we spent the deepest portion of winter in party mode, start the year off celebrating and help to pass by the long cold days of hibernation season. Either way there are going to be a long stretch of parties ahead and you'll need to pace yourself.

Enter the Shim.

A low alcohol drink designed to allow you to extend your evening while preventing you from becoming intoxicated. It provides a slower tempo and reprieve from the more intense experience of high alcohol options and is an important component in responsible drinking. Like our host for this MxMo, bibulo.us, I also like to drink at least one full glass of water for every drink with alcohol but as they have pointed out, in a night of cocktailing you'll need more than that to help keep you upright. Shims are the perfect solution.

A few months back there was a MxMo featuring Zero Proof drinks which are also a great way to pace an evening. This time we're talking about having a low alcohol drink. A movement is growing in popularity in the cocktail community to allow guests to taste a larger variety of drinks. It's not a backlash against the super proof, antique cocktails, simply a reflection of growth to menus that showcase a full range of options.

The low alcohol content of these drinks also allows the imbiber to taste more of the components in the drink. This is really great for the garden to glass folks such as my self. I like to make all of my own ingredients and would like to be able to detect them in the finished product. In order to drive this point home I've made one last local seasonal fruit drink that speaks to the heart of where I come from and as it happens has a very low alcohol content.

The Niagara escarpment is a ridge of land running across the Great Lakes Basin and includes the cliff over which Niagara Falls flows. The unique shape of the terrain is partly responsible for creating the growing conditions necessary for high quality, cool climate wine production. It has to do with warm lake air getting trapped over the vines at night, I won't attempt to explain the science, but you can read more about it on the wine country site.

This area is responsible for producing some of my favourtie wines. I became a wine lover while working at a restaurant that focused on featuring these wines in the same context as some of the best international labels. The same restaurant also paired local ingredients with these wines. If you're reading this in California, France or Italy this might seem like an obvious thing to do but our wine region is so young by comparison, that it's still difficult to find this style of dining outside of winery restaurants in Ontario. While I happen to know many conscientious Chefs that integrate local ingredients, wines and spirits, it's hardly the norm. More over, it has been treated as a passed trend by food media. That won't stop those of us who believe in the quality of the wine and food grown in the Niagara region and in particular today I'm going to do my part to champion a paring from the Beamsville Bench, an area about 45 mins from Toronto.

This belongs to Cave Spring.

This low alcohol treat combines a Riesling from Cave Spring and some pears from Bizjak farms, a short drive down the road from the winery which isn't far from the vineyard. We have layered like with like flavours. The limestone rich soil supports the growth of the grapes and the pears and is evident in the flavour profiles of both. The pears taste like Riesling and the Riesling tastes like those very same pears.
Keep in mind that if you do live in another area you can do this same type of pairing. In Marlborough, New Zealand for example you could match Sauvignon blanc with gooseberries (I'm only guessing on that one, it was surprisingly hard to find information on gooseberry farming there). If you're in Alsace you could use apples and Pinot Gris. There are as many possibilities for this as there are wines, any where grapes grow, so do other fruits. It just so happens that the cool climate here supports grapes like Riesling and orchard fruits like pears.

this is an old pic of a pear from a family tree.

The point is to take a local wine and match it with a locally grown fruit. I even added a brandy produced about 20 mins away that uses more local grapes. the richness of the brandy ties the acidic wine and pear together. The Violette isn't so local but I have a farmer who is going to be gathering violets for me next year, look forward to some posts on that. In the interim you could also use an elderflower liqueur or some drops of chamomile tea. What you want is something to enhance the floral aromas. The little extra effort for this drink is worth it for the holiday season. It's so easy to mix all of this ahead, pour it over ice and add soda, creating a low alcohol drink perfect for extending the party.

Escarpment Spritzer
2 oz fresh pear puree* 
2 oz Cave Spring Riesling
1/4 oz Brandy
1/4 oz Creme de Violette
3 oz sparkling water (soda water)

*2 whole ripe pears
1 oz fresh lemon juice

Chop pear (skin on) and place in blender or food processor with lemon juice. Blend until smooth then strain.

Fill a large wine glass with ice, pour ingredients over ice, saving the soda for last, stir briefly. Garnish with fresh pear and a straw. 

How do you feel about cocktail menus that only have strong options? Are more of your favourite spots adding lower proof options? Tell us in the comments below.

Another big Thank you for MxMo and Bibulo.us, the themes are always so fun.

Here's a link to the roundup, check out what everyone made.

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