Tag Archive: syrups


The G20 has ruined many things for the citizens of Toronto (road closures, school closures, transit delays, the St. Lawrence Market, uprooted trees, loss of income, loss of patio space, removal of bike stands… new annoyances are added everyday) but it’s going a bit too far when the LCBO decides it has to close 7 of its stores from Friday to Saturday.

To be fair, many of the products that would be found at these locations can be found at others but that doesn’t make it right. I guess a trip up to Summerhill is in order… |Toronto Sun|

One thing the G20 can’t ruin is Ontario Craft Beer Week. Besides the numerous events happening all week long, be sure to check out the Session Craft Beer Festival at Sunnyside Pavilion on Saturday (June 26th). |Ontario Craft Brewers|

The ash from Eyjafjallajokull may have never made it this far but Icelandic beer is coming to Toronto! Skjálfti (168393, 500 mL, $3.95) is a hoppy marriage between a pale ale and a lager and both Josh Rubin of The Star and Greg Clow of Taste T.O. dig it. (If you have trouble using the LCBO  website, don’t forget to log on to drinkvine, the best way to scout out new beers and wines in the GTA.) |Toronto Star, Taste T.O.|

If you want proof why marketers should never, ever come up with a beer brand, look no further than Biker Beer a brew produced out of Nickel Brook that came about because a couple attended a rally on their wedding day. Since no self-respecting biker (or human being) will ever drink this product, I’m betting it will come to be regarded as one of the most inane vanity products  in the history of beer ever.

I bet they even have matching beach towels with their initials monogrammed on ‘em. |Toronto Sun|

Despite what this blog might be saying, you can tell the difference between different wines and the distance between good and bad wine can be pretty fucking far indeed. Just don’t be a pretentious twit. |You Are Not Smart|

Conflict Kitchen is performance art masquerading as a take-out joint. Taking a country that the United States currently has a beef with, it will serve a signature dish and with everyone happily sated, will offer potential dialog in the form of “events, performances and discussions”. Afghanistan is the first subject and we’ll I’ve never tried kubideh (anyone want to make a road trip to Kabul Farms?) I’m always in favor of exposing people to new street-food. |Kubideh Kitchen|

Everyone knows red-heads are where it’s at so y’all will undoubtedly go for the Scarlet Harlot, a cocktail that combines brandy, Red Dubonnet and cherries in a most-pleasing manner. |CHOW|

Making drinks is easy; coming up with a catchy name for ‘em can often be an exercise in futility. (Here’s an easy formula: Take equal parts funny, sleazy and literary and add a touch of cheese. Voila… the Penelope Cruiser!) |New York Times|

People have added everything they possibly could to cocktails so far; why not minerals? |The Atlantic|

Summer drinks are the best kind of drinks there are! Go fresh and you’ll never be wrong… We have a Raspberry Mojito, a Cucumber Gimlet and a Watermelon Margarita. |à la carte kitchen, Crumpets and Cakes, SLOSHED!|

If, like me, you’re going to stick with the same damned drink all year-round, it’s probably a Manhattan and you should make your own Maraschino (‘ski’ not ‘she’) cherries. |Cocktaliana|

Hell, go a bit further and go for the DIY Home Bar. Make brandied cherries, grenadine syrup, falernum, cocktail onions and orange bitters. It doesn’t get much better than that. |CHOW|

Get this book for the alcoholic curmudgeon in your life (and that would be me). |The Pegu Blog|

For those of us who like doing our drinking outside, it behooves us to plan accordingly. This cunning diagram demonstrates exactly how to best to pack a cooler and the secret ingredient is killer! |Valet|

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|

What the city giveth it taketh away… Any bars and restaurants within the G20 security zone will have their patios closed for the two weeks of the summit. I agree with Adam Vaughan on how poorly this has been planned regarding the needs of the city. Makes me wanna strap on a bandanna and start some shit! |CTV Toronto|

Aluminium cans are actually far worse for the environment than bottles when you factor in strip mining.  I never really thought about it but it makes sense to me. Apparently, places like Jamaica and Ghana are hit really hard by this. |Nor Cal Beer Guide|

Instead of buying ginger beer for your Dark-and-Stormys make some. It’s dead-easy and if you have any flip-top bottles lying around, they make for the perfect receptacle. Bonus: The strawberry consommé recipe just below is delicious as well! |Design*Sponge|

Rachel Maddow makes a Manhattan! I agree with her on the heavy-handed use of bitters and the omission of the cherry. |sis. boom. [blog!]|

In related news, smart people drink more alcohol. I’m sure she would agree. |Gawker|

Depending on the cocktail you’re making, you might want to use a different shake. Every bartender has their own twists but knowing how long and, more importantly, when to shake can be key. |StarChefs|

In a round-up of this week’s interesting recipes, we have the Flor de Jalisco (think a margarita with marmalade and agave nectar in place of triple sec), the Sake and Raspberry Sorbet Cocktail (not a fan of blended drinks but this looks  tarty enough),  the Rhubarberol (my second favorite thing to come out of spring after fiddleheads) and the Sleepyhead (you can never have enough ginger). |SLOSHED!, Lemons and Anchovies, Houseboat Eats, Imbibe|

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)

One year ago… The Jolly Inebriate anniversary!

Wow, it’s been three days past the date last year when I first started this blog. Due to a hangover, I wasn’t in much of a mood to celebrate on the day of but this Tuesday finds me in a much more charitable, if not expansive, mood.

To honor the day (and help me digest the lovely breakfast I just made for myself) I put together a little drink that, while admittedly cobbled together from what I had lying around the kitchen, is not too bad and totally in the spirit of The Jolly Inebriate.

THE FORTIFIED LUSH

1 1/2oz London Dry Vermouth
1/4oz L’abbe Francois Cassis
1/4oz Strawberry/rhubarb syrup
1/2oz Angostura Bitters
Soda water

Fill a highball glass with ice and pour in the first four ingredients. Top up with soda and stir.

This cocktail has the chief advantage of being perfect for afternoon drinking when you might not want too much alcohol. The larger-than-usual amount of bitters keeps the sweet stuff in check and plays well with the vermouth as well.

You can substitute most of the ingredients for other brands if you wish and the recipe for the strawberry syrup can be found here.

I can’t show you a picture because I’m currently without a camera (a long, sad story involving a fat man and Lee’s Palace during Halloween) but it’s red and murky. You could probably garnish it with a blackberry on a stick but don’t go out of your way; drinks made before happy hour should be consumed with as little fanfare as possible.

Swimming-drunk-282x300A man in North Carolina recently had all of his moonshine confiscated which the director of ALE (Alcohol Law Enforcement hah!) is calling the “biggest seizure” of his career. How big is big? 929 gallons equals 118,912 ounces which would keep quite a few bars running for awhile.

Restaurants in Vancouver can now extend last call from midnight to 1 a.m. during the weekdays and from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. on the weekends. I don’t really see this as a big deal because their bars can already stay open till 3 a.m. but I suppose if an owner wants to extend his service by an owner, it’s up to him. I wish Toronto had a 3 a.m. last call

A fellow by the name of Paul Dickson has written a dictionary of 3,000 synonyms for “drunk”. Eponymously-titled, it’s charmingly illustrated by Brian Rea and deserves a place in every self-respecting drunkard’s library. Kingsley Amis would have a copy!

Jamie Boudreau of spiritsandcocktails.com makes Cherry Old-Fashioneds to accompany an Old-Fashioned in an inspired bit of molecular mixology. It sure beats those liqueur-filled chocolates you get during the holidays.

Sloshed! shares the recipe for the Corpse Reviver #2 just in time for Halloween. I’m no fan of hair of the dog but this could work for me.

I love orgeat so it’s only fitting that Rick of Kaiser Penguin, who pointed me in the direction of the first recipe I used, should come back with what he claims is an even better version. Enjoy and remember, the darker the sugar you use, the better it will turn out!

Equally indispensable when it comes to making quality cocktails is ginger syrup. Tiare of A Mountain Of Crushed Ice wants to know how you make your ginger syrup. While I mostly muddle or shake mine, I’d be interested in trying pressed ginger juice.

(Illustration by Brian Rea.)

The underrated Shrub

shrub syrupThe Shrub is a fruity rum or brandy libation, predating the cocktail. The beverage is little known today, but enjoyed immense popularity in colonial America during the 18th and 19th century.

It is considered an unusual drink by modern standards in that the syrup is vinegar based and resembles closely a preserve or cordial. The idea was to extend the life of fruit cultivated seasonally and used to mask the harsh flavors of the the alcohols of the time. The first artificial ice machine was invented in 1851 by John Gurrie and was not commonly used until much later. Therefore, people needed to find alternative methods to combat spoilage. The vinegar works as a preserving agent while delivering a satisfying tartness to the drink. It is most commonly partnered with Rum or Brandy but as far as the ideal fruit to use, there are no limits to the bartenders creativity.

There is a company in the States that produces a line of purportedly excellent pre-made Shrub syrups (Tait Farms of Pennsylvania), but I have found it very rewarding making my own. The Old City Tavern in Philadelphia whose combined liquor and wine sales are comprised of 60% shrubs, has it down to a science. Their recipe (published in Eric Felten’s “How’s Your Drink?, a staple for the cocktail connoisseur) is an easy starting point for making your own. It consists of:

THE SHRUB

2 oz dark rum
1 oz shrub syrup
4 oz gingerale or soda

Stir into a tall glass and garnish with fresh raspberries.

The syrup for this cocktail is also simple:

SHRUB SYRUP

1 cup water
1 cup raw sugar
2 pints fresh raspberries
2 cups white wine vinegar

Mix the water and sugar in a sauce pan and bring to a boil until the sugar dissolves. Then drop the heat to a simmer and add the raspberries and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Add 2 cups of white wine vinegar and bring to boil for 2 minutes. Then, let the mix sit and cool. Double strain the excess fruit from the syrup, bottle, and refrigerate.

The raspberries are nice as they give a natural sweet-and-sour pucker to the cocktail. However, I have tried blackberries, strawberries, currants, raspberries, and mangoes, and have enjoyed every one of my concoctions. I’ve also added ginger, cinnamon, spices, and cloves to many of these in an attempt to find the perfect mix, but as I’ve never been disappointed, the search goes on.

The one thing that I have found with the above recipe, is that it is just as good (or dare I say better) when one drops the amount of vinegar to 1 cup. I add a second cup or so of water to make up the difference in liquid. This takes away some of the excessive tartness, and as we have ample refrigeration these days there’s little worry of the syrup spoiling before it is consumed.

Some recipes for the shrub call for ginger beer to be added. I’ve tried this, using Jamaican style ginger beer and found the results less satisfying. The strength of the ginger beer overpowers the refreshing, subtle, flavors of the shrub. I’ve yet to attempt it with a milder ginger beer, say from Bermuda, but think perhaps the results would be better.

Remember that the point of the syrup originally was to mask the flavors of the ‘greasy’ rum of the time. We are blessed these days, due to the wizardry of modern distillation, with a vast array of delicious rums. I suggest trying them all with different syrups. A spiced rum is very nice, and the dark rums work best of all. For this reason the syrup should be added to taste and not necessarily used at full strength.

I make this drink often for friends of mine who frequent my bar. Ross prefers brandy while his wife Jen, prefers rum. I like both. Recently I made a modified version of the syrup for a vodka martini. It is also good in a Kir or Kir Royale. My advice is to experiment. It’s simple and fast to make, and is always a hit. Remember there are no fast rules when it comes to making good cocktails. Just good taste.

(Photo linked from Stirred, Not Shaken‘s post about shrub. Check it out for a fantastic recipe for Black Cherry Shrub!)

Bacon mania hits Canada + ten more links

beer liquor eatSarah Boesveld of The Globe and Mail reports on a “bacon trend” that seems to involve the tasty pork product being added to everything from cupcakes to ice cream and serving it with chocolate sauce. I just want my Bakon vodka dammit! I can’t imagine a better Caeser…

Corby Distilleries (owner of Wiser’s, Lambs, Polar Ice, etc. and controlled by Canadian Club’s Hiram Walker & Sons. Ltd which is itself a subsidiary of Pernod Ricard of France… confused yet?) reported a 24 per cent increase in its net earnings which it attributes to its license to distribute Absolut in Canada and the LCBO’s recent strike.

Why am I repeating this? I merely find it interesting and slightly worrying how tangled these companies get with their labyrinth of distribution deals spanning the globe. Basically, everybody owns a little bit of everybody.

I’m very happy to see Cocktail Culture post a recipe of the Bloodhound Cocktail because it means I’ll be able to use the rest of my strawberry syrup.

Camper English of Alcademics tries to make ice clearer by refreezing it multiple times. Besides the visual joke, the numerous responses from other folks make it worth browsing.

He also shows us how to get more mileage out of our simple syrup.

Could you tell a Collins from a Fizz if you saw them in a bar? The Kitchn gives an overview on the two cocktails, their similiarities and their differences.

Over at the The Washington Post, Jason Wilson rebrands the Red-Headed Slut (one of those slutty cocktails from the 90′s) for the new century and ends up paying tribute to a beloved and recently-departed film director.

Vodka & Co. posts three very delicious-sounding cocktails using Bombay Sapphire gin. Feel free to substitute your own favorite spirit but try at least one of ‘em.

Oh Group shares their recipe for shrub. (Make some, you won’t regret it!)

The cocktailnerd reviews the latest round of ginger beers in his pantry. I wish we could get some of these up here in Canada…

Coming so soon on the heels of 3 Brewers opening up a brewpub in Toronto, we have a local brewmaster getting in on the action. Canadian Beer News reports that Michael Duggan (of Mill St. and Cool fame) will be opening up Duggan’s Brewery at the former location of Denison’s Brewing on 75 Victoria St.

So I kind of owe you guys an apology. I’m dreadfully late on some promised reviews and other articles. Besides the party I’ve been busy enjoying summer. Not being at home means not much time between sleeping off the fun and going to work. I promise to do some more writing soon but since this season started so late, I want to enjoy what I can of it.

The party did go well. No slushies but all the guests were ably served by the bar I’d set up. I had to man it because the bartender I’d asked to come in was delayed by a lengthy catering shift elsewhere. Even so, I had a good time (one for me, one for you!) and while it wasn’t exactly revolutionary, it was a reminder of how even the most basic bartending can be tons of fun when you have your friends around you.

(Photo taken from The Stakhanovite Twins’ Flickr Photostream.)

How to make strawberry syrups

IMG_1344I’m a summer kind of guy. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say “fuck winter” I’ll definitely give it a disapproving glance and go back to bed if given half the chance.

This is, in part, why I’m so happy that summer is finally here and I can spend my days biking everywhere, reading books in the park and generally spending as much time as possible outside.

The second reason why I like this season so much is the fresh produce! With at least one of the many farmers’ markets operating pretty much any day of the week, loads of varieties are readily available and for those willing to go further afield, terrific deals can be found.

The end of June and the beginning of July is the time of year when strawberries ripen. For less than $20 you can go to most fields around Toronto and pick about 12 quarts filled to the brim with juicy, sweet, sun-ripened strawberries. I went to one in Bowmanville with my mum but a Google search will turn up dozens of likely options. You should wake up early and get there by 10 ‘cos there are less crowds that way and the sun’s not quite so hot. Go up one row and down another and you’ll have all the fruit you need!

It doesn’t get much better than that.

While my mum was all set for making jams and pies, I had a grander ambition: I wanted to make syrup. (I briefly considered making a liqueur but decided against it because I couldn’t afford any 100-proof vodka at the moment.) I also decided to add some interesting twists and settled on some rhubarb from my mum’s garden and some cardamom seeds.

After looking at a variety of recipes, I settled on one from CountryLiving.com. I modified it because I wanted to have a couple of bottles on hand instead of just a cup.

STRAWBERRY-RHUBARB SYRUP

4 cups chopped rhubarb
3 3/4 cups sliced strawberries
3 2/3 cups sugar
2 2/3 cups water

In a large saucepan, combine all four ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for about 15 minutes. Strain mixture into a bowl (make sure it has a spout!) and discard the pulp. Sterilize a bottle with boiled water and after the syrup has cooled, pour it into the bottle using a funnel. This recipe will make enough syrup for two 750 mL bottles.

IMG_1346The chopping and slicing can take awhile so be sure to entertain yourself while you’re at it. I watched a bootleg copy of the second Transformers flick because I wanted something that wouldn’t require too much attention but wouldn’t leave me bored either.

It mostly did the trick but I gotta say, if you paid for it you’re a sucker. Michael Bay seems to be doing his damnedest to supplant Uwe Boll as the worst-director-who-keeps-on-getting-work. You know he’s bad when a dude named McG makes a better movie.

(For an interesting article about McG, check out Esquire. For an equally-interesting F.A.Q. trying to explain Transformers 2, go to Topless Robot. If the reviewer interviewing himself doesn’t make you laugh, the numerous comments from outraged fans will.)

For the Strawberry-Cardamom syrup, I basically used the same recipe but there were a few changes.

STRAWBERRY-CARDAMOM SYRUP

4 cups sliced strawberries
3 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups water
1 oz vanilla
1 oz freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/8 cup cardamom seeds

In a large saucepan, combine all six ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for about 15 minutes. Strain mixture into a bowl (make sure it has a spout!) and discard the pulp. Sterilize a bottle with boiled water and after the syrup has cooled, pour it into the bottle using a funnel. This recipe will make enough syrup for two 750 mL bottles.

One thing you I should mention about this is if you buy the cardamom pods, you’re gonna have to get all of those seeds out by splitting the pods. This can take time but it’s worth it because they’ll be fresh and if you get ground cardamom, you’re gonna have a helluva time straining it. You’d probably have to get cheesecloth and if all you have is a fine mesh, you’re better off sticking to the seeds.

IMG_1340

The best part about making syrup is the taste-testing! There’s always a spare ounce here or there that you can make something delicious with and by the time I’d bottled the fruits of my labor, I had a nice cocktail to sit back with.

FRAISO BLANCO

1 oz Corzo Blanco tequila
1 oz strawberry-cardamom syrup
3 dashes of Angostura bitters
tonic water

Fill a rocks glass with ice. Add first three ingredients and stir thoroughly. Top up with tonic water.

So there you have it! Syrups are pretty damn easy and while they don’t last as long as liqueurs (they tend to lose a bit of their flavour after the two-month mark) they also make excellent gifts. Alternatively, just halve my recipe or play around till you find some happy medium of your own. Some excellent alternatives to cardamom include basil and sage; I’m sure you can come up with some on your own as well.

So far, I’ve made orgeat (almond) syrup and now I have two kinds of strawberry to add to my recipe book. Raspberries are coming soon and before I know it, there’ll be peaches… it’s shaping up to be a great summer!

IMG_1358

How to make orgeat syrup + five more links

syrup_bottle_5What the hell is orgeat syrup, you ask? Why it’s made from almonds and if you don’t know why it would be an excellent addition to any cocktail, you clearly haven’t ever eaten a handful of freshly-roasted almonds. Learn how to make it over at Kaiser Penguin. (Sidenote: Trader Tiki mentions a orgeat syrup made with cane sugar and vanilla beans… fuck me.)

The Mixosoleum features one of my favorite spices, cinamon. Learn how to make cinamon syrup, what flavours go well with it and a few choice cocktail recipes.

Over at CHOW, they delve into the creation of bitters. Tired of Angostura or Peychaud’s? I know I am!

Tom of cogito, ergo creo starts a batch of elderberry liqueur and shows you how to do it yourself. With any luck, it’ll be ready just in time for summer.

By the way, don’t use your simple syrup recipe for all of these homemade concoctions! You want to make sugar syrup and Homebrew Underground will show you how.

Last but not least, a new bar opens up in Amsterdam that does away with the bartenders. To my mind, this is like renting a private karaoke room when you can go sing at your local bar. Leaving aside issues of crappy drinks and stupid drunkeness at bottle-service levels, it just sounds so goddamned contrived. Sure, you might have more control but whatever happened to enjoying unplanned, random fun? I’ll take the unknown any day…

(Image taken from the Design Year Book.)

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