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Wild Life twist on a classic cocktail

An open stool at Wild Life Distillery’s aged, barn-wood bar awaits thirsty cocktail and spirit-lovers to take a seat and slake their thirst.
Wild Life Negroni.
Wild Life Negroni.

An open stool at Wild Life Distillery’s aged, barn-wood bar awaits thirsty cocktail and spirit-lovers to take a seat and slake their thirst.

It’s part of a taste and tour experience at the Canmore distillery that founders and distillers Matt Widmer and Keith Robinson laid out after opening last January at their east end location on Bow Meadows Crescent.

“All (cocktails) made here are with our spirits as the main base,” said Widmer.

Serving as the foundation, Wild Life Distillery offers three spirits for nine cocktails on its menu, such as its celebrated gin, which was a judges’ selection at the 2017 Alberta Beverage Awards, plus a botanical gin and vodka.

Tours and tastings are Wednesdays to Sundays starting at 3 p.m., which includes a look at the production facility and a sample of the three spirits for $9.

For any plucky home bartender out there, the brains behind the Bow Valley spirits have built an easy-to-make cocktail suitable for a quiet night in or to delight at a sociable outing.

Using Wild Life’s award-winning spirit, Widmer pieces the steps together to create a simple, fresh take on a classic cocktail recipe that can be served year-round.

“I love Negroni,” he said of the rouge-coloured gin cocktail with a citrus splash.

“It’s pretty simple for the home bartender (to make) … using an ounce and a quarter of our Wild Life gin, half an ounce of Campari, and half ounce of red vermouth.

“Stir over ice and strain into large ice and garnish with an orange peel. At home, you could even do it up in a martini glass chilled, and strained into fresh ice if you didn’t have large ice.”

The traditionally-made Negroni recipe is one ounce each of gin, Campari and vermouth, and an orange peel, but Wild Life’s recipe is designed to underline the taste of the gin’s juniper, citrus and spice notes.

“We found if you boost the gin for this one, it showcases a lot better. As well, it’s not as sweet and bitter from the other two contrasting ingredients, it just makes a little fresher, cleaner, balanced Negroni and garnished with an orange twist,” Widmer said.

“It has a lot going on, but it’s a nice, delicious, spirit-forward cocktail.”

The Wild Life team will is also looking to grow its spirit selection by adding a whisky to its lineup, which will begin production after a bit of education south of the border in the coming months.

“We thought we should go to the source and meet Kentucky distillers who have been doing it, and get some good information on barrel quality, barrel maintenance, stuff like that,” said Widmer.

The final product is still a few years away, though, because in Canada distillers must age the product for three years minimum before it’s considered a whisky.

For more information, visit

Wild Life Negroni

1 1/4 oz Wild Life Gin

.5 oz Campari

.5 oz red vermouth

Stirred over ice and strained into a old fashioned glass with large ice and garnished with orange peel.

Vesper (The James Bond Martini)

1 oz Wild Life gin

.5 oz Wild Life vodka

.5 oz Lillet blanc

Shaken, strained into martini glass and garnished with lemon zest.

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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