Bonding Over Bourbon: Canada’s Top Chefs and Bartenders Unite

November 11, 2020

Canadians love pairing food with wine but, over the past 10 years, we’ve evolved to coupling chow with cocktails. It’s a sensible next step! The flavour nuances in spirits are vast, and many cocktails are culinary masterpieces on their own, catching the attention of top chefs everywhere.

In fact, two Canadian bartenders who continue to wow guests with their culinary cocktails are Evelyn Chick and James Grant. Their secret? Spirits with a lot of depth, character and flavour. Cue bourbon! 

There are many bourbons on the market today, but only one that offers more than 200 flavour notes in every sip and is beloved by top chefs and bartenders worldwide, and that’s Woodford Reserve. Making bourbon since 1812, there’s a reason it’s renowned as the world’s finest bourbon.

And the top chefs agree. Knowing Woodford Reserve was the spirit of choice for Evelyn and James’ cocktails, top chefs Carl Heinrich (former Top Chef Canada winner and head chef at Richmond Station) and Ross Bowles (head chef of River Café in Calgary) were inspired to create food pairings to their cocktails.   

And the results are mouth-watering.

Evelyn, who is originally from Vancouver, created a cocktail fitting for lazy November afternoons, taking inspiration from a classic sweet tea and giving it a fall twist. She made an original cashew syrup and added Woodford Reserve, sherry and citrus. Carl realized a light drink requires a light dish, so he played off the same flavours, splashing some Woodford Reserve on a cured piece of fish, coating it with salt, brown sugar and citrus and garnishing with watercress. No cooking required, ideal for a lazy day and a match made in heaven to Evelyn’s cocktail.

James Grant from Edmonton made a cocktail inspired by a classic punch that’s perfect for Sunday Night Football. He added Woodford Reserve, sherry and a homemade Oleo Saccharum to really test Ross’ pairing skills. And Ross responded with a brilliant recipe for Game Day Wings—which are no ordinary wings. Ross slow cooked some drumettes in duck fat until crisp and added a sweet Woodford Reserve bourbon glaze and a parsley puree.  Football with finesse!

Once these four experts started to experiment with flavours, their creative juices started flowing, and so did the recipes—try them for yourself, below! —Vita Daily


Evelyn & Carl’s Creations


1 oz Woodford Reserve

0.5 oz Amontillado Sherry

0.75 oz Cashew Orgeat (blend 500 ml cashew milk with 500 g granulated sugar in blender until smooth, add 1 dash orange flower water, bottle and refrigerate)

0.75 oz lemon juice

Shake, add to a tall Collins glass, add crushed ice, garnish with mint and angostura bitters 


1 large trout fillet (300 g)

25 g Woodford Reserve

40 g kosher salt

30 g sugar

30 g brown sugar

Zest of one lemon

Zest of half an orange

Mix the salt, sugars and zests in a bowl. Lay a large piece of plastic wrap on a tray and sprinkle a small amount of the cure mix the size of the fillet on top. Place the fillet of trout skin side down on top of the sprinkled cure. Drizzle the bourbon on the fish and gently wash it into the flesh with your fingers. Sprinkle all of the remaining cure mix on top of the fish and spread evenly. Fold up the sides of the plastic wrap so the fish is fully enveloped. Place another tray on top of the fish (about 1 kg of weight) and put in the fridge for 12 hours (or more or less depending on the size of the fillet).  Open the plastic and rinse the fillet well. Pat dry with a towel and return to the fridge uncovered for 1 hour. Slice off the skin thinly on a bias and serve with your choice of accompaniments.

James & Ross’ Creations


1.5oz Woodford Reserve

0.5oz Alvear medium-dry sherry

0.5oz lemon Juice

0.5oz Oleo Saccharum (in a non-reactive container, combine 2 cups white sugar with half a peach (roughly chopped) and the zest of 2 lemons and 1 orange. Allow to macerate for 3 hours before combining with one cup of water over medium/low heat. Once combined, strain and transfer to clean bottle. Store in the fridge)

Shake all ingredients with ice and stain into a punch saucer on the rocks. Garnish with a mint bouquet.


7 chicken wings (not drumettes)

1 cup Woodford Reserve

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup honey

1 cup blanched and squeezed parsley

1 tbsp grapeseed oil

1/4 cup vegetable stock

1 clove blanched garlic


Brine the chicken wings in a 5% salt/water solution for 1 hour, then slow cook in fat (duck, chicken or oil) for three hours until crisp.  Make Woodford Reserve Bourbon glaze by adding sugar, Woodford Reserve and honey: cook down until thick and glaze chicken wings.  Finish by adding the remaining ingredients to a blender / food processor and puree on high until smooth to create parsley puree–cool over ice and add.


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