Tag Archive: Centennial Rye

Every week has a new festival..

And this Saturday, The Toronto Wine and Spirits Festival is coming to the Distillery District.

Details are scarce but I can tell you a few things. Emma Brown and Scott Rondeau (co-founder of the Toronto Festival of Beer) of Power Juncture, a Toronto-based events company are behind this one and with 2010 being its second year, hopefully they have some of the kinks worked out.

There’s going to be loads of food and booze. With around 40-50 vendors serving up all manner of alcoholic beverages and food to pair ‘em worth, you’re going to need to make a pit-stop at Cherry Beach just to give yourself time to digest! Notable attendees include Beau’s All-Natural Brewing Company, Innis & Gunn, Kado Enterprise (sake), Victoria Gin, and Mill Street (naturally).

It’s low-key. With less people and a bit of a more mature atmosphere expect less drunken debauchery and line-ups.

The whole thing’s outdoors. It looks like the shitty weather we’ve been experiencing is on its way out and I can’t imagine a better way of spending a Saturday afternoon. Overall, I think the Distillery District is a decent place to hang out.

It’s a pretty good deal. $22 gets you in and with your admission comes 5 vouchers good for whatever food and drink you might want. Additional vouchers cost a buck.

The festival is running Thursday and Friday, from 6 to 11pm. Saturday, its open from 12 to 5pm and it’s back to the regular evening schedule for Sunday.

If you’re going to buy tickets at the event, they’ll run you $30 so buy them online or you can pick  up two for $22 through Groupon but act fast ‘cos that deal’s done in eight hours.

To get there, take the Parliament St. bus south until you reach Mill St.

I’ll be out there on Saturday so if you see me, say hi!

The best booze to buy for New Year’s Eve

Now that you know when you can buy booze this season, it’s time to figure out the best options out there no matter what your tipple. And seeing as we’re all broke-as-fuck from buying too many Christmas presents and engaging in a variety of holiday activities, I’m all about getting you the most bang for your buck.

(All of my selections have been carefully-vetted through the time-honored process of me getting drunk with my friends. It’s the only way to go.)


While I know that I don’t focus much on wine on this blog, I do buy and consume a lot of it. My go-to red of the moment is the Fuzion Alta Malbec Reserva. Smooth and fruity, it’s medium body makes it a perfectly-acceptable sofa companion or accompaniment to a meal. I have to agree with the LCBO; this is a terrific value at $9.95.

My choice for white is the Cono Sur Viognier ($14.95). This varietal is meant to be drunk right away and with a fruity aroma that belies its low acidity, it’s easy to do just that either with spicy food or as an aperitif. Soft and well-balanced, it’ll set you back a bit more (and it’s not as easy to find as the red above) but it’s well worth it. (If you can, try and find the “Vision” version of this release. It’s just like this but even better.)

As far as bubblies go, I’m going to have to stick with the Hungaria Grande Cuvée Brut ($11.90). Outperforming sparkling wines twice its price, it’ll still be good when you whip up some mimosas on New Years Day.


Folks can be notoriously recalcitrant when it comes to trying new beer so it’s best to have three or so types on hand. The trick is to pick three that are attractive enough to persuade ‘em to switch it up. The following will definitely do the trick…

Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout (355 mL, 10% ABV, $2.60) is the quite simply the best beer of its kind to come along in ages. Young’s Double Chocolate Stout notwithstanding, this is a serious contender that is dangerously-easy to drink. Like a creamy dark chocolate truffle, this stout is neither too malty or bitter and will leave you feeling pretty warm by the time you finish your third bottle. Do yourself a favor and pick up a case at Queen’s Quay LCBO. Most other locations will have a couple bottles lying around but it’ll be gone soon enough and this stuff is meant to last for years.

Flying Monkey’s Hoptical Illusion (6×355 mL, 5 %ABV, $11.95) is also a solid purchase. For those who like their beer hoppy, this brewery admirably steps into that role while still being approachable. While not as complex as Mike Duggan’s No. 9, you can buy twelve of these and that’s all you’ll really need. I like to think of this beer as a good opener for people intimidated by really bitter beers.

Lastly, for those who need a lager look no further than Estrella Damm (500 mL, 4.6% ABV, $2.25). I’ve heard all the arguments about imported macro-lagers and I simply don’t care. This beer is incredibly crisp and doesn’t skimp on the carbonation. The best part is it has none of those weird, lingering aftertastes that ruin the finish of so many domestic macro-lagers. I’ll take a dry finish when I’m drinking all night…


The thing to remember is that one wants to stay in the sweet spot between local derivatives (Smirnoff), overpriced imports (Grey Goose) and trendy tangents (pretty much any flavored vodka). Think a smaller company with something to prove and you’ll probably find a decent spirit.

‘Tis the season for whiskey and rightly so! While Centennial 10 Year Old is still my favorite and best value to boot, it’s getting increasingly harder to find and it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s gone before we’re even halfway through winter. With that in mind, I’d go across the pond and pick up a bottle of Teacher’s Highland Cream ($24.95 or Té Bheag. The former is an acceptable mixer while the latter is worth the extra $11 if you’re going to be drinking it neat.

Vodka-wise, I’d still pick up a bottle of Zubrowka Bison Vodka. For those who don’t like their vodka aromatic, a bottle ifIceberg will do and it’s only $23.

Broker’s Premium London Dry is fairly good gin and a steal at $24.60.

One has a lot of choices when it comes to rum but I prefer to think of it as an opportunity to try something new. Havana Club Anejo Reserva is perfectly acceptable and currently $2 off the $26.95 price tag. Or you could go with the El Dorado 5 Year Old which is only 5 cents more and just as good. Many other rums are available for only $5 more so will get you something even better so evaluate your budget and plan accordingly.

Tequila’s a little trickier. Saddled with some of the most unfair mark-ups I’ve ever seen, you can find amazing tequila in the States for one-third the price but here, the cheapest brands are home-grown and nothing worth writing about. Go for El Jimador’s Reposado ($32.95)or don’t bother getting any.

With all or some of the above, you’ve got the makings of a fine party and you won’t be breaking the bank.  Buying everything on this list (with extras when it comes to the wine and beer) will only run you $250. Get 25 of your friends and the party becomes even more affordable.

Just don’t buy the big brands. You don’t need to and most of the time, you’re spending more than you have to.

The Creme de cacao killer: chocolate grappa

After celebrating my brother Jonathan’s birthday, I was stuffed with some fine food. He had requested Chinese for his dinner and my mum whipped up some deep-fried pork in plum sauce served with grilled asparagus and zuchini, vegetable stir-fry (water chestnuts, pineapple, mushrooms, carrots, ginger root…) and the ever-important steamed white rice.

She accompanied these fine dishes with a couple of rosés from Provence which were rather dry and fruity and served to cut all of that saucy grease quite nicely. Afterwards, we had a couple of tart Grand Cosmos (I went overboard and squeezed in a couple ounces of lime juice but it worked out alright) and then I went home.

While I was in no mood to party, I was definitely in need of something a little sweeter and my roommate, Mike and his friend proved the perfect foil for me to experiment.

I took a bottle of Bottega’s Gianduia Cioccolato e Grappa (500 mL, 17% ABV, $29.95) I’d been gifted from my friend Alex and added a little Frangelico. To finish it off, I layered a splash of 18% whipped cream I had lying around in the fridge and added a light dusting of cinamon. The results were pretty damn good.

The first thing to hit your tongue is the cinamon but before that even has time to fully register, the cream coats your mouth, followed by the gentle warmth of the Frangelico and the rich grappa. It’s not half as sweet as it sounds nor does it leave a nasty dairy aftertaste. I’ve already three and I may just have a fourth…


1/4 oz Gianduia Cioccolato e Grappa
1/4 oz Frangelico
1/4 oz 18% whipped cream
cinamon powder

Layer the grappa, the Frangelico and the whipped cream in that order in a stemmed shot glass.
Sprinkle a light dusting of cinamon on top.


Yes, I’m aware that a cocktail with that name already exists. This is my version. If you want a bit more of a kick, feel free to add some whiskey. I like Centennial but I’d imagine that pretty much anything would do.

While not as aesthetically stark as crème de cacao, I’d also wager this would make a helluva decadent chocolate martini.

(A little internet research also told me that this particular chocolate grappa is made with not only those two ingredients but also milk, cream and hazelnuts which, minus the cinamon, is what I mixed with it but I still say it adds so much more to the liqueur than just drinking it straight.)

Playing with St. Germain

As I mentioned before, my roommate Andrea brought me a bottle of St. Germain Elderflower liqueur from NYC as a birthday present and, of course, I had to play.

With my neighbor Jacqueline as a willing participant, we started off with a refreshing apertif of Hungaria Grande Cuvée Brut mixed with the St. Germain. It was good but eventually, we were ready for something more and so we went tiki for the next drink.


1 oz Sailor Jerry Rum
1/2 oz St. Germain Elderflower
1/2 oz Marie Brizard Banane
2 oz pear juice
2 oz passionfruit juice
1 tablespoon mango sorbet
splash of L’abbé Francois Cassis

Pour the splash of Cassis into a cocktail glass.
Shake and strain all of the other ingredients and layer on top of the Cassis.

It was good, if a bit sweet, but I wouldn’t have more than one. What was missing was a bit of spice, maybe some carbonation and I had some ideas of where to go from here.


3/4 oz Sailor Jerry Rum
1/2 oz St. Germain Elderflower
1/4 oz oz Marie Brizard Banane
1/4 oz McGuinness Apricot Brandy
1/4 oz Grand Marnier
splash of orange juice
1 oz lime juice
6-8 slices of ginger, diced
ginger beer
slice of ginger

Shake and strain the first eight ingredients into a cocktail glass.
Top up with ginger beer.
Rub slice of ginger along the rim and use as garnish.


It was sampled and proclaimed to be quite good; good enough that I experienced a moment of  insanity where I envisioned it featuring prominently on the list at my friend’s bar but that was temporary and the pleasure gained from watching folk’s eyes light up as they imbibe it far outweighs any proprietary concerns I might entertain. I’ve never been one to hoard a good recipe anyway…

Also, I’d be a dishonest bastard if I didn’t admit that this contest totally influenced my decision to publish this recipe tonight.

Putting together the perfect birthday bar

The big day has arrived and passed but the party is happening tomorrow. I still haven’t decided upon a cocktail and in the absence of any notable flashes-of-brilliance, recipe-wise I’ve decided to cover my bases with a wide variety of liquor.

So far, I’ve picked up an ever-reliable bottle of Centennial 10 Year Old Rye, Stoli (I used to buy Iceberg but then I realized that Stoli was just a dollar more and quantifiably better), Martini Rosso, Hungarian Grande  Cuvée Brut and McGillicuddy’s Peach Schnapps. My friend Alex McLeod and his girlfriend gifted me with a bottle of Gianduia chocolate-flavoured grappa which I suspect I will have little problem finding a use for.

On the day of, I’ll probably head back to the LCBO and pick up some Sailor Jerry Rum, Grand Marnier, McGuiness Melon and Banane and Hendrick’s Gin. If I have any money left over, I might buy some Jagermeister, Luxardo Amaretto and Unicum bitters but I have some Angostura at home which will do in a pinch.

Mix-wise, I’ve already made some simple syrup and I have a bottle of grenadine lying around too. I don’t have any time to make anything else (unless I can persuade my mum to help me make  a bottle of orgeat syrup) but I’m probably going to buy some juices (cranberry, orange, acai blueberry, pomegranate, aloe), pop (soda water, ginger beer and green tea ginger ale) and maybe a four-pack of Red Bull.

Fruit will probably be nothing more exotic than a ready supply of lemons and limes but I’d like to have some ginger root on hand. I also have spices left over from the last party and I’d like to use ‘em more this time.

For the wine-drinkers, I have three bottles of red kicking around: the Pascual Toso Malbec 2007, the Barco Reale di Carmignano Capezzana 2006 and the Cent’are Nero d’Avola 2006. After my last post on Fuzion, I should probably get a bottle of that too but I’m not sweating it.

Yesterday, I decided against a bottle of Ironstone Symphony 2007  but I might change my mind tomorrow.

I let other people bring beer. My brother Lowell is always good for a mini-keg of Heineken.

Looking at this list, I think I might very well be going overboard but I replenished my bar in such a long time and I really want to do my own Fridgin’ Out: Liquor Cabinet Edition.

In completely unrelated news, I’ve sampled the rest of the LCBO’s 2009 spring beer release, including the new Innis & Gunn Blonde! I’ll probably post that when I recover from the inevitable party hangover, sometime next week.


(Image taken from ralph&dot’s Flickr photostream.)

The best cocktails of Joy Bistro

joy1While I was bartending at Joy Bistro, there were times where I was called upon to come up with something on the spur of the moment.

Sometimes, I initiated this and other times, the guest was genuinely interested in seeing what I could come up with. It was always a lot of fun and while not everything I came up was well-balanced or even original, no one ever seemed to mind too much.

I stopped working there last July and I don’t really know what they’re doing right now but I would imagine with summer right around the corner, they’re gearing up for patio season. Chef Bryan Burke is probably putting together some seasonal dishes for the menu, Roger Martelli from The Small Winemakers Collection (wine importer and all-around nice guy) is bringing over some new wines to add to the list and they might even be updating their cocktail list.

Last spring, I put a list together with Lindsey King, one of the managers at Joy, and since a year has nearly passed, I’m going to share some of those as well as a couple of others I created during my time there. Some of them are a bit simple but overall, I’m still pleased with what I achieved.

First up is a recipe based off of a cocktail I tried at Whisky Live 2008. If I was making it now I’d substitute Centennial Rye for Crown Royale. Originally, I used Grand Marnier instead of Triple Sec and bumped up the amount of ginger used to give it some kick and I still think those are good choices. I also added bitters because I think it goes with whisky like peanut butter does with jam.


1 1/2 oz Crown Royale (substitute Centennial 10 Year Old Rye)
1/2 oz Grand Marnier
2 oz orange juice
2 oz cranberry juice
dash Angostura bitters
dozen slices of fresh ginger

Slice the ginger into thin wedges.
Shake vigorously and strain into a martini glass.
Cut a slot into a wedge of ginger and rub it along the rim of the glass. Use wedge as a garnish.

Next up, was a cocktail I created for a party a client was throwing in our lounge. They wanted to use Jack Daniels and didn’t want it to be too sweet. One thing I really liked about this cocktail was that as the blueberries thawed, they’d start to float and by the time you got to the bottom, they were ready to eat!


1 oz Jack Daniels
1/2 oz Martini Rosso
1/2 oz Cassis
splash cranberry juice
dash grenadine syrup
three or four frozen blueberries

Rim the glass with white sugar.
Stir the first three ingredients into a martini glass.
Top with a splash of cranberry juice and grenadine syrup.
Toss in the blueberries.

The next one was a very simple variation on a traditional Italian method of serving sambuca and espresso (sambuca con mosca meaning “with flies”) with some vanilla vodka for some added oomph and flavour. In the winter time, I would sometimes forgo the shaking and serve it hot in an Irish Coffee Cup.


1 oz Absolut Vanilia (substitute Smirnoff Vanilla if you must)
1 oz Ramazzotti Sambuca
2 oz espresso
three espresso beans

Shake and strain into a rocks glass.
Garnish with the beans.

This one started out as a shooter. I was looking for a variation on the popular Banana Jack shooter (Jack Daniels and banana liqueur) for a woman who didn’t like the banana flavour and didn’t much care for Jack either.


1 oz Jack Daniels
1 oz Frangelico
1/2 oz Phillips Butter Ripple Schnapps

Shake and strain into a rocks glass.

I wasn’t able to actually make the next cocktail at Joy because, aside from the one time I experimented with some juice I brought in, we never had any on hand. It’s actually quite difficult to find in Toronto and you’re best off making your own anyways.

The sorrel flower is a member of the hisbiscus family and is usually harvested around November and December. You can get them packaged at some West Indian stores; I recommend going down Kensington St. in the Market.

My friend Ernest made some punch for me that not only featured a generous portion of rum and wine but added vodka for good measure! My recipe’s  a bit simpler and not so traditional but still packs a punch.

First up, the recipe for sorrel juice:


1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over low heat.
Stir until sugar is completely dissolved.
Allow to cool, then pour into a clean bottle and refrigerate.

24 slices ginger
4 cups sorrel petals
4 tablespoons cloves
2 cups simple syrup

Cut ginger and let it sit for two hours. The flavour will become stronger.
Boil ginger in eight cups of water.
Once water is boiling add the sorrel and the cloves.
Boil for thirty minutes.
Cover tightly and steep overnight.
Strain the juice and add the simple syrup.
Stir, then pour into a clean bottle and refrigerate.

Now, onto the cocktail!


1 1/2 oz Flor de Cana Black Label 5 Year Old Rum (substitute any dark rum)
1/2 oz Grand Marnier
1 oz lime juice
dash Angostura bitters
4 oz sorrel juice

Stir the first two ingredients into a highball glass over ice.
Squeeze in half of a lime and add the bitters.
Top up with the sorrel juice.

Ginger beer is the second ingredient I enjoy using that, along with sorrel and mauby (hmm, must find a way to use mauby… maybe with Pernod or arak?), comprise the holy trinity of Caribbean drinks. I’ve always drank it ever since I was a child but I never thought of using it in a cocktail until I was hanging out with my friend Maz and she made this sans pineapple for me.


2 oz Captain Morgan Spiced Gold Rum
2 oz pineapple juice
1 oz lime juice
4 oz ginger beer

Stir the first two ingredients into a highball glass over ice.
Squeeze in half of a lime.
Top up with the ginger beer.

Ever since I first tried Hendrick’s Gin, I’ve loved it. I’ve never been the biggest fan of gin, mostly because I don’t love the taste of juniper but Hendrick’s minimizes that in favor of cucumber and rose which I prefer to the more citrusy accents of Tanq 10.  Although I probably wouldn’t use it in a Negroni or even a G&T where it would be overwhelmed, I think Hendrick’s is terrific with soda water, a little cucumber and some fresh herbs.


2 oz Hendrick’s Gin
4 slices cucumber
1/2 oz lime juice
splash simple syrup
4 oz soda water
a pinch of fresh herbs (rosemary, sage, cilantro, thyme are all good choices)

Pour the lime juice and simple syrup into a highball glass.
Muddle the cucumber slices.
Shake the gin with the herbs and finely strain it in.
Top up with soda water.
Garnish with a nice sprig of whichever herb you used.

Since chocolate martinis are kind of boring, I decided to make mine spicy and although this was the most difficult cocktail to persuade guests to try, it definitely rewarded the adventurous! If you want to cut down on the spice, you can just use regular vodka with the spicy rim which is what I normally did.

You can make your own chili/chocolate powder by taking equal parts of each and mixing them together.


1 1/2 oz Inferno Pepper Pot Vodka (discontinued; you’ll have to infuse your own vodka or import one)
1/2 oz Creme de Cacao
chili/chocolate powder

Rim a martini glass with chili/chocolate powder.
Shake the first two ingredients and strain them in.

The last drink on my list was  a contribution from a regular at the bar. He used to come in with his girlfriend and after a few good dinners (and a couple rounds of shots) he shared this recipe with me. It’s one of those ’90s-style, layered concoctions but I always had fun making it.


1 oz Malibu Rum
1/2 oz Dr. McGillicuddy’s Peach Schnapps
1/2 oz Bol’s Blue Curacao
splash pineapple juice
dash grenadine syrup

Pour the grenadine syrup into a martini glass
Layer in the curacao with a spoon.
Shake the rum, peach schnapps and pineapple juice and layer that in as well.

I don’t make most of these cocktails anymore; I’m not working at a bar at the moment and if I’m having a party at home, I tend to spring for something new but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten them. Hell, if the notion arises, you can bet I’ll consider pulling one of these out for a guest willing to try something new.

After all, it might seem a bit stale to you or me but most folks don’t venture too far beyond their comfort zones and there’s nothing wrong with giving them last year’s cocktail if they missed it the first time around.

The 86 rules of boozing + six more links

drunkensailorNormally, these kind of lists take up space (and Modern Drunkard isn’t known for the quality of their writing) but these drinking rules are great. I found myself nodding from the perspectives of both sides of the bar.

Wayne Curtis over at The Atlantic talks to Eric Seed about his knack for raising long-forgotten liqueurs from the dead. I’d really love to try some violet liqueur…

A whiskey collector in Tennesee is facing a fine and the loss of part of his collection after he sold a rare bottle of his which is apparently illegal in his state without a license.

In a related article, people all over America are fed up with stupid liquor laws and some of the more antiquated ones are getting repealed. Hopefully this will start to happen north of the border as well; so many of Ontario’s laws were instituted by stiff, Scottish Protestant bastards.

That being said, we do do some things right… as you may have noticed the LCBO has banned plastic bags from its stores. Despite some pansy-ass whimpering from the plastic bag industry, I’m betting this kind of thing will spread amongst retailers. Now if only they’d bring back those cloth six-pack wine bags…

Although they won that fight, they’ve lost another against Diageo after refusing to pay higher prices for several of the latter’s scotch products. Personally, I won’t miss any of ‘em; maybe this will give Centennial Rye or some other deserving product a shot.

Lastly, this might seem rather basic to some of us but Sloshed! offers some good advice for the amateur mixologist on creating cocktails from scratch. (Sure it’s riskier when you’re paying for the booze…)

I wasn’t going to do anything for Valentine’s Day. Unlike some people, I don’t loathe it but I’m no fan either; why do you need a day to show how much you love someone? Cards generally suck and aren’t flowers good pretty much any day? So I had no plans until my friend Michelle came to me with the idea of a dinner party for Saturday. Despite not knowing who might already have plans, we decided to throw something together and see what might happen.

Invitations were sent out and we got seven guests; a perfect number for this kind of thing. Michelle was going to make salmon with lemon and capers and baked squash with carrots and walnuts, drizzled in maple syrup. For cocktails, we decided to make mimosas so I went out to the LCBO and picked up two sparkling wines: Hungaria Grande Cuvée Brut and Yellowglen Pink Rose. I’d never tried the Pink but I’d heard it was sweet and light and since I was juicing the oranges and grapefruit, I wanted two options depending on the flavor of the juices. If they were a bit more tart, the Pink would go well and if they were sweeter, the Hungaria would do just fine.

People were invited to bring a dish and any drinks they might want. Michelle and I also ended up buying a bottle of Absolut and Flor de Caña (a Nicaraguan 5 year old rum, currently only $23 at the LCBO!). I also had a bottle of Centennial lying around as well as beer and wine so I figured we were well-prepared.

After dinner, we broke out a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Brut (a very thoughtful guest had brought it) but didn’t mix it with the orange juice. I always like Veuve because it’s one of the few champagnes with a distinctive taste to my tongue. It’s so crisp and not too dry with a bit of tartness and hints of apple and citrus.

The last drop drained, we moved onto the Hungaria which held up pretty well considering what had come before it. The addition of the orange juice was nice but I wish it had been a bit sweeter. The grapefruit juice was far too bitter and I had to add some grenadine. We never got around to trying the Pink which was a shame because it might’ve worked better with the juice.

Before leaving for the night’s entertainment, I created a shot with some amazing maple syrup Michelle had picked up from a friend’s farm. The recipe goes as follows:

3 oz Centennial Rye
3/4 oz maple syrup
top up with green tea ginger ale

The syrup adds a complexity that complements the hints of green tea and ginger. The rye is smooth enough that it never overwhelms and the carbonation gives it a smooth finish.


Replete and more than slightly drunk, we headed out to Man Men, an improv show playing at the Bad Dog Theatre that skewers Mad Men, the AMC show about an advertising company in the 60′s. It’s incredibly funny and if you’re looking for something to do on a Saturday, you could do far worse. It’s playing until the end of February so check it out if you get a chance.

Since the show ended at around eleven, we capped off the night by attending Shake a Tail, a retro rock ‘n’ roll night at Clinton’s Tavern. The bar has a great style,with log cabin walls and an excellent selection of beers on tap. The back area–where the party’s at–gets really sweaty but that’s how it should be; I don’t think I stopped dancing all night. It’s less esoteric than Goin’ Steady, Toronto’s other retro night, but while the songs are more well-known, there are no huge line-ups and the crowd’s a bit more varied.

Creating a better cocktail for tomorrow’s party

Or you can always just buy yourself something nice. Drink less, drink better!

I’m having a bit of a shindig tomorrow with the new (temp) roommates. Our Facebook invite (which may or may not be visible to you) quickly found itself divided into the yes’s, maybes and no’s and our expectations of what the party might be adjusted as more and more people confirmed.

While I was originally going to buy almost nothing for the party and had thus designated it a “BYOB event” I got caught up in the excitement of having guests over and since several of them are dear friends and colleagues, I resolved to do a little something to impress.

I headed out to the LCBO having no idea what I was going to pick up beyond a bottle of Centennial 10 Year-Old Rye which has now become standard in my bar. I ended up stepping up to the 15 Year-Old because it was a dollar cheaper! Apparently, no one is buying it which is incomprehensible to me but I’m not your average consumer with a hard-on for CC, Wiser’s and Crown Royale.

People, seriously, get your asses over to the LCBO and pick up one of the smoothest blended Canadian whiskies you will ever see for a mere $23. Don’t be a fool, this will be gone from Ontario shelves in two months.

I also picked up a seriously-discounted bottle of Navan, old favorite Sailor Jerry Rum, Luxardo Amaretto, Iceberg Vodka and Marie Brizard’s Banane liquer. By then, I had some idea of what I was going to do so I stopped over at The Big Carrot, one of Toronto’s best organic stores, for some allspice, cloves and cinamon. I figure I’ll be able they’ll work really well with several of the liquers I’ve got but I’ve got to work on making sure I don’t make ‘em too dusty; powders can be tricky.

Lastly, I got a whack-load of fresh fruit and some mixers (pineapple, guava and ginger beer). With all of this, I’m sure I can come up with at least half-a-dozen amazing cocktails to wow a favored few with.

When I got home, I tested out a few ideas, with my roommates as willing guinea pigs and the results were pronounced delicious. First, I produced a base from which I would then add three different final ingredients.

The Base

3 oz of Sailor Jerry’s Rum
2 oz of Navan Vanilla Liquer
4 oz of pineapple juice

First round, I added a splash of ginger beer and it was very good with a spicy bite that finished smooth.

Next up, we tried the base on it’s own and it was much too strong for shooting although one could comfortably sip it.

For the third round, I added a splash of guava juice and a couple drops of grenadine. This one was my favorite, keeping the spiciness of the first concoction but adding just a touch of sweetness.

We then had a round of modified “Banana Jacks”; substituting the Centennial rye for the bourbon and adding a third of Navan for the vanilla. It was really good as well; the perfect antidote for this miserable weather we’re having.

I’m sure I’ll come up with some more ideas tomorrow but I’m quite pleased with the bar as it stands now and I don’t doubt we’re all gonna have some fun tomorrow.

Centennial Rye rejuvenates the image of Canadian whiskey

One night, I was at the LCBO looking for a whiskey to bring to a friend’s party. I had no particular ideas as to what I wanted but, like most folks, I always aim for the magical intersection between cost and quality and I also like new products.

The Centennial 10 Year Old Rye Whiskey caught my eye. Most Canadian whiskeys aren’t rye whiskeys (most distillers use corn, barley and wheat in their batches and there has to be over 51% rye for it to be labelled as such) and although I couldn’t remember trying one before, I remembered reading that rye whiskey is generally blended into other whiskeys to give them more body and was interested in trying the real thing.

Mind you, it’s important to keep in mind that stronger-tasting doesn’t necessarily mean rougher. I had heard that this wasn’t some poor man’s Canadian Club and since I always figured a true Canadian whiskey should be like the bastard offspring of an Irish whiskey and an American bourbon, I was ready for good things.

The nose was clean with nary a smell of alcohol and barely any oak. It was rather sweet and kind of reminded me of Pyrat; I swear I could almost smell molasses!

The taste was almost as smooth as the nose. There was a continuation of the sweet molasses feel and it’s also quite peppery with a tingling sensation that stays on your tongue than slides down to your belly for a pleasurable finish.

The bottle was a big hit at the party and we managed to polish off half it it that night with a couple friends coming back to get reacquainted in the morning.

I’d been procrastinating for awhile but I’ve finally got a bottle again and I might even buy one for my fiancee’s dad as gift for when I get down there. At the very least, it’s a good representation of what Canadian whiskey should be and while it may not hold up to some finer blends, I think it’s very good at what it does.

At $24.75, it outperforms whiskeys that are twice its price.

However, you best be quick about picking up a bottle for yourself because there are less than 170 bottles left in downtown Toronto and the distillery is in flux due to its current owners (Hiram Walker) trying to figure out how to integrate it into their family which includes Canadian Club.

As it stands, no one knows if it will outlast the season. Pick up two or three and stuff ‘em in your closet. You won’t regret it whilst enduring all the bad weather you’ll be having in March. And I’ll cheer you from across the ocean as I relax on a beach in Waihi.

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