Business Beat: Summer cocktails from The Cabin

Agnes Kowalczuk, co-owner of The Cabin in downtown Revelstoke, gives some advice on creating delicious summer cocktails.

Agnes Kowalczuk owns the cabin along with her partner Troy Mayhew.

Agnes Kowalczuk owns the cabin along with her partner Troy Mayhew.

By Karilyn Kempton, Special to the Revelstoke Review

When summer is in full swing, nothing beats the sound of ice tinkling in a cool glass, with rivulets of condensation streaking down the outside, and bright flavours coming together in a deliciously refreshing beverage.

I stopped at the bright and airy new patio at The Cabin last week for a dose of summer cocktail inspiration. The combination bar/shop/bowling alley is known for its fancy cocktails, including the extra-large fishbowls.

Owners Agnes Kowalczuk and Troy Mayhew have operated The Cabin since 2008 after moving to Revelstoke from Whistler.

They were thrilled to officially open up their brand new 80-seat patio on Saturday and launch a fresh new cocktail menu. With evening sun until close to 10:00 p.m., there’s no doubt it will be a popular gathering point all summer to sit and watch the sunset.

While they kept some best sellers, most drinks are new creations or interesting fruit-forward spins on old favourites, like watermelon mojitos, peach juleps and watermelon margaritas.

“We wanted to bring fresh, local ingredients to our menu,” says Kowalczuk. They are sourcing the herbs and fruit for their drinks from local farmers Track Street Growers (of Revelstoke Garlic Festival fame). The pair aims to bring a variety of seasonal farm-to-table cocktail creations to the menu throughout the summer as different fruits come into season. They also added a selection of BC craft beer to the menu.

Photo: Agnes Kowalczuk, co-owner of The Cabin, recommends garnishing a cocktail with a herb like mint and some fruit.

I asked Kowalczuk for some advice for folks who want to create their own summer cocktails, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, for backyard enjoyment. Her face lit up as she listed combinations she’s excited about right now: lemon, cucumber and lavender; lemon and blueberry; lime or lemon and ginger; blood orange and dark rum; the list went on and on.

Her takeaway advice is to use what you have and keep it simple. “You don’t want to overwhelm the drink. There’s no need to complicate things, especially when you’re working with bold flavours like ginger,” says Kowalczuk.

She advocates using fresh, seasonal ingredients where possible. Start with fresh or frozen fruit, fresh herbs, ice, sparkling or soda water, and a cocktail shaker. If you’re planning to use alcohol, use whatever you have on hand. “Muddle the fruit and herbs or give it all shake in a cocktail shaker and you’re a mixologist,” she laughs.

If you need sweetness, you can also add agave or simple syrup (one part sugar to one part water), or sprinkle some brown sugar straight into your cocktail. If you have fruit juice on hand, you might add a splash. Where possible, use frozen fruit instead of ice cubes to keep drinks cool without watering them down. And don’t forget the garnish! A sprig of herbs or a slice of fruit looks beautiful.

She’s a firm believer that non-alcoholic concoctions should also make people feel like you’ve made them something special. For easy, non-alcoholic refreshment, she simply shakes fruit in a cocktail shaker with some sparkling water to infuse it with flavour, or adds sliced citrus fruit, whole berries or cucumber to a pitcher of water along with fresh herbs like mint or rosemary. A quick virgin sangria is simply grape juice, any fruit you’ve got on hand such as watermelon or grapes, topped with soda or San Pellegrino.

Photo: The Cabin’s new patio can seat 80 people.

Just like chefs do in the kitchen, Kowalczuk also advises readers to always taste test your cocktails before handing them over to your guests. Channel your inner bartender — dip a straw in with your thumb over the top to get a little sample for quality control. And just as they did with head bartender Sarah MacNeil and manager Jason DiNardo when creating their cocktail menu, tweak your cocktails until you’re satisfied.

“Often, we just knew that some combinations would taste good together, and then we’d work on the little details,” says Kowalczuk; “A drink might need to be more sour, or sweeter, or need a prettier garnish.”

She encourages readers to do the same at home.