Maple Ginger Whisky Smash + Butter Tart Squares

Jul 10, 2016

short and sweet!

We had the best of intentions…really. We tasted, we tested, we savoured, we photographed and now we are finally getting around to sharing.

The short of it is a short cocktail. Yep, that’s right, short!  We looked it up: a short cocktail is a strong digestif served in a short glass. Our quintessential Canadian cocktail features Canadian rye whisky (more on that later), maple syrup and a sweet spicy peppery kick from fresh ginger. The sweet of it is a gooey, buttery, rich, boozy and oozy from the bbq butter tart square.  

did you know…

  • Butter tarts in Canada can be both a uniting and divisive dessert…do you belong in the runny or firm camp?  Raisins or pecans?  Or are you a purist who likes them straight up? (Don’t ever ask these people if it’s ok to add chocolate!) Our apologetic Canadian nature does not apply to the Great Butter Tart Debate.
  • The humble butter tart’s history can be traced back to the pioneer pantry, making due with what you have on hand. The earliest printed recipes dating back to 1915.
  • There are many theories as to the origin….some believing the butter tart a distant relative to pecan pie ,brought to Canada by American slaves. Others believe it’s history traces back to filles de marier, brides from France who were brought to New France aka Quebec
  • In Canada a spirit labelled rye doesn’t need to contain whisky made made from rye grain. What???!! Many are distilled from corn or wheat. More recently, distiller’s have been adding more rye to the mash bill, sometimes up to 100%.
  • Canadian whisky shares certain characteristics with Scotch and Bourbon but has a style of it’s own due to the influence of rye-rye gives a signature spicy, peppery kick.

Summer long weekends are short and sweet. When you finally find time to savour a rye whisky cocktail or two with old friends, inevitably the conversation will turn nostalgic. Everyone remembers the Crown Royal purple bag (cue the Imperial Margarine trumpets). Do a Google or Pinterest search and you will find anything from a pool table cover, adult sized cape, bedspread with matching shams and even a complete bespoke suit made from Crown Royal bags. You know you may have a problem when you start making your clothing from your growing collection of bags.

Is it inappropriate that often it was the container of choice for all of a kid’s bounty in a Canadian cottage summer? Marbles, the Yahtzee timer, Scrabble tiles, Barbie shoes, grasshoppers, golf tees…how we coveted the gold cording, the regal purple velvet, the fancy cursive writing. After many summers of use and misuse (stashing your unmentionables) our coveted faux velvet bag is now held together with staples and duct tape, lightly perfumed with cottage mildew.

Maple Ginger Whisky Smash


For the ginger syrup:

1 cup ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

1 cup sugar

3 cups water

For the cocktail:

2 oz. Canadian rye whisky
1 oz. ginger syrup, well chilled
1/2 oz. maple syrup
4 ice cubes
4 mint leaves

1 lime wedge

1 oz. soda water

mint leaves for garnish

  1. In a small saucepan combine the ginger pieces, water and sugar. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer over very low heat for 1 hour (your liquid should have reduced by half). Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  2. Strain mixture through a fine mesh sieve. Discard the ginger pieces or reserve them to add to the butter tart shortbread crust.
  3. Chill the syrup until needed.  The syrup will last about 2 weeks refrigerated and is amazing added to lemonade or bubbly water!
  4. And now for the fun part; dust the cobwebs off that cocktail shaker….it’s summer!
  5. Add the rye whisky, ginger syrup, maple syrup, ice cubes, mint leaves and squeeze in that wedge of lime (yah put that lime wedge in too for good measure).
  6. Shake-shake-shake! (the outside of the shaker should feel cold, it’s about 20 seconds or so)
  7. Strain the cocktail through a Hawthorne strainer (it’s that springy looking thing that came with your shaker) or over a slotted spoon into a lowball glass.
  8. Add an oz. of soda water.
  9. Garnish away!
  10. Now drink it.. and make another.

Butter Tart Squares

makes a 9 X 13 inch pan


For the crust:

1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

2 cups all purpose flour

3 T sugar

2 T reserved ginger pieces from the syrup, minced very finely

For the oozing sweet caramel filling:

4 eggs

2 1/4 cups brown sugar

1/3 cup corn syrup

1/4 cup Canadian rye whisky (why not!)

1 T white vinegar

2 t vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

2 T all purpose flour

1/3 cup melted unsalted butter

pinch of salt

1 1/2 cup pecans, rough chopped

  1. For the crust: Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 9 X 13 inch baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Using a food processor or old school fingertips, cut the butter into the flour and sugar until the pieces of butter are about the size of a pea.
  3. Press into the bottom of your lined baking pan
  4. Bake about 15 minutes or until the crust of starting to become golden.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, whisky, vinegar, vanilla and flour. Whisk until smooth.
  6. Add the melted butter and pinch of salt then stir in the chopped pecans.
  7. Pour into the baked crust and bake another 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden and firm.
  8. Cool completely (we know it’s hard to wait).
  9. Cut into squares (should make about 32 but we aren’t judging if it’s 12 very large)
  10. If possible, store in a container refrigerated.
  11. The squares are even better warmed up on the BBQ as it cools from your last grill session and served with a big old dollop of reduced heavy cream that has been fortified with a shot of whisky!

what we chose to pair and why

We wanted something that spoke to our early Canadian youth, when the long weekend really meant something. Like anything might and could happen. Unlike today when it means bathroom renovations and catching up on laundry.

We wanted a cocktail to celebrate the Canada Day weekend. Of course, everyone’s first choice is a Caesar but we were thinking of something different…less predictable. Rye and ginger! A sweet strong cocktail with this kind of history needs an equally patriotic dessert…the classic Canadian Butter Tart.

BTW, when pairing dessert, the drink should be sweeter than the dessert itself.


You can’t go wrong with butter tarts. There is a reason we Canadians are so endeared to our national dessert and we’ve upped the ante by pairing them with this sweet spicy Can-con cocktail. Flavours of toffee, vanilla, caramel, toasty nuts and sweet spicy ginger can easily pull up another chair and add whisky to the party.

our rye whisky…

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye Whisky


Renowned British whisky writer Jim Murray awarded it 97.5 points out of 100 in his 13th Annual Whisky Bible and caused quite an stir.

The first Canadian Whisky to earn World Whisky of the Year, the mash bill is 90% rye grain.

Smooth, rich and spiced with baking spice flavours, warming soft peppery notes, toasted nuts, caramel and butterscotch.



Crown Royal was first crafted from 50 select whiskies in 1939 to commemorate the first grand tour of Canada by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. The regal style of the purple bag and cut glass bottle symbolizing that this ‘whisky was fit for a King’.


Like a good friend…we are just trying to push you outside of your comfort zone.

Live a little and expand your palate.

Cheers, Eh!


Christie Pollard

Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers

After 10 years as a restaurateur, culinary instructor and caterer, a trip to France sparked an untapped enthusiasm for all things wine.  I gave up the restaurant life,  made a huge u-turn and dove head first into the vast world of wine.  I have never looked back and achieved my Sommelier certification with the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers in 2015.  I love sharing my pursuit of the perfect pairing in a fun, unfussy and ultimately delicious way with my friends, family and those I teach.


Josie Pontarelli

Red Seal Chef, Culinary Instructor

I graduated from the Stratford Chefs School in 1999 and achieved Red Seal Certification shortly thereafter. With this strong foundation laid, an opportunity to spend time in California presented itself. While there, I was intoxicated by the seasonality and quality of the ingredients everywhere I looked. This experience proved to be a turning point for me in how I thought about food. It inspired me to have a deep and enduring respect for the people, food and culture that go into the perfect dish.

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