Classic and Savoury Cocktails Are Wooing Fans This Winter


Volume 47, Number 9

[dropcap size=big]L[/dropcap]ooks like the days of tall, fizzy and fruity concoctions are behind us, at least temporarily.

As the forecast changes from warm to cool, so does our palate for cocktails. “In the summertime, [customers] drink something … more effervescent and citrus-forward, and maybe go to something … a little bit heavier, a little bit oakier, more alcohol-forward in the wintertime,” says Franz Swinton, bar manager at Añejo restaurant in Calgary. The Old Fashioned ($15) is one of Añejo’s most popular cocktails, particularly during the winter. This, along with other vintage drinks, such as the Manhattan and Sazerac, don’t always appear on cocktail menus anymore, but they have stood the test of time. “They are classic because they work and they are delicious,” says Oliver Stern, managing partner at Toronto Temperance Society, a members-only bar.

Another concoction that’s well-suited for sipping in the winter is the Vancouver Cocktail (pictured, left), which debuted last month at L’Abattoir restaurant in Vancouver. Inspired by a drink originally served at the historic Sylvia hotel in the city’s west end, the three-ounce beverage is a blend of gin, vermouth and Bénédictine. Bar manager, Shaun Layton, acquired unopened antique spirits from the 1960s and is pouring the Vancouver Cocktail while quantities last. He’s confident customers will pay a whopping $60 for the nostalgia and exclusivity it offers.

Whether marked by changing palates or the changing seasons, savoury cocktails have also started replacing the über-sweet, sugary ones. Swinton sources alternative, organic sweeteners, which aren’t as cloying and don’t coat the palate. Golden agave nectar, derived from the same plant species as tequila, is a favourite, because it complements his tequila- and mescal-based cocktails well. The bestselling cocktail at L’Abattoir, the Avocado Gimlet, combines a quarter of a fresh avocado with sugar, rosemary-and-olive-infused gin, lime juice and apple schnapps ($13). “People say it reminds them of a smoothie, so it’s got a really thick beautiful creamy texture to it, and then you get the savoury notes from the olive, rosemary and the gin,” Layton explains, adding that he sells between 15 and 25 glasses of the green brew per night.

The two most popular menu cocktails at Toronto Temperance Society also have savoury notes. La Hoja combines cucumber, basil, lime, tequila, green Chartreuse, agave and salt ($14) and the Petey’s Muddle features jalapeño, cilantro, lime, mescal and a Laphroaig smoky Scotch wash ($14). Oliver notes that bartenders are working closer with chefs these days, making more attempts to pair food with drink; it’s a win-win for today’s foodie-obsessed culture.

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