Craft bitters spice up Toronto’s cocktail scene

Craft bitters spice up Toronto’s cocktail scene

Bitters, those spiced and flavoured digestifs, have regained their place as an essential bar ingredient, with unique craft versions adding a twist to the cocktail scene. Once limited to a bottle of Angostura’s, set aside like neglected Tabasco sauce, cocktail bitters have regained their place as an essential bar ingredient. The renaissance can be tasted locally in an explosion of craft bitters and homemade concoctions offered in Toronto’s cocktail scene. “Bitters are the salt and…

Read More

Ontario gin makers seek changes to antiquated laws

Ontario gin makers seek changes to antiquated laws

Gin making in Europe under threat because of a juniper fungus, but Ontario producers doing just fine. Gin is in trouble. A spirit of gloomy mythology — once considered the ‘mother’s ruin’ — the BBC reported last week that European gin producers are under attack from a fungus destroying juniper crops across the continent. The berry, native to North America, is an essential ingredient in what was Queen Victoria’s favourite spirit, but Ontario’s two gin…

Read More

Absinthe: Un-clouding the myths of the green fairy

Absinthe: Un-clouding the myths of the green fairy

Absinthe, an anise-flavoured cousin of gin, was once thought hallucinogenic. Sorry, it isn’t, but it is available again, a classic spirit enjoying a deserved renaissance. It’s the newest old spirit. Absinthe, the opalescent, anise-flavoured elixir, intemperate muse of 19th century writers like Oscar Wilde and Paul Verlaine, was banned nearly 100 years ago over its alleged hallucinogenic properties. Legal once again, and available at the LCBO, the “green fairy” of the Belle Époque still struggles…

Read More

Vermouth: Sweet or dry, LCBO’s narrow selection makes some aficionados bitter

Vermouth: Sweet or dry, LCBO’s narrow selection makes some aficionados bitter

Vermouth is the bestselling aperitif on LCBO shelves. And the ‘pretty abysmal’ selection is about to get better. An ad for Martini & Rossi vermouth appearing in a July 1963 issue of Playboy Magazine asks: “What makes a Manhattan? Not more or less vermouth — but a really fine vermouth.” Vermouth, an aromatic wine infused with brandy and various botanicals, was popular at the height of 1960s cocktail culture and is currently the bestselling aperitif…

Read More

Distilling the history of Canadian whisky

Distilling the history of Canadian whisky

In the opening credits to HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, Nucky Thompson stands by the Atlantic City shore-line as bottles of Canadian whisky wash up to his wing-tip shoes. It’s a cool image to be viewing after Canadian whisky, and its history, have also been celebrated in an instructive book, Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert and as distillers meanwhile, responding to today’s rather different market forces, release shiploads of new product. Partly a history of the first…

Read More

How vodka came back in from the cold

How vodka came back in from the cold

Toronto backlash softens, as bartenders reject the tastelessness cliché and realize vodka can be the quiet backbone of a drink. When Spirithouse bartender Turi Mercuri asks an undecided patron what kind of cocktail they’d like to order, he hears a recurring answer: “Anything but vodka.” Despite leading sales growth in all spirits categories at the LCBO (with $465 million in sales from 2012-2013) vodka became the black sheep in Toronto’s craft bartending community — the…

Read More

Raising the bar on cocktail culture

Raising the bar on cocktail culture

Celebrity bartender Charlotte Voisey, who introduces Hey Bartender at TIFF Bell Lightbox on Wednesday, says there’s more to being a barkeep than slicing fruit. If you think being a bartender is a just matter of slicing fruit, polishing glasses and mixing drinks, think again. There’s a lot of work involved before a bar opens every night and the most important is psychological. So says Charlotte Voisey, a celebrity bartender who will introduce a screening Wednesday…

Read More

Whisky aficionados get into the spirit at whisky gala

Whisky aficionados get into the spirit at whisky gala

Thirsty connoisseurs enjoy sampling premium Scotch, single barrel bourbons and ryes Whether you prefer the smokiness of single-malt Scotch, rye-forward Canadian whiskies or single barrel bourbons, Spirit of Toronto Whisky Gala is a whisky connoisseur’s paradise. For Ottawa residents Dominic Roszak, Nick Switalski and Felix Wong, the weekend pilgrimage — their word — was an opportunity to sample premium whiskies and escape the “day to day drudgery of the LCBO,” said Roszak. “The sheer selection…

Read More

Mix things up with barrel-aged cocktails

Mix things up with barrel-aged cocktails

Pre-mixing and barrel-aging cocktails might downplay the theatrics of modern-day bartending, but can offer a tastier, mellower drink. When hosting a cocktail party during the holidays, you want to mingle with guests, not spend the entire evening mixing drinks. “It’s the worst part about being me,” jokes Dante Conception Jr., creative director at Spirithouse on Adelaide St. W. “When I have people over or I go to a party, they know I make cocktails for…

Read More

Whisky: the art of blending

Whisky: the art of blending

John Hall loves collaboration. When the former winemaker founded Forty Creek Whisky in 1992 — Ontario’s first new whisky distillery since 1939 — he wanted to bring blended Canadian whisky to a new level of taste and appreciation. Earlier this year, Hall’s whiskies won five gold medals at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. At a Forty Creek tasting at the Toronto Temperance Society on College St., Hall offered attendees three separate glasses filled with…

Read More
1 2