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Hook & Barrel
A Lifestyle Magazine for Modern Outdoorsmen

rundle bar cocktails, nostalgia drink

The Rundle Bar’s delicious sips draw inspiration — and ingredients — from the great outdoors.

Inside the Rundle Bar in Banff, Canada, the bartender adds vodka, vermouth, Chartreuse, sugar syrup, and lime juice into a Boston shaker, explaining each ingredient as he pours it in. He then hands the silver canister to me with a single command: “Shake it like you mean it!” Naturally, I let ‘er rip with a thirsty enthusiasm. 

I’m attending a cocktail class at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, nicknamed the “Castle in the Rockies” thanks to its chateau-style architecture. So far we’ve been educated on various spirits, how to combine them, and when to stir versus when to shake, with delicious results.

But it’s the next cocktail, the indigo-hued Wildflower that really gets me excited. This floral riff on a Negroni stirs Lillet Blanc and St. Germain with gin made specifically for this bar by nearby Wild Life Distillery. It includes locally foraged juniper berries and pea flower tea (a nod to the landmark hotel’s afternoon tea ceremonies). 

After a few sips on a snowy day — followed by more “wild crafted cocktails” from the bar’s creative list — I begin to understand that a truly memorable drink is about more than the sum of its parts.

Drinks Inspired by the Great Outdoors

banff national park

This historic hotel opened in 1888 as a luxurious base camp for travelers coming west for hiking and horsepacking trips into the wilderness of the Canadian Rockies. Modern outdoorsmen still head here for adventure, and the Banff Springs Hotel answers with guided programming paired with elevated cuisine and excellent cocktails.

Surrounded by the jagged peaks of Banff National Park, it’s easy to see how cocktail inspiration comes from the landscape: blue glaciers, clear ice, winter’s chill winds, and the rugged spine of the Continental Divide. These elements are reflected in the Wildflower, one of the Rundle Bar’s “Mountain Series” cocktails. In addition to its color and single sphere of ice, the three spirits form a backbone tying it all together.

But Sam Clark, regional manager of bars and mixology for the Banff Springs Hotel and sister property, the Chateau Lake Louise, goes beyond looks to focus on ingredients. He seeks out spirits and flavors sourced in Banff or found just outside the national park boundary, from Alberta honey, to housemade bitters macerated using fresh rhubarb, to herbs grown in the hotel’s micro-garden. 

Hyper-localism is a huge trend in food and cocktails for 2024.

“We have God’s pantry right outside our doorstep,” says Clark, noting that access to fresh-sourced elements is a bonus that bestows his wild crafted cocktails with terroir. 

Cocktails with a Sense of Place

rundle bar, sam clark
Sam Clark, with a cocktail.

“Terroir, the true meaning of it, speaks to a sense of place,” explains Clark, who was named one of the country’s top bartenders in the 2023 Diageo World Class Canada Competition. 

It’s a term used a lot in winemaking. Essentially, the soil, water, vineyard aspect, and weather in a given growing season influence the final product. Though Clark can’t control those elements, he can influence his cocktails’ expression by choosing local spirits and incorporating flavors that speak to the national park and its stories and history. 

People travel from around the world to create lasting memories here. Ultimately, Clark wants to craft cocktails that enhance their experience. It’s a lot of pressure to put on a drink, but it works. 

Inventive Ingredients Make Memorable Sips

For example, the Smoke and Mirrors, an earthy twist on an Old Fashioned, combines Untamed Rye Whiskey—another Wild Life Distillery hotel partnership—with a lapsang maple syrup and tea made from foraged chaga mushrooms. The 100-percent Alberta rye ages in American oak barrels. It also has a rich spiciness that pairs well with the sweet maple from Quebec and the subtle umami from Alberta ‘shrooms. It’s a contemplative sipper perfect for moody evenings by the Rundle Bar’s fireplace.

The Nostalgia, a winter warmer with rum and espresso, evokes camping trips vibes with its toasted marshmallow garnish. 

And not to be outdone, the bright and balanced Sea Buckthorn Daisy shakes Rundle Bar Gin with St. Germain, lemon juice, and simple syrup made with sea buckthorn berries that grow along Banff’s Bow River in summertime. The rosemary garnish grows in the hotel’s micro-garden and brings a savory winter element to the drink. The second garnish is a small black-and-white photo of the hotel circa 1920 that’s embedded with wildflower seeds. When planted, the remains of your cocktail will sprout a snapdragon bouquet. 

“How do you make a drink memory last beyond that final sip?” Clark wonders. I think he nailed an answer with his wild-crafted cocktails. I’m not only bringing home the shaking and stirring skills to recreate these drinks, but mountain memories that will make them more meaningful. 

Cocktail Recipes From The Rundle Bar

Wildflower

rundle bar cocktail

Ingredients (serves 1)

  • 1.5 oz. Rundle Bar Gin
  • .5 oz. Lillet Blanc
  • .5 oz. St. Germain
  • 3 dashes spiced plum bitters
  • Lemon zest

Method: Build over ice in a shaker. Stir for 20 seconds. Strain over an ice sphere into a coupe glass. Express lemon zest and set on the glass rim as a garnish.

Smoke and Mirrors

rundle bar cocktail

Ingredients (serves 1)

  • 2 oz. Untamed Rye Whisky
  • .25 oz. Lapsang Souchong Maple*
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 oz. chaga mushroom concentrate*

Method: Stir over ice and strain into a rocks glass over a large cube.

*Lapsang Souchong Maple

  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup water
  • .5 oz. Lapsang Souchong Tea

Heat the maple syrup and water and add Lapsang Souchong tea. Steep for 30 minutes. Strain out tea. 

*Chaga tea (found at a tea shop or foraged)

  • 3 large nuggets of Chaga mushroom
  • 1 cup hot water 

Combine and steep like a tea for an hour. Strain through a cheesecloth.


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