Cocktails
Behind the counter: Jean-René Lebel

Behind the counter: Jean-René Lebel

Mixologist Jean-René Lebel garnered first place in te Quebec Cocktail contest with his original creation, the Quebec Royal. The mixologist earned a resounding 43 percent of the public votes, and the big win! A closer look at a young entrepreneur on the rise.

Jean-René Lebel has always been passionate about mixology, and soon after turning 18, took a bartending class and began working behind the bar at a billiard hall. Even after starting university studies, his passion for mixology never waned. “When I was working behind the bar Saturday nights, I was having so much fun I thought of it as my weekly outing!” Shortly before his 30th birthday, Lebel (who at the time was working as head mixologist for the Shaker Cuisine & Mixologie franchise) was presented with the opportunity to become the co-owner of a Shaker restaurant in Lévis. And that’s how Lebel and his business partner turned their passion into full-fledged careers. “I’m happy I earned my degrees, but my true passion is for the restaurant and mixology industry,” states Lebel.

With over a decade of experience in mixology, Lebel is happy to see that, over the years, the cocktail trend has been steadfastly gaining popularity in Quebec. “Customers are increasingly curious, which drives mixologists to get creative and push boundaries. That creativity is recognized and celebrated by mixologists all across Canada. Case in point? For years, Quebec mixologists have taken home top honours at Made with Love — a Canada-wide mixology competition,” exclaims Lebel. After earning fifth place in the 2017 edition, Lebel is definitely a cocktail insider!

His passion for creativity led Lebel to participate in the SAQ “Let’s Create a Cocktail for Quebec” contest. The moment he found out about it, Lebel jumped at the chance to come up with a one-of-a-kind cocktail. It’s a good thing he entered, because his signature cocktail, the Quebec Royal, was crowned the big winner on December 12. “I thought about what represented us as a province. Of course, I knew that I just had to use maple syrup! I mean, no less than 70 percent of the world’s maple syrup production comes from Quebec — maple syrup is definitely a belle province treasure!”

Lebel’s cocktail creation is inspired by the Kir Royal. “The Kir Royal was a really popular drink back in our grandparents’ day, but today you hardly ever see it on a menu. I thought it would be cool to come up with an updated version of this iconic drink.” In his made-in-Quebec kir, Lebel replaces champagne with sparkling cider, adds a touch of crème de cassis, and half an ounce of vodka for a bit of kick!

The Quebec Royal, Quebec’s very own signature cocktail!

 

The Quebec Royal

Created by Jean-René Lebel for the “Let’s Create a Cocktail for Quebec” contest

1 drink

Ingredients
15 mL (1/2 oz) vodka
15 mL (1/2 oz) blackcurrant liqueur
105 mL (3 1/2 oz) sparkling cider from the “fruity and sweet” taste-tag group
15 mL (1/2 oz) maple syrup
8 mL (1/4 oz) lemon juice
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 lemon wedge
Ice cubes

Preparation
Combine all ingredients except the thyme and the lemon in a wineglass containing a few ice cubes. Stir using a mixing spoon. Garnish with a sprig of thyme and a lemon wedge.

Monna & Filles Crème de cassis

$25.20

Monna & Filles Crème de cassis

Fruit beverage (blackcurrant)375 mlCanada
Monna & Filles Crème de cassis

Monna & Filles Crème de cassis

$25.20

Fruit beverage (blackcurrant)375 mlCanada, QuebecSAQ code : 10381661
Bulle de Neige Domaine Neige cidre mousseux

$16.00

Bulle de Neige Domaine Neige cidre mousseux

Sparkling cider750 mlCanada
Bulle de Neige Domaine Neige cidre mousseux

Bulle de Neige Domaine Neige cidre mousseux

$16.00

Sparkling cider750 mlCanada, QuebecSAQ code : 11398253
Pur Ultra Premium

$41.50$44.50

Pur Ultra Premium

Vodka750 mlCanada
Pur Ultra Premium

Pur Ultra Premium

$41.50$44.50

Vodka750 mlCanada, QuebecSAQ code : 13536031

Jean-René Lebel talks cocktails

  • A go-to classic? “The Whisky Sour. It’s delicious and so easy to make.”
  • A 2018 trend? “Sampling mini cocktails. Instead of ordering one regular-sized drink, you order three smaller cocktails and enjoy a variety of flavours.”
  • A tasty secret: “When making a cocktail, it’s important to aim for a balance of sweet, sour and bitter.”
  • Secret ingredient: “Syrups. They can really enhance a cocktail.”
  • Spirits in the spotlight: “We’re using more and more Quebec products in our cocktails. Quebec gins, whiskeys and vodkas are stealing the show!”

 

PHOTOGRAPHY: Julien Faugère

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