A Cocktail Best Served Over 420–Million–Year–Old Rocks


Fogo Island Inn toasts a decade in business with the Tenfold, a cocktail shaped by the island’s elements and steeped in community spirit.

Before patrons set foot inside Fogo Island Inn’s bar and lounge, they have already tasted the flavours of the Tenfold, a twig–topped cocktail created in celebration of the inn’s 10–year anniversary. On the rugged island off the east coast of Newfoundland, you cannot lick your lips without a smack of sea salt, take a breath without a waft of birch smoke, or cross a bog without tripping on a partridgeberry vine. These elements fold their way through life in the maritime outport just as they lap against the crystal cocktail glass.

“The premise of the cocktail began the same way we approach everything,” explains Scott Cowan, Fogo Island Inn’s sommelier and beverage manager. “We delve into where we are and what it means to be here.” Cowan rummaged through his grandmother’s recipes, sampled hundreds of blackened, fermented, and marinated ingredients in Sergeant’s Garage – the inn’s kitchen warehouse and food lab – and spent weeks coordinating the development of an amaro distilled with wild botanicals for a version of the cocktail that included caribou fat–washed whisky before it was ultimately scrapped.

November 1, 2023
The exterior view of Fogo Island Inn from the berry fields
Sun streaming through they sky high windows of the restaurant at Fogo Island Inn

On the squally winter night before the cocktail’s deadline, with the Tenfold still several folds away from finished, Cowan made an eleventh–hour phone call. “There was a definite sense of urgency in Scott’s voice,” recalls Tim Charles, executive chef at Fogo Island Inn, who received the call mid–family dinner. The next thing Cowan knew, they were out in the blizzard, burrowing through snowbanks for overwintered partridgeberries. “Then, before I knew it, Tim was ripping up birchbark and throwing it into the oven, and I’m wide–eyed waiting for the fire to happen,” remembers Cowan.

Roughly seventeen iterations and every cocktail glass later, with assistance from head bartender Camille Hopper–Naud, they unearthed the Tenfold. “Originally, we wanted it to have 10 ingredients from the island, but it shed some of those layers as the sun came out,” says Cowan. As islanders joke, partridgeberries grow between a rock and a hard place. The Tenfold perches somewhere between a vesper and a cosmopolitan, thanks in part to the berry’s cousin–like relation to the cranberry. Vodka is swapped for gin, layered with Lillet, a smoky birch tea cordial and syrup, and about eight drops of sea salt brine. A skewer of partridgeberries rests on the rim topped with a birch twig intended as a stir stick.

A woman holding a bucket to collect berries beside Fogo Island Inn
A bucket filled with berries picked beside Fogo Island Inn

In Newfoundland, they say you can take the boy out of the bay, but you can’t take the bay out of the boy. When it comes to the Tenfold, you can’t take the island out of the cocktail, and you can’t really take the cocktail off the island, either. As one of the managers of Fogo Island Inn’s Facebook page responded to an inquiring follower, the drink is “a bit of a doozy” to recreate at home. Preparation — from steeping smoked beech bark, kelp, fermented honey, and sea salt for 16 hours with a sous–vide thermal immersion circulator to pressing partridgeberries and straining juice out of a fine mesh “magic bag” — is only part of the reason.

“On the island, people will see all these lines that are tied together in the cocktail. It’s all fortified in this fully understood ecosystem,” says Charles. Beyond boot toes reddened by partridgeberries on the island’s barrens and ancient footpaths, visitors may run into locals picking their share of the 800 kilograms the inn buys from the community each year. Those visiting in Berry Season, one of seven seasons observed on the island, can catch the Fogo Island Partridgeberry Harvest Festival and try some of the jams and jellies islanders always have on hand for afternoon tea drop–ins.

“Fogo Island has weather patterns and systems you don’t find anywhere else,” says Cowan. “Heaps of fog, bursts of sunshine, 420–million–year–old volcanic soil. I think it has a tremendous effect on the partridgeberry.” To his taste, Fogo’s strain packs a more rounded, less astringent punch than those found about 400 kilometres south on the Avalon Peninsula. Even the bees that pollinate the berries and supply the golden nectar for the cocktail’s silky fermented honey foster a distinct apiculture around their Varroa mite–free colonies. Newfoundland’s remote reaches and import regulations protect some of the last places on Earth untouched by the parasite.

A large iceberg and ship off of Fogo Island
   Photo: Alex Fradkin

“It takes a community,” says Cowan, “to make a cocktail like this.” Cowan’s sense of community encompasses everyone from the island’s present 2,117 population to generations past who, among other things, established Bordeaux as a traditional trading partner, which explains the undercurrent of Lillet that runs through the Tenfold. The people and place–anchored essence of the cocktail embodies the founding principle of Fogo Island Inn, an outpost of Shorefast, a registered charity created by Canadian entrepreneur Zita Cobb and her siblings Alan and Anthony Cobb to “unleash the power of place for local communities to thrive in the global economy.”

One could argue that The Tenfold has been 10 years in the making, if not 420 million. But like all things rare and worth a journey, it may not be on the menu much longer. “Our menu changes with the seasons,” says Cowan, “and we have seven of them.” Fortunately, the inn — named one of Canada’s Best New Restaurants in 2013 — always has something cooking, including the opening of The Storehouse restaurant in Joe Batt’s Arm and seasonal events, such as a four–day weekend of cheese with maître fromager Afrim Pristine.