Many highlights of my road trip on the Nova Scotia Joy Ride involve indulging in fine food and spirits. No surprise — it was a culinary tour. But a pleasant surprise was having a chance to create my own cocktail concoction in a challenge with my three road trip rally mates — Kelsy Chauvin, Michele Sponagle, and Karen Schaler.
On our fifth day of exploring Lunenburg, Wolfville, the Annapolis Valley, and other parts of Nova Scotia, we returned to the starting point of our journey, the capital city of Halifax. Our guides from Taste of Nova Scotia, Emily Haynes and Christine White, arranged our challenge venue at the popular urban bar and restaurant, 2 Doors Down. Social Chemist, Steve Cross (respectfully known as “Crusher” among the clientele) graciously let our group of novices (to making cocktails, not drinking them) take over his bar while we went about creating our drinks.
Nova Scotia Cocktail Challenge
The only requirement was that Nova Scotia products be prominent in the recipes. With the abundance of fine wine and spirits we’d discovered on the tour, that was not a problem at all.
As we set to our mixology project, we were treated to tasty appetizers, such as the lobster bruschetta above, by Andrew Farrell, chef of 2 Doors Down who is fondly known in the kitchen as “Cookie”.
It was a lot of fun to work side by side and share a few laughs with my new friends as we went about our “work”. In very distinct ways, I think that each of the cocktails reflected each mixologist’s personality, perspectives of Nova Scotia spirits, and personal tastes. I hope you’ll enjoy my recipe below. Of course, you might have to make substitutions for certain Nova Scotia products if they’re not available where you live.
Nova Scotia Surprise
My recipe for Nova Scotia Surprise was inspired by the many surprises I found in Nova Scotia, including the fine wine and spirits produced here (in this case, Blomidon and Ironworks). I was also surprised by the wonderful blueberries grown in the province and the number of creative dishes and products that incorporate them. Van Dyk’s Wild Blueberry Juice is purely delicious and a first of its kind for me. My inspiration to choose fresh mint as a garnish came after tasting a Boozy Pop with mint at Tangled Garden. The fresh blueberry that bobs around in the flute before settling at the bottom is a bit of a surprise for the cocktail drinker, too.
1 oz Ironworks Apple Brandy
.5 oz Van Dyk’s 100% Pure Wild Blueberry Juice
4 – 5 oz Dry or Off-Dry Sparkling Wine (Blomidon Crémant used in competition)
1 Fresh Blueberry
Fresh Mint Sprig
Mix brandy and blueberry juice and pour into a champagne flute (could be mixed with ice and strained, if you like)
Add sparkling wine
Drop in fresh blueberry
Top with sprig of mint
Suggest sipping through a straw as the mint slides into the flute
Our judges, Christine, Emily, Crusher, and Michael Stack (the photographer who provided all of these photos), were kind in recognizing each of our cocktails with special commendations. I was honored that they felt that my Nova Scotia Surprise was “beautifully presented” and “tasted fantastic”. The overall winning cocktail was created by Michele Sponagle. Watch for her recipe and all of those in the competition on the Taste of Nova Scotia website over the next several weeks.
What’s your favorite cocktail?