Category: Recipes


Some people overdo it. They drink quarts of the stuff, liberally spiked with their poison of choice, for most of December and up to New Year’s Eve. They culminate this excess with a night of drinking that would put the Founding Fathers of America to shame and then spend the next week bitching and complaining through all channels about how much pain their in.

Eggnog’s not mentioned till the end of next year and why? It’s a perfectly decent after-dinner libation and for those of us who don’t binge, I can’t think of why it shouldn’t be enjoyed throughout the season, particularly in light of all this snow we’ve just received.

So, if you’re like me and you still feel like indulging in a bit of ‘nog, read on! I promise you that very little planning or preparation is needed and at the end you will be enjoying a rich and creamy cocktail that is yards ahead of anything you can buy commercially.

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As I mentioned in my previous post, one of my favorite things about St. Martin was the vast, selection of readily-available booze. The first time I entered Le Grand Marche, the biggest supermarket on the island, I spent a good half-hour in the spirits aisle, alternatively picking up bottles I’d only heard about and marveling over the prices.

On the way down, I’d talked constantly about rhum agricole with my companions; as far as I was concerned, it was going to be my first purchase. You can’t get it in Canada and while I’d tried cachaça (the Brazilian spirit also made from cane sugar) the differences in production make these two cousin spirits more different than people might imagine.

Funny thing is, my first purchase ended up being a bottle of mezcal, El Senorio Joven con Gustano. I knew nothing about it beyond that it was not aged (joven means young). It wasn’t until four days later that I even noticed it had worms in it  (gustano). While the latter is considered a bit of a marketing gimmick and is not exactly a selling point, I’d already finished a third of the bottle and was hardly in a position to consider returning it.

The prominent smoky and woody nature of this spirit didn’t exactly lend itself it to mixing with anything but I figured I’d give it a shot, partially because I didn’t want to waste what I’d purchased and mostly because I like a challenge. One of my favorite scotch cocktails is The Laphroaig Project and so I decided to use that as an inspiration for the flavors I wanted to incorporate into my cocktail. Lime juice and this funky anise bitters I’d picked up in Philipsburg were in the first draft.

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Nora Maynard asks a great question and since nothing is more appealing to me than being stuck in a tropical paradise with an unlimited supply of booze, I’ll answer it.

1. Pink Gin-and-Tonic

One of my favorite cocktails made so much better with the inclusion of Fever-Tree Tonic Water.

2. Dark-and-Stormy

Because I’ve been drinking ginger beer since I was little.

3. Mai Tai

It’s so hard to find a good one and we’re lucky to have three or four bars in Toronto who do it justice. The quinessential island drink.

4. Black Velvet

A bit of an oddball choice but I really enjoy ‘em.

5. Manhattan

Always a Manhattan, never a Martini. I can’t help which camp I fall in… What are your desert island cocktails? |The Kitchn|

James Chatto’s swan song for Toronto Life finds him celebrating the architects of the current renaissance our city’s cocktail culture is currently reaping the benefits of. Having finally gotten around to visiting Barchef, I think I need to make my way to both the Black Hoof and Ame. |Toronto Life|

Malcolm Gladwell wonders why we’re surprised when we treat drinkers like sex-and-violence-crazed ruffians and then they behave that way. His idea of using culture to constrain our expectations surrounding the consumption of alcohol has merit. |Toronto Life|

Speaking of ruffians, the City of Toronto has approved temporary changes to the serving hours for bars during the World Cup. You’ll be able to get your booze one, whole hour earlier! |blogTO|

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Current chill and gale force winds notwithstanding, summer is approaching with a vengeance. We’ve already had a taste of it and if you’re like me, you want more. A repeat of ought-nine’s rainy skies will not do; I want a hot, dry summer that leaves one incapable of doing more than lounging on the porch, sweating and drinking gin and tonics.

When trying to beat the heat, poor gin and sugary tonic water will be the death of you. Up your game and bask in glowing praise from your friends and grudging admiration from your enemies (if your the sort of fellow who drinks with ‘em)!

First, choose a gin. In this case, I was quite unable to resist Zuidam Jonge Graan Genever (660928, 500 mL, $24.95). Triple-distilled from equal parts rye, corn and malted barley before being distilled again with a variety of botanicals, it’s clear from the first sip that this is no London dry gin. The malt tones are much more evident and then you get the juniper and liquorice. It’s big and spicy but very clean and smooth indeed.

I’d read somewhere that genever is traditionally taken chilled but my friend and I didn’t have time for that. After the requisite sipped quarter shot, I decided to whip us up a couple of gin and tonics.

For my mixer, I’d gotten a pack of Fever-Tree Tonic Water (you can find it at The Big Carrot and maybe some other high-end grocery stores). Much like the Zuidam, this is very clean and soft with a high level of carbonation and none of the sweetness you get in many of its mass-market cousins. My limes were nothing special and if there was anywhere I was cheating myself, it was with the ice which was made from filtered tap-water. (One important thing to remember with limes (or any citrus) is to roll them under the palm of your hand before cutting and squeezing them. It helps release the juices.)

I was expecting a refined drink and suffice it to say, was not disappointed. This genever and tonic is all smooth curves and lightness on the tongue. It will please those who don’t like gin and delight those who do.

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Next time you’re going out on the town with your mickey, put together a proper cocktail. Sure, you could just fill it with vodka but you don’t want to be the guy getting plastered all on his lonesome. Share and bask in the appreciation!

One of my favorite mixes (for an 8oz flask mind you, go for 16oz and be the life of the party!) starts with 6oz of bourbon. Add 1oz of Frangelico, 1oz of Cointreau and a 3 heavy dashes of Angostura bitters and you’re good to go. |NOLA|

Bored with bourbon? Substitute your spirits and be delighted with the infinite variables now open to you! |SF Gate|

A good example of this would be the “Rum Manhattan“. |Eat.Drink.Think|

For those of you who like a little protein with your cocktail, try one of these ten fat-washed cocktails. I’m totally down with the Irish Bacon Sour but maple syrup makes everything better. |Time|

Fruit will always be popular and when combined with gin, you really can’t go wrong with a cocktail like The Bramble. Remember, anything vodka can do, gin can do better. |Science of Drink|

Don’t believe me? Try the Orange Blossom (a far superior Screwdriver). |SLOSHED!|

Moonshine’s not just for country-folk anymore; the nerds have taken over! |The Atlantic||McClatchy|

I love mezcal even more than tequila. It’s smoky deliciousness and I’m digging how it’s starting to get its due. It’ll be the next big thing after rum, mark my words. |The New York Times|

If you were a student (or poor or both) in the first part of the twenty-first century, you probably bought a case of Lakeport at least once or twice. Labatt is closing the Lakeport Brewery in Hamilton and moving its production south-west to London to save money.

They’re not releasing any figures but I’m betting consumers faced with better, equally-cheap options have moved on. |The Globe And Mail|

While Ontarians are losing their jobs, Danish workers are striking because Carlsberg has decided to limit the consumption of beer to lunchtime. Drivers in particular are upset, pointing to a “very old right” to get buzzed on up to three beers per day. |Sky News|

Researchers at Harvard University are saying that a person’s social network may influence their drinking, with folks being “50 percent more likely to drink heavily if a person they are directly connected to drinks heavily and 36 percent more likely to drink heavily if a friend of a friend drinks heavily”.

This is pretty worrying, especially when you factor in that people are 28 percent more likely to jump off a cliff in the presence of their peers. |Sifiy News|

Socially-responsible branding only seems to happen in Canada (and maybe Scandinavia). Over in the EU, two Germans  have received permission to sell their beer which goes by the name of “Fucking Hell”, the former being the name of a small town in Austria and the latter the German term for a pale lager.

The loophole seems to be the absence of a reference to a particular person, group, act or instruction which rules out the half-dozen brands my friends and I came up with one drunken night (everything from “Tranny Surprise” to “Uncle Joe’s Pogrom Ale”) |New Zealand Herald|

While we might have the Toronto Temperance Society, cities down south have been playing this game for awhile: Washington DC has the Columbia Room which, while not having a membership, charges $65 per person for a boozy prix fixe. |The Washington Post|

For those who want the appearance of a speakeasy without the exclusivity, the little town of Bethlehem (Pennsylvania) has The Bookstore, an homage to all things turn-of-the-century. |Lehigh Valley Live|

Or there’s always the top ten most unusual bars in the world. Cover all of your bases. |Travel Vivi|

Beer Goggler: The perfect app for anyone experiencing one night stand regret. |App Shopper|

Or you could just have standards (but you probably wouldn’t have as many good stories). Another useful accessory for saving your seat and/or drink is the Seat Saver, a clever amalgamation of coaster and marker. |Beer Mats Rule!|

(Photo taken from Anne Taintor’s website. Go buy a flask from her.)

Everyone likes lists; especially when we get to make comparisons and argue over the results. This list featuring the best rums is pretty good even if we can’t get some of ‘em up here in Ontario. Hence my take on the best value for your money:

Flor de Cana 7 Year Old (26286, 750 mL, $30.20)

El Dorado 5 Year Old (894014, 750 mL, $24.80)

El Dorado 15 Year Old (705418, 750 mL, $59.75)

Havana Club Barrel Proof (113159, 700 mL, $55.20)

Havana Club Anejo Reserva (443903, 750 mL, $26.95)

Sailor Jerry Spiced (80127, 750 mL, $28.45)

Wray & Nephew Overproof (326223, 750 mL, $34.95)

Matusalem 15 Year Old Gran Reserva (464222, 750 mL, $39.95)

Pyrat XO (a bit of a cheat ‘cos it’s not available anymore)

Appleton V/X (177808, 750 mL, $23.75)

There are some new rums out there that I have yet to try; Element 8 Gold Rum (135517, 700 mL, $ 59.95), Brugal Gold Label Rum (600502, 750mL, $22.95), Papagayo Fairtrade Organic Golden Rum (118612, 700mL, $26.35) and Sea Wynde Pot Still Rum (162537, 750mL, $49.95).

Of course, with the here-today-gone-tomorrow attitude the LCBO has when it comes to keeping products on their shelves, I’ll probably not get a chance. Anyone tried ‘em yet? |Kaiser Penguin|

For every recipe there can be as many as half-a-dozen alternatives. While we can debate the “trueness” of each one, it makes much more sense to focus on enjoying what works the individual. I like my gin-and-tonics with a healthy dose of Angostura Bitters (an adulterated Pink Gin if you will); it works for me.

As a bartender, I’m sometimes guilty of getting snarky with guests who assign the wrong name or attributes to a cocktail they’ve ordered. It can be difficult to separate ego from adequately satisfying the needs of a guest but I find the best way to sidestep this issue is to ask a series of leading questions in order to establish exactly what it is they want.

You can always make fun of their shitty taste when they’re gone. |Underhill-Lounge|

If you happen to be in Phoenix, check out some of these bars. Last time I was there, I wasn’t even legal. |AZCentral|

On the other hand, if you’re in the Liaoning Province in China and someone offers you a bottle of moonshine, don’t accept… it could have been made from tiger bones! |UPI|

The National Restaurant Association is looking for “signature cocktails” and if they pick yours you’ll get cash and be featured in all sorts of promotions. Judging from the picture on the website, it won’t be much of a contest if they’re using Bacardi flavored-rums. |National Restaurant Association|

For those of us looking for good drinking, look no further than these Kentucky Mimosas. Bourbon and sage? I’m down! |The Bitten Word|

Next time you’re at a halfway-decent bar, try asking for the Bee’s Knees. You won’t be disappointed. |Science of Drink|

Or you could always just get a Zombie. Like most tiki drinks, fresh ingredients will make or break this cocktail so don’t just order one anywhere. Most places that couldn’t make one properly also probably wouldn’t serve more than 3OZ of booze in one sitting so you’re not missing out. |Sippity Sup|

(Photo found randomly through Google Image search. Yes, this means I’m not going to credit it.)

An ex of a friend once brought a couple growlers of his home brew for a party. Despite being a bit “green” it was still remarkably alright and so when I read articles about how cheap and relatively easy it is, I’m get perilously close to giving it a shot and seeing what I can come up with. |The Globe And Mail|

These illustrations in a cocktail recipe book from 1967 remind me of the psychedelic children’s board games I used to play with the other home-schooled kids. |So Much Pileup|

Substituting a stronger-proof alcohol can lead to a better cocktail, especially when its competing with a plethora of other flavors. |San Francisco Chronicle|

Creme Yvette, another one of those liqueurs thought lost to the golden age of cocktails, is being rereleased by the same geniuses behind St. Germain in NYC. Maybe this means we’ll finally get the latter up here in Canada… |The Dizzy Fizz|

While I’m no vodka-hater, I prefer pretty much everything else when it comes to making an interesting drink. Still, there’s no excuse for getting pretentious; Zubrowka is amazing! |Imbibe|

Bars aren’t always about drinking. I can’t count the number of times I’ve stopped in at my local through a strange compulsion that even I’m not always fully aware of. Sure, drinks are a given but more often than not, it’s to see the other regulars; those people I may not interact with in any other part of my life but who are, in some ways, dearer to me than friends I’ve had for years. |San Francisco Chronicle|

Why do you randomly go to bars?

Beer bottles aren’t usually as pretty to look at as their cousins, wine and spirits but there are always exceptions and these ten designs certainly make the grade. |The Coolist*|

Find out which brewers are making an effort to be more eco-conscious. Way to go McAuslan! |The Globe And Mail|

Lastly, I leave you with the Goldfinger 007, an apparently-complicated but ultimately-rewarding cocktail from the barman at Blowfish. I think I’ll just go and have mine there. |The Globe And Mail|

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I really, really love Jen Kirkman. She’s pretty much always funny but I think she’s even hotter when she’s drunk.

Korean scientists have found that adding oxygen bubbles to alcohol reduces the time needed to recover from a hangover by about half-an-hour. They also found that the effects stack so even if you drink a lot of this booze, the effects of the hangover are not as debilitating and happen with less frequency.

Just what people need. A way to drink more often and not pay for it. Why don’t we just snort alcohol? |i09|

Or you could just chase your whiskey with pickle juice which is what I’ll be doing come next Wednesday (St. Patrick’s Day!!) |The Washington Post|

Tired of shitty cocktails made by bartenders who don’t care? Give a robo-bartender a try! (Or you could just patronize good bars.) |Wired|

If you’ve ever made a bad drink, you probably tried to fix it. Seeing as it’s all about balance, here are some great suggestions for reviving dead-on-arrival cocktails. Ginger beer is so easy but I agree with the bitters comment. If an ingredient always makes a drink better, it is really a cheat? |Kaiser Penguin|

We don’t get any of Sierra Nevada’s line up here but the idea in this article that I find interesting is the idea of a good, solid beer being overlooked when something new and stylish comes along. A good example of that up here would be Black Oak’s Nut Brown Ale. Another example might be Mike Duggan’s No. 9 making Mill Street’s Tankhouse Ale seem bland. |CHOW|

The Barbacoa combines ginger and chipolte among other things. I would imagine the peppers work very well with mezcal and the idea of garnishing with beef jerky gets me all tingly. Can’t wait to try it! |Saveur|

If you’re looking for something a bit sweeter, try the Oh Pear. I’d substitute a scotch for the Irish whiskey and I would necessarily use a pear liqueur (maybe a cinnamon syrup?) but it looks delicious regardless. |Imbibe|

I really like the cocktail pitcher but several of these bar tools are must-haves for entertaining at home. Square ice cube trays really are essential. |Valet|

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Toronto’s cocktail scene is about to get a major upgrade with the opening of the Toronto Temperance Society. Perhaps embodying the maxim “drink less, drink better” more than any other venue, the club promises to the sort of joint where you never have to worry about getting anything different than the drink you ordered (unless you like Appletinis).

Only thing is, you have to pay an annual membership fee of $285 for the privilege of hanging out with like-minded imbibers.  Perfection doesn’t come cheap…

In another instance of exclusivity = credibility, a travelling cocktail party in Los Angeles is the Next Big Thing. Only a matter of time before someone starts doing that here (hey, wait-a-minute).

Apparently, shit beer equals poor stock performance for major beer companies. Who’d have thought? Even better, the supposed panacea for these corporations involves buying up perfectly good craft breweries and wringing every little bit of individuality from their recipes.

Robert Parker, the venerable wine critic, rated a wine higher in a blind tasting than he had in his published review of it earler. Cue snickering

Alcademics reviews a new liqueur from Bolivia that is made from coca leaves. While not quite monkey-for-your-back, it apparently does give you a boost. They also take a look at a mezcal, my new favorite tipple.

I’ll drink a bicicletta if it means I get to have a two-hour lunch in the afternoon to boot! Half-an-hour is practically criminal.

Moonshine goes mainstream with white whiskey. Hopefully the LCBO will get notice and start selling a bottle here (I’m not holding my breath).

Another thing they should get on Right Away is St. Germain. Why is this not available in Canada? It practically sells itself! Here are some cocktails to tide you over…

Over at A Mountain Of Crushed Ice, Tiare talks about collecting bar tools (which is about as wonderfully geeky as you can get when it comes to the industry).

Dr. Bamboo resucitates Midori melon liqueur (at least for enthusiasts) with a cocktail that actually sounds pretty tasty. I predict a dark age revival… Can new uses for blue curacao be far behind?

I grit my teeth every time someone asks for a Keiths. A Good Beer Blog pointed me in the direction of guys who just might be my heroes. I wouldn’t mind so much if people just admitted to being biased towards mainstream brands.

If I had a little more discipline, I’d release my own brand of syrups and bitters instead of waiting for lines like Trader Tiki to make their way up to Canada.

SLOSHED! puts together a Bumble-bee Cocktail which sounds amazing, courtesy of Charles H. Baker Jr. and his book, Gentlemen’s Companion (not a new release in case you were wondering). They’ve also managed to introduce me to my new favorite quote (by the same man)

…all really interesting people–sportsman, explorers, musicians, scientists, vagabonds and writers–were vitally interested in good things to eat and drink; cared for exotic and intriguing ways of composing them. We soon discovered further that this keen interest was not solely through gluttony, the spur of hunger or merely to sustain life, but in a spirit of high adventure.

What an excellent sentiment!

(Image taken from Boing-Boing)

Robert Simonson of the New York Times looks back at a decade of innovation (and reinvention) when it comes to cocktails. St. Germain is indeed one of the most interesting liqueurs to hit the market lately and I really dig the idea of “bartender’s choice” as an option on a drink menu.

Dana Rourke of  the Live Organic Food Bar (located at Spadina and Dupont) shares her recipe for The London, a drink that you can feel good about imbibing, with The Toronto Star. To no one’s surprise, moderation is still the key.

Matthew Biancaniello’s an inspiration for anyone who’s gotten sick of the grind and taken up bartending because they’re an enthusiast (I can’t be the only one). His concoctions sound pretty interesting too…

For those of you who want to take a harder edge to your drinking, CAMH has released an online test that may help you get a handle on your drinking. Apparently, I drink more than 96% of males, aged 25-34, in Canada. I also spent over 1,700 hours under the influence of alcohol in 2009. Moving on!

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the Indiana University have found a molecule that may repair the enzyme mutation that causes people of Asian descent to get flushed faces when they drink. It does other stuff too (like cause cancer and neurodegenerative diseases) so this seems pretty important.

Jason Wilson of The Washington Post looks at rare cognacs. If it’s all about the bottle, how is this different from collecting any other kind of antique? I’m not sure what the deal is with spirits this expensive but an “indescribable” taste sure sounds interesting.

If you’re tired of creamy chocolate liqueurs, this Austrian spirit looks like just the thing to reverse that trend.

In need of some wintery cocktails? Cocktail Virgin Slut offers up some Boston Grog, Drink Snob has Writer’s Block while White On Rice Couple is all about the Sidecar Fizz.

Over at SLOSHED! they have a list of the ten most popular posts on their site for 2009. There are some really good recipes to be found so have a look.

For those of us who drink beer, here’s a handy flow-chart for determining which brand to go for (and yes, no one should ever be caught drinking lime-flavored beer). Once you figure that out, you can play Beer Battleship.

According to The Guardian, bigger whisky makers are feeling the pinch and have been shutting down plants in Scotland. With all the great new whiskies around, I can’t say I really care. If anything, this is a warning against getting too big and being bought out by a company like Diageo.

Beer companies aren’t really paying attention. Heineken now owns the Tecate, Dos Equis and Sol brands which it must hope will give it a leg up on Grupo Modelo (Parent company of Corona. Interesting sidenote: Anheuser-Busch owns half of GM.).

This follows an incredibly-sad statement in The Globe And Mail by Richard Musson, the vice-president of marketing for Labatt, who said that “in the end, what pays the bills is Budweiser.” Truer words were never spoken. Fuck innovation, let’s acquire someone else’s credibility.

Gothic Epicures VinCuisine has put together a handy list of all the best-value red and white wines for under $20 in the 2010 LCBO Vintages release.

While this cellar is presented as an “awesome” idea for storing beer, it would work so much better for wine. Still, it looks good.

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