by Shaun Layton | When most of the people I know are asked if they like bourbon and Champagne, I know that their answer is going to include a mention of the Seelbach cocktail. The legendary Kentucky hotel that gave the drink its name has a special place in my heart. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the historic beauty a few times in the past, one of which was with Scout’s editor and some fellow barkeeps four years ago (watch the evidenceo). My head nearly exploded when I first saw the selection of American rye and bourbon inside the main floor bar!
The hotel itself is a lot more famous than the cocktail. The Seelbach was opened in 1905 by brothers Otto and Louis Seelbach. They had a vision of old world European hotels, importing materials from all over; marbles from France, linens from Ireland, and rugs from Turkey. The hotel sits on Muhammad Ali Way, about a block from the museum honouring the pugilist hero from Louisville.
Many notables frequented the hotel, including American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. He adored the place, not to mention its bourbon and selection of cigars. His experiences and run-ins with prohibition bootleggers like Cincinnati mobster George Remus inspired characters and scenes for his masterpiece, “The Great Gatsby”.
The Seelbach has a network of hidden tunnels and rooms, and it was a major hangout for Al Capone and his crew during Prohibition. A cool story on the hotel’s website claims Capone had a large mirror from Chicago sent in so he could watch his back during high stakes poker games.
Until 1995, when a hotel manager rediscovered the recipe, The Seelbach cocktail was all but forgotten. It was created in 1917, and lost some time during Prohibition. The hotel was reluctant to release the recipe until bar legend Gary Regan convinced them to let him publish it in his book, New Classic Cocktails.
1 oz Bourbon (I use Buffalo Trace)
1/2 oz Triple Sec (I use Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao)
7 Dashes Angostura Bitters
7 Dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
5 oz Champagne
orange twist garnish
Method | Briefly chill the first four ingredients by stirring on ice, add to a chilled champagne flute, top with Champagne (or a dry sparkling wine), garnish with an orange twist.
The recipe doesn’t call for chilling the ingredients, but I think this is necessary for a cold and balanced cocktail. I really enjoy serving this as a “gateway” cocktail for drinkers who claim they don’t like bourbon. It works like a charm every time. Don’t be alarmed (as I first was) at the amount of bitters; somehow everything magically comes together. Although Peychaud’s can be hard to find, there is no substitute (Bitter Truth Creole is close), so get some while travelling in the US or at The Modern Bartender in Chinatown.
by Shaun Layton | I guess I better start this whole writing about liquor and bars thing with one of my favourite cocktails, The Martini. By that I mean an ice cold mix of gin, dry vermouth, and maybe a dash or two of bitters served in a small cocktail coupe or V shaped “martini” glass.
I used to get all worked up when someone would ask to see our “Martini List”, expecting an assortment of neon coloured 6 oz flavoured vodka-based, sweet-on-sweet cocktails. I still want to make an actual Martini List one day with an assortment of proper Martinis and Martini-inspired cocktails.
Examples of great martinis abound across the city. You can find the Vesper (Gordon’s Gin, Vodka, Kina Lillet, shaken and served with a long piece of lemon peel), the Fitty Fitty (Plymouth gin, Dolin dry, and orange bitters, lemon twist), the Martinez (Old tom gin, sweet vermouth, Maraschino, aromatic bitters, lemon twist), among many others. But for me it’s always the Gibson, which has an especially cloudy history. One story claims that a barkeep at the Player’s Club in New York was challenged by a patron to improve on his regular Martini. The very resourceful (or uninspired) barman simply switched the garnish from an olive to a pickled pearl onion, and thus the Gibson was born. Another story sees an investment banker during the three martini lunch days who would tell the bartender to make his martini with water and garnish it with an onion so that he could could tell the difference between it and those garnished with olives and stay sober as his clients got hammered, allowing him the advantage when closing deals.
Such tales are what make cocktails and bars so interesting and enjoyable to me. Many are myths, of course, or are so riddled with inaccuracies (the dates are wrong, etc.) as to be comical. But please, never tell me that I’m wrong when I’m telling one, and the next time you overhear a bartender telling his or her guests a story, don’t jump in with a correction. They’re just stories, so put down the smartphone (on Wikipedia) and leave it at that to enjoy the bar and the conversation!
When making a Martini, there are a few key points. First off, get to know your gins. Some are good for G and T’s and some are best for Martinis. Personally, I like Tanqueray 10 or Plymouth in my martinis. Also, keep your vermouth in the fridge (it’s a wine after all). And always stir, never shake, that is unless it’s a Vesper. Oh, and always garnish with onions or olives on the side, because the second they are dropped in the cocktail they change the flavour irretrievably.
I always order a Gibson; a dealer’s choice of gin, dry (I like a bar spoon of vermouth), and classically garnished with a pickled onion or two. The quality of the onion is a big deal for me. I love bars that have great onions, especially those that make their own! In the photos above, you can see some recent evidence of this affection: #1, a dealers choice Martini at the Fairmont Pacific Rim (No. 3 gin with regular pickled onions made ice cold and perfect by barman Todd); #2, a Gibson martini at my home bar, aka Bar SL (Tanqueray 10 gin, Dolin dry, SL’s picked onions); #3, my thermometer spoon, available here; #4, a dealer’s choice Martini at Blackbird (Hendrick’s gin, made with housemade pickled onion strings); #5 a dealer’s choice Martini at Hawksworth (Plymouth gin, Cocchi Torino, w regular pickled onions made by barman Cooper). I’d also recommend that you check out The Pourhouse in Gastown (on live jazz night), South Granville’s West (David Wolowidnyk makes a great Gibson), The Gerrard Room at the Sutton Place Hotel (the room is old and awesome), and, of course, L’Abattoir, where I’d be happy to provide you with my best effort.
Here’s my own Gibson Martini recipe:
60 ml Tanqueray 10 gin
1 barspoon Dolin dry vermouth
2 pickled onions (I might sell these one day, but for now you can just come see me at L’Abattoir)
Add all ingredients with ice to a mixing glass, stir for 25-30 seconds until desired dilution and temperature, strain into a chilled coupe, garnish on the side 2 pickled onions.
The GOODS from L’Abattoir
Vancouver, BC | L’Abattoir is looking for an experienced bartender. Experience in cocktail bartending and fine dining an asset. We are looking to fill a position for 3-5 shifts a week. The restaurant will prove to be a great training ground for those looking to move up and learn from some of the best in the trade. We are looking for candidates in possession of great attitudes and the ability to work in a fast paced, professional environment. All inquiries to email@example.com. Learn more about the restaurant after the jump… Read more
The GOODS from L’Abattoir
Vancouver, BC | Gastown’s L’Abattoir is in need of an Assistant Bar Manager for 4-5 shifts a week. The successful applicant will be an honest, hard-working professional with experience working in high volume, fine dining, cocktail-forward establishments. He/she will be eager to learn and ready to join a dynamic team that strives for the best in a fast-paced environment. Only career-minded individuals need apply in confidence to firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about the award-winning restaurant after the jump… Read more
We’ve invited the Canadian Professional Bartenders Association to join our GOODS section as a recommended organisation that is well worth checking out. They’re now proud members of Scout, and as such we’ll be posting their news front and center and hosting a page for them on our curated list of independent goodnesses. We’d like to take this chance to thank them for their support of Scout, and for making BC a more discerning (and tipsier) place to live!
by David Greig | In a dark bar in Chinatown, flecked with some of the first rays of a long overdue summer, a hush fell over the gathered masses. Breaths were held, as two pairs of eyes scanned the bottles lying before them. Years, nay decades, of experience tensed their minds and hands. All was about to be laid on the line in the cause of cash and glory. A judge rose to his feet, ticket in hand…
“LAST WORD AND A BOULEVARDIER!”
It was on. The Bar-ate Kid had begun. Read more
The GOODS from L’Abattoir
Vancouver, BC | Gastown’s L’Abattoir restaurant is looking for a competent food runner to work 2 to 4 shifts a week on a flexible schedule. The restaurant will prove to be a great training ground for those looking to move up in the local trade. Minimum restaurant experience unnecessary, but desired. The lucky candidate will really only need to be intelligent with a great attitude, a driven sensibility, and a yen for learning from some of the best in town. Only the brave need apply to info [at] labattoir [dot ca]. Learn more about the restaurant after the jump… Read more
by David Greig | Welcome to the first sipper in a new Scout series called Vancouver Specials, wherein we take a close look at original cocktails of note that have been homegrown by our better bartenders. Expect travels and drinks from farther afield in rounds to come, but to begin I’ve turned to the fellow next to me at my own bar, Shaun Layton…
“Meat Hook” | by Shaun Layton | L’Abattoir
40ml Wild Turkey 101
20ml Punt E Mes
10ml Ardbeg 10 yr
5ml Maraschino liqueur
Stir and strain into chilled cocktail glass
Garnish with brandied cherry
What was your inspiration? The now modern day classic Red Hook; a drink from NYC’s Milk and Honey, created in 2003. These days, I love drinks that incorporate two spirits, with the Islay whiskey here giving the Meat Hook a nice smoky finish. The name ties back to the restaurant (L’Abattoir meaning “Slaughterhouse”). Where and when would you drink this? I’d drink this during or after a long, leisurely dinner in a room with a blazing hearth, plenty of taxidermy and lots of mahogany furniture. What would you drink it with? Maybe a Montecristo #2 cigar, chef Lee’s sweetbreads or anything with big, bold flavours.
U.K. import David Greig is the Cocktail Editor at Scout Magazine and can usually be found working the wood and well at Gastown’s popular L’Abattoir restaurant when he’s not typing at home or imbibing around town.
Local barman Shaun Layton created this liquid negotiation with God last night just 23 minutes before the supposed start of the Rapture (6pm, Universal Texas Time). Seeing as we’re all still here, it looks like he saved the world. Attaboy Jesus Shaun!
The GOODS from L’Abattoir
Vancouver, BC | L’Abattoir, the Gastown hotspot recently voted Best New Restaurant in the annual Golden Plates issue of The Georgia Straight, will be open seven days a week beginning April 10th. Just in time for longer days and warm summer nights, the addition of an extra night of service stems from an overwhelming number of requests from patrons who want the option of dining at L’Abattoir every night of the week.
Led by General Manager Paul Grunberg and Chef Lee Cooper, L’Abattoir serves French influenced West Coast fare paired with innovative imbibing programs from Sommelier Jake Skakun and Head Barman Shaun Layton. The restaurant offers a variety of settings including 13 stools in the front of house bar and lounge, 46 seats in the elevated dining room and 22 seats in the romantic atrium off of Goalers’s Mews. Read more
Job posting from L’Abattoir
Vancouver, BC | Gastown’s popular L’Abattoir restaurant seeks a part-time barman to join their team. The succesful candidate will have a minimum 2 years experience working with cocktails, food and wine in reputable establishments. All interested individuals may apply in confidence to bar manager Shaun Layton at email@example.com. Details on the restaurant after the jump… Read more
Job Posting from Scout supporter L’Abattoir
Vancouver, BC | L’Abattoir is seeking a motivated Chef de Partie/Line Cook. The successful candidate will be a self motivated, driven individual who committed to ongoing learning and personal growth as a cook. Minimum 2 years experience is required for this position. Please apply in confidence to info [at] labattoir [dot ca]. Details about the restaurant after the jump… Read more
From the inbox: Vancouver Magazine’s 2010 Chef, Sommelier and Bartender Of The Year have united in putting out an appeal to those in the city’s hospitality industry and their patrons to donate what they can to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank.
In response to this year’s increased demand for the charity’s services in the face of decreased donations, Frank Pabst, Kurtis Kolt and Shaun Layton are asking their industry colleagues and patrons to remember those in the city who are truly going hungry this Christmas. Their goal is to boost Food Bank donations in these last crucial days before Christmas. Read more