Saturday, February 18, 2012

The day I joined 'the Club'

If that title doesn't make you curious enough to read further, almost nothing will...

You'd have to be a pretty incurious sort to not at least want to find out which club it is I joined - the Playboy Club? The Hair Club for Men (and now Women, I see)? The Press Club? The Rod and Gun Club? The Explorers Club?

While I wouldn't mind joining some of those above-mentioned clubs (and would like avoid a few, if possible), if you guessed any of those, you guessed wrong.

I'm talking about joining ... (drum roll, please!) ...

The Sour Toe Cocktail Club!

Of course, what else, would it be?

I am actually celebrating my second anniversary of having joined that illustrious club, so I figured I should shout it to the world (or at least the Internet!)

For those not familiar with the Sour Toe Cocktail (or without the inclination to click on the link above, because you just can't tear yourself away from my riveting prose!), essentially, it involves taking a shot of your favorite liquor libation which also shares a glass with a (get ready for this) a sour toe - that is, an actual human toe that has been dehydrated and preserved in salt.

And - get this - in order to actually qualify, you have to drink the drink and let the toe touch your lips at some point while drinking.

Like the club motto says, "You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow - but the lips have gotta touch the toe."

Only in Canada, you say ...

The tradition began in Dawson City, in the Yukon Territory. Originally, the toe (the original one thought to have been "donated" by some "sourdough" from the Klondike Gold Rush days, probably one lost through frostbite while mushing down the trail) had to be placed in a beer glass full of champagne in order to be an official, genuine Sour Toe Cocktail.

These days, it's a bit more relaxed, it can be any drink - even non-alcoholic, apparently - but where's the fun in that?

Captain Dick welcomes me to the fraternity.

Now ideally, you would become a member of the club by drinking the cocktail in the Yukon. However, Yours Truly became a member in Vancouver, during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Like many other tourism boards, Tourism Yukon hosted an event during the Games.

It was at that event I had the opportunity to sit down with Captain Dick, the official head of the club, and became a member of this illustrious group. So in a sense, I was sort of on "Yukon soil," kind of like when you're at a Russian embassy in a foreign country, you're considered to be on Russian soil.

Anyway, I sat beside the captain, and I had a choice of rye whiskey, rum, vodka or tequila to mix with my toe. Sadly, there was no Yukon Jack available, that would have been my ideal choice. But, my second choice was whiskey.

A friend of mine, fellow travel writer Lenora Hayman, stood by to snap a picture of the momentous occasion. However, her camera was not as fast as my quaffing ability - I picked up the drink, belted it back - and she still hadn't got the pic.

So I did the only thing I could - I froze in stop-action mode, holding the glass up to my mouth, the toe resting against my lips, all the liquor drained.
For half a second, I toyed with the idea of putting the tip of my tongue on it to really see what the toe tasted like, but common sense quickly overruled that, and the picture was taken. Whew!

It didn't really taste that bad, the whiskey was good, went down quick - and I became a card-carrying club member for life.

By the way, although you get a membership card and certificate, you don't get to keep the toe - you have to give it back.

Now, if you want an opportunity to join this elite group, this would be a perfect year - in fact, this month would be the perfect month to do so. The Yukon is hosting its 2012 Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Feb. 23-26, to mark the 70th anniversary of the Alaska Highway (also known as the Alcan Highway).

 Snowshoeing, one winter activity you can enjoy in the Yukon.

Even if you can't make that date, a trip to the Yukon at any of the year will give you the opportunity to become a member of the Sour Toe Cocktail Club, as well as providing plenty of other excellent travel adventures, including paddling trips and bird-watching in the summer, or dog-sledding and snowshoeing if you prefer to visit during the winter.

Can't make it? Well, you can always buy Sour Toe memorabilia online - even a chocolate sour toe or two.

But, of course, that won't make you a member of the club ...

Monday, February 13, 2012

VIMFF more than just 'mountain' movies

Well, unfortunately I did not make it to the Tales of the Cocktail opening night bash as I had hoped to, Sunday night. From all reports, a good time was had by all, though.

However, I did manage to make it to the "Great Ocean Traverses" presentation at the 2012 Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival, Saturday night at Pacific Cinematheque.

John Vaillant will read
from his book, Tuesday.
In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I'm planning to go to a few more evening presentations that are part of the festival. Tonight (Monday) I'll be taking in On the Trail of Genghis Khan , then Tuesday night, it's "Tiger Night," featuring the film Conflict Tiger (the inspiration for Vancouver writer John Vaillant's book, The Tiger) followed by a reading by Vaillant from his book and capped off by the movie, Broken Tail, the story of a Bengal tiger in India (I've already seen it twice - it's an incredible film!)

But about the ocean traverses...

The first part of Saturday's presentation was a slide show and talk by Paul Gleeson, about rowing across the Atlantic Ocean with his girlfriend as part of an international race (which he later turned into a book.)

He was humorous, charming, witty - your typical Irishman. A very inspirational talk, as well. He left us with four questions:

1. What would you do if you knew you only had five years to live?

2. What would you do if you had no limitations?
3. What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
4. What would you like to see if you could meet yourself in the future, five years from now?

Crossing the Swell: Paul and Tori row across the Atlantic.

Beau Miles: by kayak around Africa

Following a short intermission, we then watched an amazing film about Beau Miles attempting to kayak around the southern tip of Africa from Mozambique to Namibia. Lots of hardship, there, in terms of dealing with waves, bureaucrats, more waves, wind, and the usual nicks and other health issues that are a part of long-distance kayak touring.

If you're really into paddling, there's more in store at the VIMFF. Wednesday night is "Kayak Night" and features several short- and medium-length films about kayaking. Those hit the waves at Denman Cinemas.

Also running that night, at Centennial Theatre, are several other water-conservation oriented presentations, as part of the "Sacred Headwaters" theme, including White Water, Black Gold.

I might not make it to those, having had my fill (if that's possible!) of water, paddling, rowing et al, already. But I'm really pumped about Tuesday's "Tiger Night."

From Sasha Snow's film, Conflict Tiger

Oh, and by the way - there are plenty of other films that do showcase mountains, mountain climbing and bicycling. But, as you have may have guessed, given the title of my blog, I'm more of a paddler than a pedaller, more of a birder than a climber.

VIMFF website lists all the themes and movies as the festival continues through until Saturday, Feb. 18.

Maybe I'll see you at one of the events...

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sips and snails and cocktail tales ... ?

Now that I've grabbed your attention...

From time to time in this space I've alluded to some of the various beverages and concoctions I've enjoyed, both at home and in my travels around the world.

Regular readers may have picked up on the fact that I love "vintage" ... anything. Vintage travel books, vintage travel stickers, vintage travel posters, vintage movies, vintage music, vintage clothing - the list is pretty much endless.

So it stands to reason that any event that combines cocktails with a vintage theme is almost a "must-not-miss" event on my social/travel calendar.

That's why I'm so pumped up about attending the "Tales of the Cocktail Tour Vancouver" 2012 Hollywood North official opening party, this coming Sunday evening at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia, in downtown Vancouver.

To quote from the invitation/press release I received the other day:
"This event will take you back to 1930's Vancouver, a favourite Hollywood haunt at the height of U.S. prohibition ...1930's-themed cocktails from Hendrick's Gin, Glenfiddich, Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, Tullamore Dew, Grant's and Gibson's Finest will be served by spirits superstars like Charlotte Voisey - the two time Tales of the Cocktail Golden Spirit Winner and William Grant & Sons Global Brand Ambassador - and Xavier Padovani, the Global Brand Ambassador for Hendrick's Gin."

Wow. Guess I better dust off the old fedora for this event. (But for the record - I won't be wearing spats. I don't own spats. In fact, I've never worn spats. I've had a few, mind you ...)

Running through until Wednesday, the entire multi-day event features tastings, seminars and lots and LOTS of good food. And cocktails.

Of course, Yours Truly will be blogging about the opening after attending it. But until then, to honor the spirit (or "spirits") of the event, I'll share with you a few cocktail recipes (some vintage, some not so vintage) along with some book titles you may want to check out.


Named for the famous New York night club, from The Stork Club Cocktail Book (1946)

- 1-1/2 oz gin
- juice of half an orange
- dash of lime juice
- dash Cointreau
- dash Angostura bitters

A stork club: icy cold and ready to sip.
Pour ingredients into an ice-filled shaker. Shake, then pour into a cocktail glass.

(While the original recipe is taken from the book listed above, I came upon it in one of the books I consider to be one of my "cocktail bibles": Straight Up or On the Rocks, A cultural history of American drink, by William Grimes.)

                          VESPER MARTINI

Here it is, the official, the one-and-only James Bond Vesper Martini. This makes ONE martini, so use with caution ...

- 3 oz. dry gin
- 1 oz vodka
- 1/2 oz. blonde Lillet (it's a French aperitif)

Pour ingredients into chilled cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well for one minute. Strain into chilled martini glass with a large, thin slice of lemon peel.

(Originally from Ian Fleming's Casino Royale (1953); again, I discovered it in Grimes' book Straight Up or On the Rocks. )

The ONLY way to make a Vesper...


I have to include at least one "parrot" drink in this blog, given its name. This one comes from The Essential Book of Boat Drinks & Assorted Frozen Concoctions (that help me hang on!) by Olaf Nordstrom.

- 1 oz blackberry brandy
- 1/2 oz port
- 1/2 oz brandy

Fill shaker with cracked ice. Add ingredients. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.


Try as I might to find one, none of my cocktail reference/recipe books featured any kind of drink with the word "canoe," "kayak" or even "paddle" in their name. However, a search of the web turned up this recipe on Drinks Mixer :

- 1/4 cup Kahlua coffee liqueur
- 1/4 cup Bailey's Irish cream
- 3/4 oz Grand Marnier orange liqueur
- 1 dash Absolut vodka

Pour all ingredients into a blender 3/4 filled with crushed ice.

Blend until smooth. Pour into a cocktail glass, and serve.

Good reading, better drinking.
One final note: although I didn't include any recipes from this book here in this blogpost, one of my favorite books of all time on the subject of cocktails is Hemingway & Bailey's Bartending Guide To Great American Writers.

Each two-page section features a bio, a bibliography and a recipe of a particular writer's favorite drink.

Well worth the purchase.

Anyway, happy imbibing!

Maybe I'll see you Sunday at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia in downtown Vancouver; just look for the guy in the brown fedora...