Drinking Made Easy, the HDNET series that travels around the United States to explore local brews, mixology, and drinking culture, recently found its way North of the 49th for a quick stop in Vancouver.
In each episode, host Zane Lamprey steps behind the bar in various establishments to learn how local drinks are made while co-host Steve McKenna, who has been given the title of “Stunt Drinker”, tries out the concoctions. The two also go head to head during their signature Six Six-Pack Challenges that could be anything from bocce or fencing to racing up the Space Needle in Seattle.
I can’t give away too much about the Vancouver episode but there are shout outs to several BC breweries and wineries, from Vancouver Island to the Okanagan. I had the chance to chat with Steve about the Vancouver episode, the show’s first Canadian feature to air.
“Vancouver was amazing it was one of my favourite stops of Season 2,” Steve told me over the phone from his home base in Richmond, Virginia. His previous trips north of the border were to Montreal as a kid since his family lived just a few hours away. “I had heard a lot about [Vancouver] and I was really excited to go. It definitely did not disappoint.”
Steve first started on Drinking Made Easy thanks to host, and his good friend, Zane Lamprey. “Zane brought me into his first show, Three Sheets, by telling crazy drinking stories about his buddy Steve McKenna.” So when Drinking Made Easy started up, Steve was added. “He brought me along as his sidekick. I provide a little bit of comic relief.”
The Vancouver episode is pretty much the “Gastown” episode but Salt, The Diamond, Rogue, the Alibi Room and more represented our city and region very well. Steve specifically mentioned his stop at the Alibi Room and an impressively rare sample from Storm Brewing that you’ll see him try. Discovering that Vancouver, and BC, had a strong (and growing) local beer scene was definitely a nice surprise for him. “It was definitely amazing and a real treat – they had a lot of good beer.”
I asked Chris Bjerrisgaard, Marketing Director of Vancouver Craft Beer Week about the impact the show could have. “I think a show like Drinking Made Easy doing an episode in Vancouver is extremely important to our local beverage industry, every much as important as Diners Drive-Ins and Dives / Eat Street was to the local food culture. These shows are about putting Vancouver on the map and helping showcase our hospitality industry. People need to know that when they come to town they can find quality cocktails, beers, and wines just as easily as they can find beautiful scenery and endless outdoor activity.”
On the show Steve is known for his quick chugs of even the finest cocktails but he said they do keep the drinking to when the cameras are rolling. He laughed and told me one his famous quotes is: “I only drink when I’m working”.
When he’s not doing Drinking Made Easy, you can find him behind the bar of The Blue Goat. I had to ask him about his own prescription for a hangover and he said he loves a good Bloody Mary. His specialty is a Bloody Mary that’s ginger-infused with Square One cucumber vodka. Either that or a mimosa which he makes with strawberry muddled basil. “It can turn your frown upside down pretty quick.”
John and I enjoy the show because we actually learn a lot about the destinations through their individual pub culture which is always rich with history — as you’ll also see in the Vancouver episode. “It’s a lot of fun to just see every city, see the bars, hang out with the locals, and hear about each place,” Steve said.
If there’s one place he could visit with the show in the future, Steve told me it would be Alaska. Should Drinking Made Easy make it up to the Yukon, I recommended he become a member of the Sour Toe Cocktail Club in Dawson City. It isn’t for the faint of heart — but might make for some great television.
You can catch the Vancouver episode on HDNET (Shaw digital channel 235) next Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 5:00pm and 8:00pm Pacific. They usually post full show notes online once the episode has aired including links to the liquors or beers that were mentioned, the establishments visited, drink recipes, and fun facts about the city. Tomorrow night’s episode (February 8, 2012) will feature Seattle.
Update The teaser/trailer for the Vancouver episode is up now: