Toronto loves a stiff drink. 2012’s classic cocktail renaissance saw us embrace high-quality spirits like bourbon and rye mixed with flavor enhancing in-house blended bitters, infused simple syrups, and egg whites in lieu of pre-mixed bar blends and listless vodka sodas. Quality has taken precedence over quantity.
Propelling this movement even further is this year’s annual MadeWithLoveâ„¢ Toronto cocktail competition. Tuesday night brought the event’s qualifying round to the Financial District’s Marché Restaurant where twenty-seven local bartenders were tasked with creating a cocktail to represent one of five Toronto neighbourhoods: College St., Cabbage Town, China Town, Liberty Village and High Park. At the end of the night, sixteen mixologists made the final round to be held in March. Here are our five favourite recipes from last night’s challenge, representing each of the 5 neighbourhoods.
NEIGHBOURHOOD: College St.
BARTENDER: Levon Hill of Soho House
COCKTAIL NAME: “Heart Beet”
1 ounce fresh squeezed orange juice
2 ounces homemade beat and rosemary syrup
Â½ ounce overproof rum
6 drops rhubarb bitters
1 Â¼ oz. Hendrick’s Gin
Â¾ oz. Campari
1 rosemary sprig
Dash of cracked pepper
Splash of Tonic
Ice (for the shaker, two cubes for the finished drink)
Crack a sprig of rosemary and curl into bottom of glass. Pour Â½ oz. overproof rum overtop and light the whole thing on fire. Then add ice and the remaining ingredients to your shaker, shake until cold and double strain over the burning rosemary sprig. Add a couple of ice cubes and remove rosemary sprig.
How does the Heart Beet represent College St.?
“I was inspired by Italian food on College street and decided to make something that was similar to a bitter sweet soda or like a Brio.”
NEIGHBOURHOOD: Cabbage Town
BARTENDER: Japhet Bower, also of Soho House
COCKTAIL NAME: “Lord Dufferin”
How does the Lord Dufferin represent Cabbage Town?
“Lord Dufferin [was a] former Governor General of Canada, [with] a lot of monuments and streets named after him in Toronto, [including] The Lord Dufferin School in Cabbage Town… so I wanted to take that, to take this Victorian Sensibility, and tie it in with the essential Irish drinks, whiskey and stouts.”
NEIGHBOURHOOD: China Town
BARTENDER: Joe Howell, head bartender at The Spoke Club
COCKTAIL NAME: “Year of the Dragon”
1 Â½ oz. of Green (Jasmine) Tea infused Hendrick’s Gin
1 oz. of lemon juice
3 lychee nuts (muddled in and double strained out after shaking)
Â½ oz. of saffron honey
Dragon Fruit to garnish
How does the Year of the Dragon represent China Town?
“[The] Year of the Dragon is the Chinese year until February…I used Hendricks gin because Britain colonized Hong Kong for so long and I infused that with Jasmine green tea, which is a classic drink in any Chinese restaurant and whenever you get cold tea late at night, which I do a lot as a bartender, there’s always little bits floating in the beer so I wanted to cover that in the cocktail.”
NEIGHBOURHOOD: Liberty Village
BARTENDER: Tyler Newsome of Museum Tavern
COCKTAIL NAME: “Liberty Served Neat”
2 1/5 oz. Appleton Rum
4 bar spoons of maple syrup
5 hard dashes of Peychaud’s bitters
3 drops of orange flower water
A couple small pieces of lemon peel
Stir together on ice until it dilutes to double its original size. Pour into a brandy snifter and put saran wrap over the top of so no smoke gets inside. Smoke some orange wood and put the glass on top of the bowl that you are smoking the wood in, turning the glass periodically so that the glass picks up the smoke.
How does the Liberty Served Neat represent Liberty Village?
“The idea behind it is that the outside of the glass represents the industrial side of Liberty Village. There’s a lot of gun workshops, bomb fuses [that] were built there in WWI…if we were to say that rum is Liberty Village then just by adding the Peychaud’s, the maple syrup, and the orange flower water, [you] really brighten it up. So as you drink the drink you’re pulling the smoke off the side of the glass with your fingers and it’s kind of taking it away so the more you drink it the less you smell the smoke which is industry kind of falling out of that area.”
RECIPE (a joint effort with help from chef girlfriend Anna Lea Joubert)
1 Â¼ oz. Tea Infused Hendricks’ Gin (with Grapevine tea from David’s Tea)
Â¾ ounces mead
Â½ oz lemon
Â½ oz lime
Â½ oz raspberry syrup
Â½ oz egg white
Sprinkle of loose-leaf tea on top
How does the Sir Toby represent High Park?
“The first thing I thought about was Shakespeare in High Park because I’m an actor by background and so I thought about all the different characters I’ve played. I played a drunk called Sir Toby Belch [from] Twelfth Night and…I did some research on what these guys were drinking back then. It was juices and teas so there’s my tea infusion and then for alcohol it was ales and mead so there’s mead in my cocktail as well.”