The Great Toronto Cocktail Challenge: The Elixir
Perhaps the honest to goodness biggest surprise I've had during this whole cocktail challenge happened to me this weekend at Goodnight.
Goodnight is that bar you need to reserve a spot at to get in — not because it's packed, just because it's policy. That one at Spadina and Richmond with an entrance down an alleyway and business cards with only a phone number on them. It's the bar that I (and I can only imagine a great deal of others) just assumed was a pretentious, twat factory and never dreamed would be a place I'd be interested in patronizing. It just didn't sound like my scene.
Well, here's to not judging books by their covers, and other such clichés because I was wrong — utterly wrong.
It felt a little weird ringing a doorbell to get into a bar, and at this point I still wasn't sure what I was getting myself into, but after I was greeted and checked off the list I walked into a small, dimly lit room with lots of unfinished wood and a definite industrial vibe. Nirvana was playing over the speakers, and I was the first to arrive this evening. Despite the room being empty, it felt very warm, and even though I was at Richmond and Spadina, it felt inviting too; without the slightest whiff of try-too-hard.
Just forget about all the exclusivity stuff, if anything it actually makes the place better because the place never really gets that busy and the reservation policy (for the most part) keeps douches out. It's not a place you spend the whole night, but it's the perfect place to go for a couple of cocktails, before, in between, or after your plans for the evening. It's a place I wish I knew about back when I used to work in that area because I would have gone there EVERY DAY after work for a little evening tipple.
The bar has a woody kind of cowboy, speakeasy vibe to it and their cocktail list is second to none. I walked into the place intending on writing about an Old Fashioned, but my barman Joshua insisted I try one of his originals: The Elixir.
The Elixir - 3.5oz, $16.00
Top Notes 10/10
It quickly becomes clear why he wanted to show off this creation, The Elixir brings to mind this kind of pre prohibition cure-all that travelling snake-oil salesmen used to peddle around the country. Whether it's a headache, ear ache, back ache, swellings, sprains, stiff joints, dislocation, cuts, bruises — even deafness, these salesmen would push their own concoctions on the vulnerable promising them relief when really all they did was make you drunk or high or both.
The Elixir is a cloudy orange colour and served in a corked apothecary style bottle, the kind you might get from one of those aforementioned shady salesmen. This one, of course, is more likely to cause memory loss than cure it.
The Back End - 9/10
The recipe for this cure all is simple: 3 parts Gordon's gin, 2 parts Aperol and one part green Chartreuse: shake well with ice and serve. It's a great mixture of flavours with the herbal sweetness of Chartreuse being balanced by the mild bitterness of Aperol and then finished with the dryness of Gordon's. This is the kind of cocktail you could spend an evening sipping on one after another.
I'll admit, it felt a bit weird drinking from a bottle at first, I had the strange urge to pour it into something, but it didn't take long for that to fade.
Finish - 8/10
Essentially, Goodnight is a place that is enthusiastic about cocktails and cocktail culture and The Elixir is a perfect example of that. Sure the bottle is a bit of a novelty, but the liquid inside is not.
You won't find a lot of house made bitters or custom infusions here - at least not yet - what you will find though are well made, creatively presented cocktails in a pretty casual environment, oh and for sure, absolutely, the best Old Fashioned you'll find in Toronto, in Canada, anywhere--I promise.
Total Score: 27/30 (90%)
Previously in the series