Important cocktails of the past decade + eighteen other links


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.

Rachel Maddow makes a cocktail

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I love Rachel Maddow. Here, she teaches you how to make the Jack Rose with a healthy dose of snark.

Peter Peter Peter Peter. That is all.

Holiday gluttony with beer and whisky!


Although I spent Christmas Eve and Day at my apartment, my mum picked me up on Boxing Day to spend the next four days at their house in Bowmanville with the rest of the family.

Most of our get-togethers revolve around food and drink but I can’t remember one where we got so into it. I arrived to find a fridge full of beer; pretty much anything you could think of. There was Duchy Organic Ale, Westephaner HefeWieiss, Rogue Yellow Snow, Lowenbrau, Warsteiner, La Fin du Monde, Beau’s Lug Tread (which is now available at the LCBO!) and Fuller’s Vintage Ale 2009. The latter two were particularly good with Beau’s being a dry, crisp lager and the Vintage Ale surprising me with it’s almost-sweet alcohol taste reminiscent of cognac.

We made our way through most of that on the first day and went out to resupply on day two. I picked up a bottle of Century Reserve 15 Year Old Rye (discontinued and unavailable in Toronto) and a six-pack of assorted tallboys. Thus suitably supplied, we settled down for some serious drinking, punctuated by some terrific meals and snacks.

One of my favorite things were the ham-and-cheese sliders! Taking these 3/4-baked buns from Metro, we put em in the oven with a basting of butter and after they browned, we filled them with whatever we had on hand which, in this case, was ham, roast beef, cheese, mustards, chutneys and mango hot sauce (although not all of those at once).

I tried a number of combos but my favorites were the ham/gruyere/mango hot sauce and the ham/brie/sweet tomato chutney. (There was nothing wrong with the ham/applewood cheddar/mustard combo but it definitely ranked third.) When I open my own place, I’m definitely going to have to feature these on the menu. Dead-easy to make and delicious; the perfect bar snack!

Over a couple of dinners (including the obligatory-but-completely-necessary turkey) we tried a number of interesting wines selected by my mum as well. I finally got to try Le Clos Jordanne Pinot Noir and I found it to be smooth with a bit of the sour cherry/currant flavor; it had excellent length. There was also a white from Sancerre but I can’t remember the name of it for the life of me… it was quite nice though.

We had a fairly challenging whisky-tasting. The contenders were Balvenie Signature 12 Year Old, Dun Bheagan 8 Year Old, Century Reserve 15 Year Old and Tyrconnel Single Malt. The first two being Scottish with the latter being Canadian and Irish, respectively, we had no idea what to expect or even if it was fair to compare these four whiskies.

Needless to say, we got right to it. We started with the Canadian whisky which was much sweeter than I remembered it, even on the nose. We nibbled on some Christmas cake which was a pretty decent accompaniment. If someone was afraid of whisky, I’d definitely give ‘em a sip of this. As it is, it didn’t have enough “oomph” for me.

Next up was the Tyrconnell which was quite a bit rougher but only in comparison to the Century Reserve. Relatively smooth and creamy for a single malt, it was perfectly decent but didn’t stand out. There was no complexity, one gets a lot of malt and it finishes rather quickly. I prefer Tea Bheag myself.

Next up was the Balvenie and it was clear to see that we had stepped into the company of masters here. Heady and complex, there was something new to appreciate in each and every sip with spice, sherry and honey. While there was a bit of smoke, it was held firmly in check and the finish was clean and strong. Honestly, I didn’t want to go on but we had one more…

And what a monster! Dun Bheagan’s Limited Edition was full of peat and smoke and fire. While rather smooth, at least when you like this sort of thing,  it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted. It left me feeling warm and fuzzy for a couple of hours or maybe that was just the cumulative affect of all of that whisky.

To top it off, I got a bottle of Mount Gay’s Extra Old Rum and Canadou’s cane syrup which leaves me relatively well-stocked for January. I’m not really feeling like making mojitos so I think I’m going to have to whip up a fresh batch of orgeat and go for a Mai Tai!

I leave you with two recipes I came up with Christmas Day while working. A quartet of ladies came in at the last minute and while they didn’t want to eat, they did want to drink and were kind enough to leave the choice up to me.

NO. 4

1 oz Bacardi White rum
1/4 oz Malibu rum
1/4 oz Galliano
1/4 oz Midori Melon
1/4 oz Peach schnapps
3 oz pineapple juice
splash of Bol’s Blue Curacao
splash Angostura Bitters

Shake the first five ingredients. Take a hurricane glass filled with ice and pour the curacao until it collects at the bottom. Add a couple splashes of the bitters and then top up the glass with the contents of the shaker. Garnish with an cherry wrapped in an orange slice for that ultra-cheesy look.

NO. 5

1 oz Wiser’s Reserve
1 oz Frangelico
1 egg white
3 oz of 18% cream

Shake the first four ingredients and pour them into a rocks glass. Add a dash of nutmeg on top.

The first cocktail is my take on a cheesy 90’s-style “tropical” cocktail. Obviously, the better ingredients you use, the better it’ll taste. The second one is much like eggnog but lighter and not quite as sugary. Both are nothing new but a lot of fun to make.

Enjoy the rest of your holidays!

2009 Holiday Gift Guide + four other links

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Over at Sloshed! they want to make sure that you get the perfect gift this Christmas and I can’t help but agree with their choices. Please… get me some o’ that.

Must be a slow news day over at The National Post ‘cos they’ve got “a short etymology of inebriation” for y’all. Enjoy and employ whenever you feel like appearing excessively clever.

Brewdog from Scotland’s got the strongest beer in the world!

As far as Chowhound’s concerned, you’ve been making your punch all wrong.

And, despite my lack of a camera, I’ve got two very fine recipes to share with you!

First off is a drink I tossed off to a girl I was flirtin’ with online. I’ve never tried it but she said she liked it and so I thought you folks might too. Honestly, it’s never passed my lips but it sounds damned good to me and I’ll buy you a drink myself if it’s shit.


1 oz rye
1 oz passion fruit juice
splash of Jager
splash of orange juice
Soda water

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

Next up is something I made while over at my boy’s house. We were high and he had some interesting bits in his fridge for me to play with.


1 oz sweet vermouth
1 oz Campari (I used this strange soda I’d never seen before but regular Campari would work just as well)
splash of brandy
lemon soda

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

Enjoy! The second drink in particular takes some getting used to but it’ll reward you in the end.

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.


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.

How to plan your party + six other links


Man, I’m feeling rough. Too many parties and not enough time at home. For reasons that don’t make much sense now, I’ve been out every night for the past week-and-half and my stomach (at least I think it’s my stomach, my liver could very well be joining in too) has finally told me to fuck off and give it a rest. Next week, I’m going to try drinking once. We’ll see how that goes.

Although I’m not in the best condition to be writing about booze right now, I’ve got a bunch of links for you and they won’t post themselves! Here we go…

For those of you who have trouble with party math ( x number of guests requires x number of bottles), Sebastien Centner of the Globe and Mail offers a spinning wheel that you can print out and assemble, thereby ensuring you’ll never run out of anything.

Beppi Crosariol, also of the Globe, reviews Nicholas Pashley’s new book covering the history of beer in Canada. Looks like a good read.

Speaking as someone who loves a liberal portion of Angostura bitters in some of his drinks, it’s nice to see Oh Gosh!’s Jay Hepburn offer up some recipes that use an ounce of the stuff.

Leaving aside all the other nasty things over-consumption of alcohol can do to you, a Spanish study claims that even heavy drinkers are less likely to suffer from heart disease than teetotalers. I have to ask, why even bother publicizing this kind of information? Anyone who takes it to heart probably should’t be reading it in the first place.

Still, if you’re going to overindulge, you should be prepared for the next day. reviews a new beverage that claims to stop your hangover in its tracks. I haven’t tried it but personally, I’d stick with Gatorade.

The Underhill Lounge offers up slighty-different take on the Savoy Cocktail Book’s Rose Cocktail and if that’s not enough for you SLOSHED! offers a list of ten autumnal cocktails culled from cocktail bloggers all over.

Lastly, the best seasonal liqueur you could possibly make would be from cranberries and Inn Cuisine has a terrific recipe! Using the liquored cranberries is a damn good bonus too.

(Image taken from Married To The Sea.)

Honesty in wine signage + eight other links


After international wine critic Jancis Robinson accused the wine industry in B.C. of being misleading when it comes to clearly differentiating between wines produced in that province and wines blended there, their version of the LCBO and several wineries have pledged to improve their labeling practices.

I’m happy to report that this is already a standard in Ontario. While at the LCBO today, I noticed that the blends were on the left and the VQAs on the right which, while it may seem a small step, is important when it comes to helping consumers make an informed choice.

In other semi-serious news, scientists at the University of Colorado have determined that there’s a genetic difference between people who are alcohol-dependent and those of us with a tendency to consume high amounts of alcohol. Just show your friends this article whenever they call you an alcoholic!

Over at SLOSHED! they’re doing their best to keep us warm this winter with two excellent recipes; the Green Tea Toddy and Pumpkin Cider. My sore throat is thanking them already…

Mixology Monday featured vermouth and I’m happy to say they found some uses for that bottle that many people reach for last. The Old Town Alchemy Co. offers up the White Ladder while Tiare of A Mountain Of Crushed Ice presents the Signora Rossa. Both are delicious!

Normally, I wouldn’t bother with this kind of thing but I can’t help but notice that The Washington Post is busy trashing a reality show that features s0-called bartenders competing against each other in “a showdown of skills, smarts and spirits”. Yes, it’s as stupid as it sounds and contributes to the bartending-until-I-get-something-better mindset.

I don’t read the Toronto Star for reasons I won’t go into here (involves one of their columnists trashing a guy’s reputation in what was an on-going court case) but this is a damn tasty recipe. Tamarinds add a whole new dimension to the margarita.

Lastly, if you’re really into making clear, pretty ice, has figured it out for you. Me, I just want my drinks cold but I admire the ingenuity on principle.

(Photo taken from dogwelder’s Flickr photostream.)

929 gallons of moonshine confiscated in North Carolina + six other links


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 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:


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:


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!)

Tequila and Mai Tais


While combing over my recent music downloads (Bruce Dickinson does a decent, apropos cover of All The Young Dudes!) I came across a .doc file of semi-intelligible bar reviews tucked away in the bottom, left-hand corner of my desktop. A week ago, I’d gone on a bit of a tear with some friends that started on Ossington and continued east on College through Little Italy.

Since, I haven’t done a proper review in awhile, I decided to post these scribblings and maybe even bone them up with whatever memories I have left of the night…

Reposado Tequila Bar was our meeting spot. I’ve only ever been there on the weekend and between the limited seating and the jazz bands they usually have in, you might have a difficult time of it. It’s still worth it.

I couldn’t begin to tell you which tequilas I’ve tried there because when you’re handed a 2 oz pour in an extremely-pretty stemmed shot glass, you shut up and drink it. I’ve stayed in the mid-price range and been very well-rewarded. They do offer Corzo Blanco Tequila (which I had the pleasure of imbibing at home after Bacardi sent me a bottle) which would pair pretty well with their freshly-squeezed juice but I recommend going with some of their more complex reposados and anejos for some slow-sippin’ pleasure. Stick to 100% agaves and you’ll do just fine. Hell, you’ll have a good time if you give yourself over to Andrea the bartender. She knows what she’s doing.

Next up, we went to Sutra Tiki Bar in Little Italy. I’d wanted to go to Sidecar but one look inside convinced me otherwise; it was far too brightly lit and when you’re bar-hopping, the last thing you want to do is stand in an empty room anyways.

Now, tiki occupies a very particular niche in bar culture. It comes and goes, surging in popularity as people rediscover kitsch only to disappear again as soon as it peaks. The much-maligned quality of the cocktails doesn’t help either.

There are many ways for a tiki drink to go wrong. With multiple ingredients and garnishes that are meant to evoke tropical fantasies as well as stimulate your taste buds, a “sweet rum drink” is a rather crude understatement.  Using multiple rums, spices, freshly-squeezed juices and home-made syrups is a must.

Take the Mai Tai. Two essential ingredients (orgeat and curacao) aren’t even available in Canada.  If you want to make orgeat this recipe by Rick of Kaiser Penguin is one I’ve used and it’s good. The closest thing we have to Curacao in Canada is Cointreau but you should really just go across the border and pick up a bottle in Buffalo.

What, you ask, is in a Mai Tai? Trader Vic’s family (who came up with the most enduring version) provides three recipes and (one psuedo-recipe) on the website that bears his name and I’ll reprint the first one here:


2 oz 17 year-old J. Wray Nephew Jamaican rum
1/2 oz French Garnier Orgeat
1/2 oz Holland DeKuyper Orange Curacao
1/4 oz Rock Candy syrup
juice from one fresh lime

Hand shake and garnish with half of the lime shell in the glass and float a sprig of fresh mint at the edge of the glass.

Now obviously, we Canadians run into trouble with the first item in the recipe, the rum. If you’re a bit of a traditionalist, you could go with Appleton Estate Master Blender’s Legacy rum (750 mL, 43% ABV, $89.55) which is produced by J. Wray but I agree with Tiare of A Mountain of Crushed Ice who recommends a good demerara (rum from Guyana).

The only available brand in Canada is El Dorado (you can get two vintage Bristol Classics but they’ll cost you anywhere from $200-$250); their 21 Year-Old (750 mL, 40% ABV, $109.95) would probably work very well.

If you’re feeling really fly, you could use an ounce from each; part of the fun of a good Mai Tai is the mixing and matching of different rums. Regardless of your budget, there’s probably a couple of bottles you can afford.

As for the curacao, you really should make a run and grab a bottle of the good stuff but Cointreau will do in a pinch. Rock candy syrup is not the same as simple syrup, it has a whole lot more sugar, and a decent recipe can be found on the Tiki Central Forum. I don’t even need to get into why you should use a fresh lime do I?

Anyway! Sutra’s Mai Tai doesn’t even come close to the traditional recipemenu2 as you can see from their menu to the right. Substituting amaretto for orgeat is lazy bartending and those juices don’t belong anywhere near a Mai Tai.

I ordered one anyway, just to see what it was like and while it’s not bad, it’s certainly not worth $7.50. Stick with the recipe above because you won’t find one bar in Toronto that can make a decent Mai Tai.

Most of their other cocktails were similar bastardized versions of the classics. A coconut cup with a little umbrella does not a tiki drink make.

Despite the disappointing cocktails, the music was boomin’ and the back patio floor is covered with ankle-deep sand which is kind of charming. There are better bars for the cost of the drinks but you could do worse if you’re with the right friends.

(For more information about tiki, head on over to A Mountain of Crushed Ice.)

We were going to go the College Street Bar but the bouncers carded us and insisted we pay cover. Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal but there were quite a few of us and, feelin’ rowdy and a bit put-out by the delay, we headed down the street to The Midtown where we were greeted with open arms.

It’s a new bar but it’s still stuck in the first few years of the millenium. Fatman Scoop and Co. were on the playlist and the bar was packed nine-deep with young ginos  ordering round after round of shots. Between the dancing and the Jager-bombs, we fit right in.

Nostalgia can have a powerful draw; we didn’t end up leaving till after last-call so this venue marked the end of our “crawl” but I suppose it was for the best that we didn’t close the night at Bistro 422 with pitchers of rye-and-gingers in hand.