The Great Toronto Cocktail Challenge: Petey's Mescal Muddle
To get into the Toronto Temperance Society, you either need to have a key or know someone who does. This not-so-secret College Street bar located above Sidecar (they own the place) in Little Italy is a throwback to the days of speakeasies and prohibition, when heavy doors with peepholes and passwords kept the fuzz out and the liquor flowing. These days the passwords have been replaced by key cards and no one is worried too much about the cops too much; but letting yourself in to your own private club still holds a little cache.
I, of course, don't have a key and therefore lack said social cache. Lucky for me the folks at TTS aren't the pricks you might expect to find at a snooty private club and for that matter, TTS isn't the least bit snooty.
What it is is a sharp, dimly lit room that is quiet, comfortable and inviting. It's also guarded by one of the best bartenders in the city (Oliver), who I might add is the perfect guide to help a novice navigate through the complex world of cocktails. After brief consultation I decided on Petey's Mescal Muddle, one of the bars most popular drinks.
Petey's Mescal Muddle - 2oz, $13
Top Notes - 9/10
The drinks at Toronto Temperance Society are perhaps the most impressive I've seen up to this point. I'm not even talking about taste here, just the assembly alone--the attention to detail. Petey's Mescal Muddle begins by mashing limejuice, cilantro and fresh jalapenos together. The mixture is then shaken with some fine mescal and strained into a double rocks glass that's been swished with Laphroaig Scotch and filled with large, cracked ice. The bright green mixture is then garnished with a skewered lime that's wrapped with a jalapeno ring. It's so bright that if I didn't know better I'd say unnaturally so....but I watched - this is the real deal.
The Backend - 10/10
I like a drink that really tries to hit a number of senses, the kind that not only pokes at the palate, but also provides a full sensory experience. Does that sound obnoxious? Sure, but the thing is, when you lift that heavy glass up to take a sip, the very first thing that you'll notice - and it's striking - is this intense burst of cilantro, and it's kind of amazing. It's not so much in the drink itself, but hovering just above in the air around the rim. It's such a distinct smell and so unexpected in a cocktail that initially it's a little unsettling - but just for a moment. After the first sip when the jalapeno starts to heat up, followed by a coolness of the lime and mescal, it seems totally natural.
They're a natural union of flavours found in countless Mexican dishes and as much as the addition of Laphroaig might seem like an unnatural addition, it serves a very specific purpose. Laphroaig is perhaps the smokiest of all scotch whiskies and that little wash on the glass gives just a hint of that smoke, another layer that touches the back of your tongue.
Finish - 9/10
This drink is just a plain old fantastic thing. It's so, so spicy, but so cooling at the same time that it's manageable. I mean, my tongue was kind of on fire while I was drinking it, but it just added to that whole full sensory experience. Now, fair warning, this place doesn't really do bargains. A drink like this will fetch a pretty penny, but as it should. The only problem is that you sit down planning to just have just one $13.00 drink, but they're so damn good even when you're money is all gone you'll find yourself reaching for that credit card for just one more.
Final Score: 28/30 (93%)