The top 10 cocktails to drink this summer in Toronto
Summer cocktails in Toronto show a seasonal shift from hard, boozy cocktails to longer drinks that showcase fresh ingredients and help beat the heat amid the uncomfortable humidity. I've scoured the city's finest cocktail bars to bring you a selection of what I think are some the best drinks being made this summer. Noticeable trends include the return of tiki culture, but the current boom in Middle Eastern restaurants has also provided some novel inspiration for cocktails.
In no particular order, here are 10 must-try summer cocktails in Toronto.
Geraldine - The Pavilion
This update on a gin and tonic might be the most refreshing drink you'll try all summer. After discovering a Russian cooking book from the turn of the last century, bar manager Michael Mooney focused on a complex lemon and basil sherbet recipe. Combining this with Tanqueray Gin, Fever Tree Tonic, and Scrappy's Lavender Bitters results in a drink he describes as 'crushable'. I'm inclined to agree.
Byblos - Gulab
Wes Galloway's mandate for this Middle Eastern eatery was to focus on drinks that complement the aromatic fare on offer. The Gulab ($13) manages to do this in refreshing fashion - a rose petal infused vodka is served with a pomegranate reduction, lemon, and a cardamom tincture, all over crushed ice, julep style. The drink is topped with pomegranate seeds and a daisy to highlight the floral aspects of the drink.
Tiki Bar at The Bovine Sex Club - Navy Grog
Charlie Lamont, bartender at Rock Lobster, has been working on updating the Tiki drinks on offer at the Bovine's excellent back patio. His classic take on Tiki, employs juices galore and tons of booze. The Navy Grog ($13) contains three types of rum: Lemon Hart, Gosling's, and Mount Gay Silver, which is matched with lime, grapefruit, and a honey-ginger syrup.
The County Cocktail - Black Betty
One of the east side's newer additions, The County General's sister spot has an impressive bar offering from manager Veronica Saye. Focusing on fresh ingredients, the Black Betty ($14) muddles whole blackberries in the mixing glass before they're shaken with Tromba Tequila, Cointreau, agave nectar, lemon and lime juices. The whole drink is then garnished with an aromatic sprig of rosemary. Delicious.
The Comrade - Gilded Radner
Staying in Riverside for our next drink, Jessica Toombs has been leading the charge at this charming spot - the closest thing to a gin palace Toronto has. The Gilded Radner ($13) mixes Tanqueray gin with the intense mintiness of Fernet Branca, Peychaud's bitters, lemon juice, ginger syrup, fresh cucumber, and egg white.
Yours Truly - Boxer Julep
John Bunner keeps a short list of cocktails at Yours Truly, instead preferring to create custom drinks for his guests that fit their tastes and needs. If you don't fancy going off-piste, I can heartily recommend the Boxer Julep ($14). Shaking Carpano Antica Formula vermouth with Fernet Branca, gum syrup, salt bitters, and a citric acid solution, the drink is served over crushed ice with a fragrant garnish of fresh mint.
Reposado - Solstice Sour
Even if the wonderful patio out back never existed, Megan Jones' cocktails have always been a solid reason to make the trip over to Reposado (the fine tequila and mezcal selection doesn't hurt either). The Solstice Sour ($10) combines smoky mezcal with Lillet Rose, rhubarb syrup, grapefruit juice, and a few dashes of teapot bitters for good measure.
Cava - Tio Pepe is My Florist
As a way of implementing his love of sherry into the cocktail program at Cava, Kyle Burch's Tio Pepe is My Florist ($15) uses three ounces of the eponymous sherry with muddled peach, orgeat (almond) syrup, Cynar, and a dash of orange blossom water. The drink is completed with grated nutmeg dusted over the top. Beautiful.
Rasa - Hidalgo's Cure
This brand new spot on Harbord from The Food Dudes has a bar program helmed by Chanel Wood. She's been making waves recently with her innovative cocktails, and has dipped into Amy Stewart's The Drunken Botanist for the inspiration behind this particular drink. At $13, Hidalgo's Cure shakes up a stinging nettle syrup with fino sherry, Espolon Blanco tequila and lemon juice.
The Spoke Club - Watermelon Spritzer
The Spoke Club might be for members only, but if you find yourself invited to sit out on one of the finest patios this city has to offer, you should grab one of Joe Howell's Watermelon Spritzers ($12), featuring watermelon juice, rose wine, chamomile syrup, sparkling water, and grapefruit bitters. It's lighter on the booze than the others on this list, so you can have a few in the sun without fear.
Thanks to Pure Leaf for sponsoring our summer adventures. For more things to do this summer, check out our Best of Summer page.
What's your favourite summer cocktail? Let us know in the comments.