Naramata's Legends Distilling cocktail artist shares her creative process and pro tips

Cocktail passion pursued

"Okanagan Inspired" is a new weekly series of articles offering a peek into the stories and inspirations of Pentictonites who hold creative roles in the community.

Originally from Whitehorse, Yukon, Heather Morrison of Legends Distilling in Naramata has done her fair share of moving around.

She has lived in New Zealand, Australia, Red Deer, Revelstoke, Dawson City, Valemount, Invermere and now, for the longest amount of time in over a decade, Penticton in 2018.

“I wanted to change it up, and I really enjoy the heat. My grandmother was born and raised in Penticton on Ellis street, and my dad had just moved here, so I had that family connection,” she says.

For the past two years, Morrison has been working as a mixologist at Legends Distilling in Naramata, creating unique cocktails and cocktail ingredients.

“I’ve been helping with product development at Legends, creating new infusions and liqueurs. I also make cocktail rimmers and canning preserves from spent ingredients used in the distilling process. We’re reutilizing waste products and it's great working for a place with a low waste business model,” says Morrison.

She is also quite the talented cook and baker and in her spare time she likes to experiment in the kitchen.

Morrison advises, “it’s good to follow recipes when baking and cooking, but once you begin to understand textures and ingredients you can mix it up. There are different rules, but there is a lot of room for creativity. It’s a fun adventure in the culinary arts.”

She also frequently uses local ingredients and is excited the Okanagan has so many unique ingredients that are so readily available.

“Coming up with something unique, and having the satisfaction in people’s reactions is my favourite part of cocktail making,” says Morrison. “It's fun to put out something people haven’t tried before and cultivate that curiosity to try something new and learn more."

Now that spring is fully underway in Penticton, Morrison recommends, “try anything with muddled strawberry or fresh lemon! Lavender is a very cool mix to use as well, and drinks with Amaro (an Italian herbal liqueur) are very popular. We have a version at Legends called a Naramaro, which is great.”

Her favourite cocktail of all time is a Black Margarita, which is a tequila-based drink with a salt and sugar rim that she can’t get enough of.

As for simple cocktail making advice for a beginner?

“Pick a favourite base spirit and a liqueur, something sweet, then you’ll want to add a simple syrup or juice. Lastly, make sure to add citrus juice, syrup or fresh squeezed citrus fruit. Don’t forget citrus!” Morrison insists.

“The biggest thing for someone who wants to learn or get their foot in the door is experimentation. It’s a fun way to learn how to make cocktails and understand different flavour profiles.”

Morrison also recommends The Flavour Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg as a handy guide to understand pairing combinations and as a great way to learn structure to build your creations off of.

Morrison also believes important components to have on hand are bitters.

“They add great background notes to your cocktails,” she says. “I also always keep fresh lemons on hand and simple syrup. These two ingredients can be used as a base for low or non-alcoholic cocktails (mocktails) which are becoming increasingly popular. I also recommend investing in a Boston shaker and a hawthorne strainer.”

Her favourite song to shake cocktails to, she says is "Young Lady, You’re Scaring Me" by Ron Gallo.

Morrison has created a fun introductory spring cocktail recipe using local ingredients that anyone can recreate.

First step is creating some homemade Violet Liqueur!

Violet Liqueur:

  • ½ cup Violets
  • ½ cup Water
  • ½ cup Sugar
  • ½ cup Vodka

Simmer violets in water and sugar mixture. Strain and combine with Vodka.

Lady of Spring Cocktail:

  • 1 oz Gin (Morrison recommends Doctor’s Orders Gin from Legend Distilling
  • ¼ oz Orange Liqueur
  • ¾ oz Homemade Violet Liqueur or Creme De Violette if unable to make
  • 1 Egg white (Can be substituted for Ms. Better’s Bitters Miraculous Foamer for vegan or egg-free cocktail enjoyers!)
  • 1 oz Simple Syrup
  • 1 oz Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice

Combine all of your ingredients in a shaker (no ice just yet) and shake it up! Don’t under-shake, keep it going for a minimum of 20 seconds. This is called dry shaking and is used to emulsify the egg white.

Add one scoop of ice to your shaker and shake vigorously to obtain a creamy head and dilute the chill in your cocktail properly.

“This result is delicious!” says Morrison. “With delicate floral notes, it pairs perfectly with the gin and a perfect balance of sweet and sour pulling it all together. Cheers!”

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