The best cocktails

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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.

I like to write extraordinary articles on many topics. I have neurological problems so please be understanding. ♿

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