Archive for September, 2010

ask the inebriateRobert from east of here (somewhere around Ottawa I think):

“well hello!

so, was just desperately scouring the interwebs for any advice on shopping for bar tools in Toronto when I happened along your blog. the blog is awesome btw.

it would seem that you might be my last hope as the interwebs have proved fruitless. I spent the last two days going here and there, all around TO, to all sorts of places you’d figure would carry things like Hawthorne strainers, Julep strainers, jigger, muddlers, Boston shakers, bitters (don’t even get me started!), bar spoons, mixing glasses etc..

I have a few hours left tomorrow afternoon to find… everything?anything.. thanks in advance for any advice you could pass along to a very weary traveller!”

You can try Kitchen Stuff Plus at 703 Yonge St. (one block south of Bloor St.) for some bar gear. They have a lovely selection of OXO knives, some juicers and other odds and ends. Williams-Sonoma has some stuff too but they’re pricey and overrated. A stand at the St. Lawrence Market sells my favorite shaker, the Oxo Stainless Steel, in the basement area (look for the stand with all of the kitchen gear; they’ll have other stuff too).

Dinetz at 231 King St. East (just west of Sherbourne St.) has pretty much everything you might want. While you’re in the east end, you can always check out Nella Cutlery at 433 Queen St. East. They mostly service restaurants and the like but their store may very well interest you. If you want to go a bit further afield, try out Cayne’s in Thornhill. They kind of remind me of those ads you see in the Sun but you can’t argue with the prices.

I’ve never shopped here but every time I pass by Calphalon (425 King St. West, just west of Spadina Ave.) they always have spiffy tool displays in the window. Seeing as they supply Williams-Sonoma, they’re probably pricey but they might be cheaper than shopping at the latter. Hell, even if you don’t buy anything, I can think of worse ways to spend an afternoon.

For bitters, you’re pretty much out of luck if you’re looking for anything but Angostura. The Toronto Institute of Bartending carries Fee Brothers but that’s it. Their store is located at 487 Adelaide St. West (just west of Portland St.). The LCBO carries three types of four types of Amaro, Campari, Cynar, Fernet-Branca and Unicum but I don’t think that’s what you’re looking for. Be sure to check the website because not all stores will carry them.

On a side-note, you can find lots of fun stuff at Value Village, particularly glassware, and its cheap. Don’t buy crystal; it’s going to break anyway.

michael davidson - tequilaIn news that is sure to please college students and horrify parents everywhere, a study that’s currently making the rounds online suggests that boozers live longer than nondrinkers. Those who currently abstain but used to drink also suffered high mortality rates. Perhaps the best news is that moderate drinkers (one to three drinks per day and the category I fall into) live the longest. The most interesting thing about the study is the attention made to the sociable aspects of drinking and the impact this interaction has on mental and physical health.

So next time someone says you’re drinking too much, knock back the spirit pictured above (tequila) and tell ‘em you’re doing it to live better and longer. |Time|

For those of us already comfortable with our levels of alcoholic consumption comes Toronto Beer Week, from September 20th to the 26th. With a home-brewing contest and a series of talks and tastings at a variety of good, local bars (including Bar Volo and C’est What?), it should prove to be the latest in a series of successful events this year celebrating Ontario craft beer.

The week  culminates in a urban treasure hunt of sorts called Toronto Beer Quest. where teams will race around the city solving clues that teach them about the history of beer around them. While I think they’re missing a great opportunity by not involving any actual drinking during the game, it should be fun.

With beer and champagne being found at the bottom of the ocean and whisky being found in Antarctica, it’s only a matter of time before we see new products that are crafted from approximations of their recipes. Whether they’ll taste any good is another thing altogether.|Yahoo, CNN, The Daily Telegraph|

Pabst, in an effort to diversify from its iconic brand beloved by hipsters and other cheap beer-drinkers alike, has released a new beer imaginatively titled Blue Ribbon 1844 in China. No word on whether it’s ever going to be sold over here but I think it’s safe to say we’re probably not missing out on much. |The Baltimore Sun|

Ever wanted to own a pub (and who hasn’t)? One of the most out-of-the-way spots in Britain is being sold. Accessible only by boat or a lengthy hike, it’s strangely quite popular with everyone from the locals to travelers and would continue to be quite the draw I would imagine. It just goes to show you that if you serve good food and drink and have a great vibe, folks will quite literally make the trek to stop in. |Herald Scotland|

Speaking as someone who doesn’t generally order cocktails in an unfamiliar bar, this list of the top ten ways to screw up an Old Fashioned is dead-on. |Bogost|

Some may find it incredibly pretentious but I laughed at a couple of these “cocktails” on the Atlantic’s drinks list. Located at 159 Dundas West, it’s basically the successor to The Boat and follows the same idea of a seafood restaurant becoming a dance club at night… except with less room. Still, they do serve bottles of Duggan’s No. 9.

Toronto’s always been a bit stiff and the new bylaws prohibiting patios on quite a few streets in our fair city ram that rod just little further. |The Globe and Mail|

Predictably, the cocktails designed for the Toronto International Film Festival sound pretty shitty so Adam McDowell asks four local bartenders to come up with something better (not a difficult task). |National Post|

Whisky made from the piss of diabetics? Why not? |James Gilpin|

(Photo by Michael Davidson, courtesy of Time)

proof whiskyProof (173351, 500 mL, $19.95) Whisky is a bit of a mystery. The bottle says its produced in Toronto but a little sleuthing on the internet says it’s from Alberta. (Edit: Adam McDowell of The National Post says he heard it was produced by Highwood Distillers who also make Centennial 10 Year Old)

It also goes on to say that they’re going to release a rum and a vodka too. Right off the bat, this doesn’t sit too well with me. See, when I look at a spirit, I want to know that they’re putting out a product that they believe in. These guys should really love their whisky, I mean really love it. I want to buy my booze from true believers who know their stuff and can’t wait to share it with everyone.

So when I hear that a company is trying to diversify its brand by releasing three spirits, all marketed under the same eye-catching design; I get a bit suspicious. I start to think that maybe it’s not about the product after all but more of a gratuitous circle-jerk centered around a too-obvious marketing campaign trying desperately to cultivate a little cachet with the urban crowd.

I’m down with Canadian whisky. Hell, I’m damn-near patriotic at times and if you give me a decent product at a fair price, I’ll buy it every time. Centennial 10 Year Old (387209, 750 mL, $24.80) and Century Reserve 15 Year Old (105858, 750 mL, $30.05) are quite strong competitors and neither of them are trying to be quite so cool as Proof.

But enough about the goddamned look of the bottle. Is the whisky any good?

Pouring it into my cowboy-style shot glass, I take a whiff. Very clean with the alcohol front-and-center (I guess that extra 2% really does give it some “edge”). A couple of sips in, it becomes very clear that this is hardly any different from your dad’s Canadian Club. It’s a bit sweet, as Canadian whiskies generally go in that direction and there’s any interesting citrus element tucked away in there but this is hardly memorable. If anything it reminds me of my college days when my fellow freshmen and I thought we were trading up by going for the C.C. Reserve.

This whisky is a mixer and while you could do worse, the irritating marketing campaign hardly puts me in a favorable state of mind that would find me going back for a second bottle. Drop the pouty models and put a fuckin’ deer on the label.

pouty model

(Correction: The original version of this article misspelled Canadian whisky “whiskey”. I blame spell-check. Maybe lack of sleep.)

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