Sunday, 1 July 2012

A Libation for the Nation

If you happened upon my store last Friday, you may have had the chance to sample a caipirinha. Made with lime, sugar, and a rum-like spirit called cachaca, the caipirinha is the national drink of Brazil and is cosumed everywhere by most everyone. This led me to think if Brazil has its caipirinha, Chile its pisco sour, and Cuba its mojito, as Canadians this Canada Day, what would be our national libation? If we were to go Rio, would we pour the Brazilians a Tim Horton's double double?
The first libation that comes to mind that has intenational recognition is, without a doubt, our icewines. Consistently cold winters, strict regulations, and quality grapes such as Riesling or Vidal make the icewines of BC and Ontario our "signature wine." Amazing as these wines are, how many of us as Canadians have icewine on a regular basis? Furthermore, dry table wines from Chardonnay to Shiraz have won international competitions, but we've yet to highlight a single varietal as our "national wine."

Despite the successes of our wine industry, beer remains the overall libation of choice across the country. However, with the growth of the craft brew culture, gone are the days when 2 - 3 domestic brands dominated our market. Instead, we now have a plethora of styles and flavours produced in small batches suited to the local markets. For example, we here in BC love our beer hoppy, so IPAs and ESBs are the dominant style. Further east, a pale ale suits the palate fine. Not to mention the great seasonal variety of summery hefeweizens and wintery spiced ales and everything in between makes it difficult to pick just one style of beer reflecive of the Canadian palate.

Speaking of regionality, the choice of favoured spirit also changes from province to province. The vast fields of the Prairies make rye whiskies the prerred drink in Alberta and Saskatchewan. On the other hand, trade routes dating back centuries have resulted in rum being the top spirit in Newfoundland.

In the end, as unifying as a caiprinha may be for Brazilians, I think the lack of one "libation for the nation" celebrates the diversity of our Canadian community. From pyroghies to poutine, this July 1st, raise a glass to Canada's National Libation: whatever it is you choose!

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