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…

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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…

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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…

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How Star Wars revolutionized the toy biz

How Star Wars revolutionized the toy biz

The LEGO Movie, which blends Batman, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Han Solo in one film, is the type of thing that could once only happen if you paired your imagination with the contents of your toy box. Now it’s on the big screen. A culmination of more than three decades of action figures, cartoons and toy advertising, which started in 1977, the year George Lucas released Star Wars. Brian Stillman doesn’t remember a…

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In a digital world, why is our visual history being lost?

In a digital world, why is our visual history being lost?

Marc Taaffe, cigarette dangling from his lips, threads film through a projector, a giant streamlined machine that looks as if it belongs in a wartime munitions factory. The Junction antique and curio shop owner is screening a mixed bag of 16mm films on a makeshift plywood screen in his store, called, modestly enough, World Headquarters. The film he is preparing to show to a clutch of interested customers comes from a small can labelled “Hazel…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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Why the Fender Stratocaster rocks on at age 60

Why the Fender Stratocaster rocks on at age 60

The times have a-changed, but the iconic electric guitar has managed to adapt for the online generation. At Capsule Music, a vintage guitar shop on Queen St. W., a 1954 Fender Stratocaster rests atop the counter in its original tweed case. The guitar’s classic two-tone sunburst finish, protected by a Bakelite pickguard, reflects the red glimmer from a neon sign in the shop’s window. The frets show years of wear — some might call it…

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