In With the Nu
by Kate Zimmerman for Vancouver Sun: In Good Spirits column

Thirsty? Me, too. So when I heard the Sun was launching a column on Vancouver’s cocktail culture, quaffables, and nightlife in general, I bellied up to the bar. It’s a boozey job, but somebody’s gotta do it.

And what could be a more appropriate topic for this new column than the drinks at Nu? You’ll find this sleek, well-hidden spot ‑‑ eventually – at 1661 Granville St., tucked underneath the Granville Bridge, in the building that also houses the False Creek Yacht Club. By the time you figure out where Nu is, you’ll be ready to cliff-dive into the cool concoctions of “Guest Spirits Manager” Jay Jones.

Jones’s drinks menu for Nu features unexpected elements like “muddled” fresh fruits — so-called because he takes a pestle to them and then strains the liquid to remove the pulp. Blueberries, watermelon, Concord grapes — each of these fruits gets a muddling. The immediacy of their preparation gives them a bracing quality that you won’t get in your average bottle of margarita mix.

Like nearby restaurant C, Nu is Harry Kambolis’ baby. Jones may be in charge of the bar, but he has taken a page from Nu’s chef de cuisine, Robert Belcham, inventing cocktails that reiterate the kitchen’s dedication to — you guessed it — fresh, seasonal, regional ingredients.

Belcham is also known for his dislike of wasting a morsel, so Jones gets to both plunder the kitchen’s excess and piggyback on its orders. Since the bar opened Sept. 2, he’s been playing “bar chef” by taking a hammer to the pits of stone fruits like peaches, plums and apricots that the kitchen employs on its menu. Then he cooks them in sugar, water and salt, reducing each syrup to build its flavour. The result is fragrant liquids with the intensity of ice-wine that can be used with equal finesse in alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

Stone fruit nectar is an idea that Jones describes as “very sustainable, in that we’re using our garbage to make something extraordinary for our cocktails.”

He’s also discovered that hibiscus flowers can be simmered, in syrup, into a deep pink elixir. Its colour reminds the apparently romantic Jones of Audrey Hepburn’s character, Holly Golightly, in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The Golightly cocktail features hibiscus essence, sugar and “smashed” limes with Appleton white rum. Go lightly or go home.

Do you Junkanoo?

Many of Nu’s cocktails are seasonal, but its first hit is the Junkanoo, which Jones created in honour of his Jamaican mother. John Canoe, an African prince and slave trader on the Gold Coast in the 17th century, is a folk hero in the West Indies, where his name came to sound like “Junkanoo.” The cocktail consists of Nu peach stone nectar, 12-year-old Appleton Reserve Rum, fresh mint, citrus juices, crushed mint leaves and Jamaican-style ginger beer, which adds tang. Spicy, citrus-y and effervescent, it tastes as though your tongue hopped out of a hot sauna right into a bath of pink champagne.

“…I like people to come to my bar and discover something they never knew they wanted,” says Jones.

Shake  it up

Nu’s menu is full of fanciful treats. Here’s one to tide you over until you get there.

Nu’s Danube

1 oz. vodka
½ oz. Grand Marnier
½ oz. raspberry liqueur
¼ lime, cut into segments
A dozen blueberries

In a shaker, “muddle” the mixture together with a pestle until the juice has been extracted from the limes and the blueberries are pureed. Add ice up to the rim of the shaker, close it, and shake it enough to chill it, about 15 seconds. Strain the drink to the desired viscosity and serve it in a martini glass.

An Alternate Recipe: Suzette

1 ½ oz. Navan Vanilla (Madagascar vanilla-infused cognac)
½ oz. Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge
1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
Dash of orange-flavoured bitters
Freshly shaved orange and lime rind (optional)

Pour these ingredients over ice in a shaker, close the shaker, shake about 15 seconds, and strain. Serve in a martini glass, garnished with the citrus rinds.

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