WITH BOAT-TO-TABLE AND FARM-TO-FORK DINING in vogue, Tofino, British Columbia’s Wolf in the Fog restaurant adds forest-to-bar to the mix, thanks to bar manager, Hailey Pasemko.
Pasemko spearheaded the foraged cocktail program when she joined the restaurant’s “Wolf Pack” in 2014. Her passion for the rustic wilderness ofthe Pacific West Coast and the laid-back Tofino lifestyle helped her curate a truly unique cocktail menu using fresh and seasonal ingredients. This vision is in step with chef Nick Nutting whose passion for local, foraged ingredients is palpable. Together, their mantra of locally sourced ingredients is a marriage made in culinary heaven.
Located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Tofino overlooks the Pacific Ocean and is enviably just outside the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. Vegetation such as shore pine trees, Western red cedar, salal, salmonberry, huckleberry and peat (Canada boasts the largest supply of peat in the world) become Pasemko’s grocery list, courtesy of Mother Nature.
Pasemko describes her inspiration for seasonal cocktails with a poetic reverence: “We’re surrounded by incredible natural beauty here in Tofino. It’s wild and totally uninhibited and that’s something we want to emulate with each of our cocktails. The Cedar Sour, for example, is inspired by the feeling you get walking through the Tofino forest, breathing in the distinct smell of fresh redwood exuded by fallen needles along the way.”
Within their ever-evolving menu, the Cedar Sour is the signature cocktail at Wolf in the Fog. Showcasing cedar-infused rye and house-made lemon-thyme syrup, it evokes a fresh and rustic wooded flavor. One of their winter cocktails, the White Pine Cove, mimics a crisp breath of West Coast air with house-made pine syrup and candied pine spears. Spring through fall the earth provides Nootka rose, nasturtium, salmon berries, huckleberries, hemlock tips and cynamoka berries for Pasemko to create with.
Cedar is, hands down, Pasemko’s favorite ingredient to showcase in foraged cocktails for its memory-invoking fragrance and year-round abundance. As a renowned destination for hiking, cedar captures the essence of Tofino in a glass.
Other unique cocktails that guests will encounter at Wolf in the Fog include Hunting Cabin—an introspective stroll into the forest with peated scotch, Benedictine, Cherry Heering and kola bitters; and Pickle & Smoke—a double Caesar made with smoked salmon infused vodka. Pasemko infuses vodka with local smoked salmon and garnishes it with pickles and local seafood, making it an ideal brunch accompaniment or evening cocktail and appetizer duo.
In offering foraging tips for the home mixologist, Pasemko recommends ingredients that are fresh and close to home for the strongest flavors in syrups, bitters or infused spirits. A good rule of thumb is fruit in summer months and wooded ingredients throughout the winter.
She stresses research before foraging to ensure the properidentification of edibles versus look-alike berries, trees and plants and items that are not safe for consumption or to mix with alcohol.
Having said that, take advantage of the excellent preserving power of alcohol to extend ingredients with a short growing season in the form of an infusion or bitters.
“When using ingredients like pine needles, one foraging tip is to strip the needles off from the center towards the cut and leave the needles on the top of the branch. Putting the loose needles and half-stripped branches into the saucepan in a sugar syrup will extract the flavor and most effectively infuse it into the syrup. This pine syrup is the crux of our signature White Pine Cove cocktail,” Pasemko said.
Courtesy of Hailey Pasemko, Wolf in the Fog
2 oz. cedar rye (see recipe below)
1 oz. lemon juice
3⁄4 oz. lemon thyme syrup (see recipe below)
1 egg white
Good quality cocktail cherries, such as Luxardo maraschinos Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Dry shake without ice and then shake again with ice. Double strain into a chilled rocks glass. Serve neat and garnish with cherries.
1.14 L bottle Wiser’s Deluxe Whisky
4-inch section of a cedar shim or shingle
Sterilize the cedar shim by scrubbing off any dirt or dust and then soaking in warm salt water for 1 hour. Then soak in warm fresh water to remove any saltiness left in the wood. Chop the wood into pieces and place in a clean glass jar with the Wiser’s. Let stand 5-7 days and then filter out all wood particles from the rye.
LEMON THYME SYRUP
1⁄4 cup fresh lemon thyme (or alternatively,
1⁄4 cup regular thyme and the rind of half a lemon)
4 cups sugar
4 cups water
Combine water and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Ensure the sugar has completely dissolved. Place the lemon thyme in a container and pour the hot sugar syrup over it. Let cool before refrigerating and leave overnight to infuse. Strain out herbs the next day. Keep refrigerated.