Last month the hubby and I were invited to the opening party for Earl’s Kitchen + Bar, a Canadian restaurant chain that just opened a location in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia. We were excited because the previous month I’d attended a cocktail preview hosted by Earl’s, and they’d really brought their A-game. Cameron Bogue is the restaurant’s Director of Beverage Operations, and he’s incredibly passionate about making cocktails across all of the Earl’s branches handcrafted and unique. During the cocktail preview, I’d had a sample of their Cabin Fever cocktail, a Crown Royal and tawny port cocktail that’s refreshing and feels like the perfect companion to the end of long day of skiing. I mean, I don’t ski (during the few times I’ve tried in my life, I looked like a terrified deer fighting my way down a plastic tube slide at a McDonald’s Play Place), but I’m really good at wearing a cozy Fair Isle sweater and sitting by a stone fireplace in a cavernous lodge. The Cabin Fever cocktail would be my perfect companion.
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Earl’s really emphasizes the quality of the ingredients they use, and it shows. I think sometimes the biggest issue with massive chain restaurants is that the quality of the food never feels quite right (or it’s smothered in cheese, so you can’t really tell). Everything that goes into Earl’s cocktails is fresh, down to the lemon juice, which is squeezed daily in massive amounts. Whenever possible, they try to use local ingredients, which meant that the Earl’s team (many of whom moved from Canada to operate the Tyson’s Corner location) arrived months in advance to try to find vendors and purveyors for their menu items.
It doesn’t hurt that the atmosphere at Earl’s is also stunning.
The drinks, of course, aren’t the only reason to visit Earl’s. We went crazy for the slider version of their bacon cheddar burger, made with Certified Angus Beef and served on a glossy, fluffy brioche bun. I also liked that they used Bibb lettuce instead of traditional iceberg, which lends itself to a softer, milder bite.
Another one of my favorite tastes was the tuna tostadas consisting of chili-rubbed albacore, cilantro aioli, jicama slaw and avocado on a crispy tortilla. The tortilla was salted nicely, which really complemented the creaminess of the avocado and tuna. I also loved that the slaw added extra freshness and crunch. Earl’s served the tostadas alongside their Paloma cocktail, a tequila cocktail with grapefruit soda and lime juice. I greeted my Paloma like a long-lost amigo. It had been too long since I had one of those tart, bubbly concoctions.
The staff at Earl’s had other action stations demonstrating some of their other signature dishes, from their dynamite shrimp roll (shrimp, mango and avocado sushi, sriracha mayonnaise, black sesame and unagi maple) to their five (!) types of old-fashioned cocktails. The staff was engaging, knowledgeable and incredibly friendly. If this is Canadian hospitality, then I’m hooked.
Another one of my favorite cocktails is the Bee’s Knees, a gin cocktail made with locally made Aviation Gin, Cointreau, honey, fresh lemon and angostura bitters. I love love love this cocktail. Aviation Gin is one of my favorite recent finds for it’s super light, slight juniper scent. The gin mixes beautifully with the honey, lemon and bitters for a tart, just ever-so-sweet drink. Plus, it’s served in a honey bar jar. WHAT. (This is also one of the items that gets most frequently stolen from Earl’s. Go figure.)
Which of course, brings me to the Cabin Fever. I especially loved the dusting of powdered sugar on the pine cone (which is food grade and therefore safe to be parked inside a cocktail) and of course the enameled camp mug. All of Earl’s cocktails are cheeky without sacrificing sophistication. That’s such a hard line to walk, but Earl’s manages to do it well. If you’re trying to make your own version at home, you’ll need some camp mugs, pine cones and a cocktail atomizer (for a finishing spritz of scotch), all of which are available on Amazon.
As an added bonus, Earl’s even has fire pits outdoors and space heaters on their semi-walled patio. It’s not a stone fireplace at a ski chalet, but it’ll do. It’ll do just fine.
- ¾ oz ginger syrup
- 1 oz pineapple juice
- ¾ oz fresh lemon juice
- ½ oz Taylor Fladgate 10 Year Tawny Port
- 1-1/2 oz Crown Royal
- 3 dashes Bittered Sling Moondog Bitters
- Soda water to top (approx. 2 oz)
- Combine all ingredients (except soda water) in a cocktail shaker, add ice and then shake vigorously 12 times to combine and chill.
- Strain over fresh ice into a camping mug. Top with soda water. Insert a bar spoon and mix thoroughly.
- Garnish with a pine come and a mint sprig.
- Spray pine cone with Bowmore 12 Year scotch with an atomizer, for a smoky campfire nose.