This Monday, May 18, is Victoria Day! Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901 was the monarch who gave royal assent to Canada’s confederation; we honour her memory to this day by celebrating a national statutory holiday every year on or around her birthday, May 24, and have been doing so since 1845.
For many Canadians, the three-day weekend is the unofficial start to the summer season, with most Canucks simply referring to the long weekend as the May two-four weekend, referencing the tradition of loading the car with a two-four of beer, heading to cottage country and dusting off the barbecue.
This year we celebrate Victoria’s birthday a little earlier than usual; Victoria Day, as it has officially been called since her death in 1901, is celebrated on the Monday before May 25.
Queen Victoria is said to have been a rather voracious eater. The typical diet in a well-to do Victorian English household was heavy on the meat, with an emphasis on proteins like steak and kidneys, tongue, chops and game. Or if you are at home or at the cottage, how about grilling up a meat centric feast, maybe something like grilled lamb kidneys with rosemary anchovy butter as in this delicious recipe by Jennifer McLagan and washing it down with Queen Victoria’s favourite grog, a mix of claret and single malt Scotch whisky.
Or maybe not. Claret and Scotch might be a bit heavy for the unofficial start to the summer. Gin and tonics seem more appropriate, a bright, refreshing classic cocktail that fits the blue skies of this gorgeous long weekend perfectly. Whip up a batch of gin and tonics with one of Canada’s premium gins like Ontario’s own Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers or, appropriately, Vancouver Island’s Victoria Gin. Or try this take on the standard and add in
3 Kirby cucumbers
2 cups of gin (Dillon’s Rose Gin is lovely in this recipe)
1/2 cup tonic water
1/2 cup grapefruit juice
1 Kirby cucumber
1 1/2 cups chilled club soda
Cut 3 Kirby cucumbers into 1/2-inch-thick slices and 2 limes into 6 wedges; muddle in a bowl to release flavors. Stir in gin, grapefruit and tonic water; let the flavours mingle for at least an hour. Press through a strainer into a large container. Discard solids. Cover and chill 1 to 2 hours. Cut 1 Kirby cucumber and 1 lime into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Fill a large pitcher with ice cubes; add cucumber and lime slices. Stir in gin mixture and chilled club soda.
After a few gin cocktails celebrate Victoria’s memory by heading down to Ashbridge’s Bay to watch the fireworks Have a great long weekend!