The Powell Street Sour, from Bambudda

The “Sour” is a menu staple at any great cocktail bar. Making this drink unique while still honoring it has become the hallmark of this classic.

The Powell Street Sour is a signature drink at Bambudda (99 Powell Street, Vancouver). It is massively popular, having been sold 5000 times in its first year of service. BC Living called it one of the most interesting wine cocktails in Vancouver. It’s heavily photographed, giving Bambudda a much appreciated boost in free publicity. The drink was born out of a few central ideas.

Firstly: In many ways drinks are ‘consumptive art’ and should look good enough for guests to want to instantly pull out their camera and share the drink, giving a bar free publicity. But also showing the love and gratification that goes into crafting something picture worthy.

Powell Street Sour Image by Natalie Migliarini
Powell Street Sour, at Bambudda, Vancouver. Image by Natalie Migliarini beautifulbooze.com

Second: Cocktails are best when they’re modelled on the principal of having three core stages: An aromatic top-note that flares off very quickly, a ‘Mid’ which is the structure and body of the drink and a ‘dry-down’, or the lingering notes of flavor on the finish.

Third: Drinks are fun.

Zane Lamprey, best known as the host of the drink themed shows “Three Sheets” and “Drinking Made Easy“, was asked in an interview why he felt that drinking related shows had struggled to have broader appeal when there are dozens of successful cooking themed shows. He related that when people see raw ingredients come together from basics to form a gorgeous plate of pasta people are captivated but that often drinks just look like what they are, which is, liquid in a glass. He argued that this was one reason (of many) that drinking shows fail to captivate huge audiences.

Powell Street Sour Bambudda
Powell Street Sour from Bambudda, posing for shots at the BC Living studios. Named one of the best wine cocktails in Vancouver.

After reading the interview, I set out to create a handful of drinks that would honor the eclectic cocktail tradition established at Bambudda and pay heed to Lampreys cautionary take. Make drinks that transport the guest. Make drinks that the guests don’t instantly recognize and dismiss as easy to make at home. The Powell Street Sour was born.

To be clear, it takes all kinds. If bitter, brown and stirred is your jam – we’re thrilled to make those drinks. But there is an emerging class of cocktail drinkers arriving at bars that want to explore, show off to friends and be entertained. They want to be able to post something sexy to instagram, and we want them to have that experience.

The Powell Street Sour was also conceptualized to engage guests with some flavors that they would find normally challenging. Full bodied wine, smoky notes. BenRiach fits the bill here. It is less sooty and briney than its smoky Islay whisky counterparts. The Speyside peat in BenRiach is heather-based rather than seaweed and has less ocean air influence than the coastal region of Islay. It plays nice with the wine.

Powell Street Sour, image credit Adam Blasberg
Powell Street Sour, image credit Adam Blasberg.

Powell Street Sour, by Tarquin Melnyk

1.5 oz Compass Box Great King Street Whisky

1/4 oz BenRiach Curiositas Peated Speyside Whisky

1 oz strained lemon juice

3/4 oz Rich Simple Syrup (2:1 Sugar to water)

1 egg white

Combine in shaker tin. Dry shake and hard shake with ice. Fine strain into chilled rocks glass over one 2″ square cube of ice. 

Layer Cabernet Sauvignon by using a barspoon or the ice-cube to disperse. (Fun fact: Wine will not float if the drink is unsweetened)

Vermouth Air is scooped from bowl with julep strainers and placed over top of the drink. 

The Vermouth Air for the Powell Street Sour
The Vermouth Air for the Powell Street Sour

Vermouth Air

In a large container combine the following. All Measures need Digital Gram Scale

800 grams Aromatized Wine.

At Bambudda, we use a mixture of Ceylon bark, nutmeg, pithless peels of lemon and orange, gentian, VSOP brandy and sugar. Best to explore a mix to your taste. We let this simmer on low temp and then rest in fridge for about two days.

200 grams Rich Cinnamon Syrup (2:1 Sugar to cinnamon infused water)

3/4 oz VSOP Brandy

15 grams VersaWhip 600k

5 grams Xanthan Gum

Mix thoroughly with a Electric Hand Mixer. Cover and let rest in a fridge for 48 hours. Remove and fine strain in a single pass through a large Chinois Strainer. Pour strained vermouth into a bowl. You’ll need an aquarium air pump with a tube running into the bowl to pump up the bubbles. The best bubble consistency should be uniform and slightly wet. Bubbles have a life-span of a few minutes during service. 1000 Grams of mixture is more than enough to get through a busy service.

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