Though their names might not roll off the tongue, Cowtown has contributed its fair share of iconic food and drink over the years.
Alberta Distillers Ltd. has been producing its 100 per cent Alberta rye whisky at a plant in the heart of the city since 1946. Today, it produces more 70,000 litres of whiskey per day and ships the Alberta Premium label to more than 30 countries.
In 1969, the Duffy Mott company (of Mott’s Clamato fame) commissioned bar manager Walter Chell to invent a new drink for the opening of Marco’s Italian restaurant at the Calgary Inn (now the Westin Calgary). Chell’s creation, a mixture of vodka, tomato juice, clam nectar and Worcester sauce in a celery salt-rimmed glass, now serves more than 350 million every year.
Calgary Beer Photo from Thomas Fisher on Flickr.
It’s a sad irony that there exists a beer named after Cowtown that you can’t actually buy in the city. The Carling O’Keefe Brewery in Inglewood made its last batch of Calgary Beer in 1985. To add insult to injury, Molson, which now owns the rights to the disinctive bison-head label, brews Calgary Beer in Vancouver and sells it in Saskatchewan, where it’s apparently quite popular, with no plans to reintroduce it to the Alberta market.
For most people, fried chicken conjures up images of Colonel Sanders and his seven herbs and spices. For Calgarians, it’s a statue of a giant chicken. The family-owned Chicken on the Way restaurant franchise has been serving up crispy comfort food since 1958. Its fifth location, in Calgary’s Temple neighburhood, is slated to open this spring.
George Wong, the original owner of The Silver Inn Restaurant in Tuxedo Park, concocted “deep fried shredded beef in chili sauce” back in the 1970s. By the ’80s, brothers Stanley, James and Daniel Leung opened the first of several Ginger Beef restaurants in Calgary. Today, the Ginger Beef Corporation ships the sweet-and-spicy treat to supermarkets across the country.
According to lore, Big Rock owner Ed McNally was driving through the prairies one fine summer’s day in 1994 when he had a flash of insight – why not make a beer using the best of Alberta-grown wheat? McNally then named the brew after a wheat-munching grasshopper that flew into his windshield. It’s kinda dark, if you think about it.
No list of iconic foods would be complete without this Stampede staple. Those Little Doughnuts (formerly Tom Thumb Doughnuts) introduced the mini-doughnut to western Canada in 1968. The little deep-fried pastries are as much a part of the Stampede as cowboy hats and country music.