Each month, the Sip Advisor will alphabetically travel Canada, discovering the best each province has to offer in a variety of subjects. We will also featuring a drink the area is known for. Today, we begin our journey in Alberta, sometimes called the Texas of Canada. Does this comparison hold true? Let’s find out:
Nicknames: Alberta is known as the Wild Rose Country, based on its provincial flower. The wild rose appears on licence plates in the province. The moniker has also been adopted by Wild Rose Brewing, based out of Calgary.
Motto: “Strong and free” – Typically, when you’re strong, you’re free!
Food: While Alberta is known for its beef industry (used in Canadian McDonald’s burgers, among other products), it should be noted Chinese restaurant staple Ginger Beef was invented in Calgary. Silver Inn chef George Wong is said to have created the dish of deep-fried beef strips in a sweet and spicy sauce in the mid 1970’s. Since then, it has spread to other Asian eateries.
Drink: The Caesar, Canada’s far superior cousin to America’s Bloody Mary, was created in Calgary, in 1969, at the Calgary Inn. Although similar recipes predate this variation, this rendition, made by restaurant manager Walter Chell, was the first time the cocktail was comprised of the unique recipe we know today, with the Caesar name. May 13, 2009 was proclaimed Caesar Day in Calgary.
Site to See: For outdoorsy types, the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks are a must-see destination. The World Heritage Site is comprised of four National Parks (Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho), offering stunning landscapes. For indoor entertainment, there’s West Edmonton Mall, complete with indoor amusement park, water park, ice rink and more. Finally, for young and old alike, Dinosaur Provincial Park allows people to embrace their love of dinosaurs.
Street: The Icefields Parkway (also known as Highway 93) runs through both Banff National Park and Jasper National Park, connecting the two. The route allows access to glaciers and lakes, including such picturesque sites as Lake Louise, the Athabasca Glacier and Athabasca Falls, Peyto Lake, Bow Lake and Maligne Canyon. Along the way, people can also spot various wildlife.
TV Show: Heartland, based on a series of 26 novels by Lauren Brooke (although the books are set in Virginia), ran for 15 seasons and 234 episodes, becoming the longest running one-hour scripted drama in Canadian TV history. The show centers around Amy Fleming and the activity on her family Ranch in Alberta. Most filming for the series was done in High River.
Movie: The majority of the Disney movie Cool Runnings – loosely based on the real-life story of an unlikely Jamaican bobsled team competing at the 1988 Winter Olympics – is set in Calgary, which hosted those games. Starring John Candy (in one of his final roles) as disgraced bobsled coach Irving Blitzer, the film was a hit and a personal childhood favourite of mine.
Book/Author: Todd McFarlane is one of the most well-known comic book artists/writers in the world. His work on Spider-Man in the late 80’s and early 90’s led to great success and McFarlane forming his own publishing company, Image Comics, which released McFarlane’s Spawn property. Outside the comic world, McFarlane has popular businesses in McFarlane Toys and Todd McFarlane Entertainment.
Fictional Character: X-Men wildcard Wolverine was born in Cold Lake in the 1880s, according to the mutant’s backstory. Wolverine is among the most popular super heroes of all-time, having appeared in numerous comic iterations, as well as other media, such as the X-Men movie franchise (portrayed by Hugh Jackman), which led to a trilogy of solo films for the character.
Fictional City: Adult animated cartoon Crash Canyon is about a society of people who have all wound up stuck in an Alberta canyon and are unable to return to their regular lives, due to the canyon’s high walls. The series lasted two seasons and I wish, like the show, that golf tees were currency, as it would justify my brief golf phase as a teenager.
Actor/Actress: Nathan Fillion, star of shows such as Firefly, Castle and The Rookie, was born in Edmonton. Fillion’s role in Firefly, as ship captain Malcolm Reynolds, earned him cult favourite star status. In his hometown, the Edmonton City Hall was renamed the Nathan Fillion Civilian Pavilion on August 7 and August 8, 2021, resulting from a fan petition with over 27,000 signatures.
Song: Alberta Bound, originally performed by Gordon Lightfoot, is about being en route to Alberta, with the singer heaping great praise on the province. Lyrics include: “I’m Alberta-bound, This piece of heaven that I’ve found, Rocky Mountains and black fertile ground, Everything I need beneath that big blue sky”. The song has been covered by other artists such as Bryan Adams and Paul Brandt.
Band/Musician: Alberta has produced a number of female artists who have gone on to great careers domestically and internationally. Singers/songwriters include Joni Mitchell, k.d. Lang, Jann Arden, Tegan and Sara, and Feist. Among them, Mitchell has been described as “one of the greatest songwriters ever” and one of “the most important and influential female recording artist of the late 20th century”.
People: I was surprised to learn that actor and marijuana activist Tommy Chong was born in Edmonton. Chong is best known for his stoner comedy duo, Cheech & Chong, with Cheech Marin. The two released several popular movies and albums together, but my favourite role for Chong was as baked hippie Leo Chingkwake on That 70s Show.
Animal: Charlie was a mule that survived the 1903 Turtle Mountain landslide, which killed 70-90 people who called the mining town of Frank home. The mule managed to endure underground for more than a month by eating bark and drinking available water. Sadly, Charlie was overfed oats and brandy by his joyful rescuers, resulting in the mule perishing.
Invention: The SMART Board was developed Calgary husband and wife team David Martin and Nancy Knowlton in 1991. No longer would teachers and instructors alike have to struggle with chalkboards, overhead projectors or whiteboards. By 2016, the tandem’s company, SMART Technologies Inc., was purchased by the Foxconn Technology Group for $200 million.
Crime: Known as the Edmonton Shooting, in 2014, 53-year-old Phu Lam killed his wife, stepson, in-laws, a family friend and a neighbour. His victim count totalled eight people, making it the deadliest mass murder in the province’s history. Lam would take his own life following the homicides. In 2021, Lam threatened to do exactly what he later carried out. At the time of the crime, he was in heavy debt due to a gambling addiction.
Sports Team: Calgary, with the Flames (NHL) and Stampeders (CFL), and Edmonton, with the Oilers (NHL) and Elks (CFL), host all of the province’s professional franchises. The rivalry between the two cities is dubbed the Battle of Alberta for games between the NHL teams, while the Labour Day Classic is contested each September between the two CFL squads.
Athlete: Figure skater Jamie Salé was born in Calgary. Salé became internationally recognized when she and partner David Pelletier were awarded Olympic gold medals following the 2002 Salt Lake City figure skating scandal, which saw a brided French judge fix scores leading to a Russian team victory. Other top Alberta athletes include Alphonso Davies, Grant Fuhr, Jarome Iginla and Mark Messier.
Famous Home: A mecca for professional wrestling fans, the Hart Family home in Calgary is where such stars as Bret Hart and Owen Hart were born and raised, while other world famous grapplers were trained in the home’s basement, affectionately known as the Dungeon. The list of legends to graduate from the Dungeon include Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, the British Bulldog, and Jim and Natalya Niedhart.
Urban Legend: The Banff Springs Hotel, in scenic Banff National Park, is known as one of Canada’s most haunted locations. Opened in 1888, the resort is home to a number of ghosts, including a bride (famous enough to have her own coin and stamp) and bellman, based on former employee Sam McCauley, who passed away in 1975, but is said to still help hotel guests.
Museum: Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame can be found in Calgary. The museum highlights Canada’s role and history in the sporting world, as well as the many athletes that have represented the country. Opened in 1955, close to 700 inductees have been enshrined into the Hall of Fame, split between athlete and builder categories. The building is hard to miss, painted in Canadian flag colours of red and white.
Firsts: In 1916, Alberta’s Emily Murphy, a women’s rights activist, was the first female judge in Canada and the British Commonwealth. Thereafter, in 1917, fellow activists Louise McKinney and Roberta MacAdams were the first and second females elected to a legislature in the British Empire. MacAdams would go on to be the first woman to pass a piece of legislation.
Company: A favourite eatery of the Sip Family, Boston Pizza was founded in Edmonton, in 1964. The chain was originally known as Boston Pizza and Spaghetti House, ironically established by four Greek (not Italian) immigrants. One of the first Boston Pizza franchisees and one of its current owners is Jim Treliving, best known for being one of the investors on Dragons’ Den.
Events: The 1988 Winter Olympics were hosted in Calgary, with skiing events taking place in Kananaskis Country and Canmore. Canada failed to win any gold medals as host country, but the facilities built for the event resulted in Calgary becoming a hub for Canadian winter sports training development. These Olympics also produced the aforementioned Jamaican bobsled team and Michael ‘Eddie the Eagle’ Edwards.
Miscellaneous: The Calgary Stampede, one of the world’s largest rodeos, is known as the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”. Numerous free pancake breakfasts and barbecues are served throughout the 10-day long event, hosted every July since 1923. One million visitors are estimated to attend the event each year and it’s on the Sip Advisor’s bucket list to attend one day.
- 2 oz Canadian Rye Whiskey
- Dash of Maple Syrup
- Dashes of Angostura Bitters
- Garnish with a Maraschino Cherry
This Old Fashioned variant was invented by Calgarian Steve Johnston in 2013. I liked the hint of maple syrup you could smell with each sip of the cocktail. I could have used the drink being a little more complex, but it’s a good start to this journey across Canada.