Meet Ryan McVittie


bars_professionals_mcvittieHe’s the first contributor to the Jolly Inebriate and I’m quite pleased to have him on board.

I first got to know Ryan back at The Comrade, the bar he co-owns in Leslieville. After a long shift at Joy Bistro, I’d frequently start a night of drinking there because they had a fantastic selection of seasonal beers and Ryan could always be counted on to make a damn good cocktail when something stronger was required.

I’ve had quite a few good dates end up there and many quiet evenings on my own as well; although other bars have taken its place, I’ll always remember the good times.

I’ve seen Ryan at a couple of places since then but one thing remains consistent; he enjoys making classic cocktails, knows their stories and can experiment with ‘em when called on to do so. He’s a solid bartender and I hope you get as much from his experiences as I have.

In completely-unrelated news, I can’t get enough of this cover by The Arcade Fire. I couldn’t tell you which show it was recorded at or who did the original but it’s good. Give it a listen, download and share because it’s a bitch to source out on Hype Machine. ‘Tis the season!

The Arcade Fire – Poupee de Cire, Poupee de Son (live)

(Photo taken from Toronto Life.)

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.

My favorite bar in Toronto


The list of bars to the right represents places I like to go when I’m in the neighborhood. They vary in concept and crowd but one thing holds true for all of ‘em: they’re beloved by those who know a good drink and those who could care less equally because they’re great bars.

I know that if I happen to stop by because I’m in that neck of the woods, I’ll meet interesting people, ranging from industry types to general enthusiasts and whatever I drink will be solid.

Still, one of my favorite bars isn’t on that list. It has no website and the phone is dodgy at times. If you were to drive by you’d probably pay it no attention to it at all, mostly because it’s located in Chinatown East and looks like a million other little, blue-collar bars that dot the Toronto landscape.

It’s called the Akia (not Ikea although it sounds the same when I say it) Bar & Grill and it’s been around for over a decade. It started out as a bar where the local guys could go for a beer after work and, given it’s proximity to the Don Jail, quickly attracted a clientele of sketchy folks who spent their time selling drugs, fighting over the jukebox and generally terrorizing whomever operated the bar at the time.

Rodney (my roomate) and I started going about five years ago, pretty much as soon as we moved in, because it was right around the corner and the beer was cheap. The jukebox sucked and the crowd was trouble but it was worth it.

As the years passed, we got to know the nonsketchy regulars (there were a few) and even made a few friends. The drinks stayed fairly cheap, only getting raised a quarter now and then, mostly when a new owner took over

After the last handover, I stopped going. The Chinese karaoke, gloriously blaring in MIDI had gotten to be too much for me and the selection of beer was admittedly crappy for the current price. I don’t mind paying two bucks for a Lakeport but ask me for three-fifty and we’ve got a problem. Besides, I was currently enamored with the renaissance of Leslieville and it was much easier to barhop along Queen St. East after finishing work at Joy Bistro.

Soon, I started working downtown again and found myself without a place to go after work. Most of the time, I just drank at home. Rodney had stopped going to but he dropped by every know and then and I began to hear good things about the place once again. He said the karaoke wasn’t going on every night and they’d renovated. I still didn’t go because most renovations don’t do much but raise the prices.

But then, low and behold, another regular and friend of mine started going three or four times a week, holding court as it were, and he invited me. I went and not only did I like the new owners but they carried beer I liked, at reasonable prices.

Knowing I could get a Steamwhistle for four bucks suddenly made the Akia a desirable after-work joint. The owners really made the effort to attract a better crowd and they installed a jukebox full of CDs by Elvis, the Stones and the Kinks; stuff I’d actually listen to.

It was quieter and smelt better. You didn’t have to walk a plank over a flooded basement to get to the bathroom and there were no more dealers offering coke that made you feel like your nose was going to fall off. In short, it was the perfect place for a guy like me, a little older and a lot less impressed by dives, who just wanted a decent beer to drink while he read his book.