How to make a cocktail: The Hawaii XO and XO 2
Walk into your local LCBO these days, and you're likely to encounter a frightening array of flavoured vodkas. They're really not so bad for making a cheeky drink with friends. Absolut Peach, or Stoli Chocolate Raspberi, certainly have their place on a camping trip, and, at one point, seemed ubiquitous in the city's cocktail bars. With today's mixologists likening themselves to chefs in terms of invention and ability, however, the pre-packaged flavoured spirit has fallen out of favour to the DIY approach. After all, why buy a product that's artificially flavoured to taste like something, when you can naturally add that flavour yourself?
Spirit infusion, however, goes a step further than just adding flavour. A cocktail could just as easily add cinnamon to whisky in the recipe, rather than go through all the steps of making a cinnamon-flavoured one. Infusing allows the spirit itself to shine, preventing juices, syrups, or other ingredients from dominating (and diluting) the cocktail.
Jan Ollner, of Ossington's Reposado, hopes to demonstrate that, with two cocktails: the Hawaii XO, and an "evil twin," the Hawaii XO 2. His idea was to recreate a fruity cocktail without using any fruit juices, so effectively one starts the night, and the other is for when you want to progress onto something stronger, but want the same flavours of the original.
Jan starts with Los Arango Reposado Tequila, followed by Aperol (a bitter orange aperitif), and Patron XO (which gives the drink a hint of coffee flavour). Finally, lime and pineapple juices are added for a sweet and sour citrus note. All ingredients are dry shaken, before being shaken again over ice, and strained into a coupe glass. The end result is a beautiful drink: a fruit punch style cocktail with a hint of smokiness and coffee. Amazing!
Hawaii XO 2
This drink is made with pure spirits and pineapple infused mescal to eliminate those pesky non alcoholic ingredients. Campari, a good smoky mezcal, 2 bar spoons of Patron XO and a few drops of Bittered Sling Moondog bitters are stirred with ice before being strained in a coupe glass, garnished by a grapefruit twist. The result is a more alcoholic, rich flavour: a perfect transition from day to night, whilst staying faithful to the same flavour concept.
Hawaii XO 2
1/2 oz Campari
1 oz of pineapple infused mezcal
1oz of smoky mezcal (most are only available through specialty suppliers, but try Leyenda Tlacuache)
2 bar spoons of Patron XO
2-3 drops of Bittered Sling Moondog bitters
Spirit infusions are now commonplace amongst Toronto's bar scene, and any number of ingredients and alcohol combinations are used to make amazing concoctions for fantastic drinks. But they're not limited to the professionals - making them at home is fun and easy, there are a few simple rules to follow.
Photos by Jesse Milns
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