The top 10 cocktails to drink this winter in Toronto
Winter cocktails in Toronto will help you get into the festive spirit and shake off those cold-weather blues. As far as I'm concerned, winter means only one thing: That most gloriously decadent of tipples, eggnog. You can find it made fresh to order here at a few bars in Toronto, but make sure to stop at Civil Liberties for the last word on the drink.
Otherwise, there's a range of classic seasonal flavours to get into, like salted caramel, spiced vanilla, Drambuie (not just Granddad's favourite anymore), anise and cranberry. There's even a cracking toddy to warm you up when that snow comes back for revenge.
Here are my picks for the top cocktails to drink this winter in Toronto.
Humo Santo - El Caballito
Erin Petty (Carbon Bar) recently joined the agave aficionados buried down at this basement bar beneath much-vaunted Mexican resto Los Colibris, and she's been bringing a touch of refinement to the cocktail program. This complex tipple ($14) is comprised of smoky mezcal, fino sherry, Benedictine, spiced vanilla syrup, and both lapsang souchong and peach & pear teas. Perhaps the star of the whole thing though, is the beautiful candied pear garnish that adorns each one.
Flannel Pants - Drake One Fifty
Bartender Warren May has been riffing with one of Canada's great winter treasures, ice cider, to create a terrific bourbon sour ($16) with Four Roses Small Batch bourbon, lemon juice, and a syrup comprising allspice, vanilla, and star anise.
Salted Caramel Vermouth - The Good Son
Moses McIntee has been mixing drinks all over town for the last few years now. From his stint at the celebrated cocktail joint Lucid, to the Museum Tavern, Rock Lobster, and just about everywhere else in between. He's recently popped up at West Queen West's pizzeria-cum-taverna The Good Son, where he's mixing up cocktails like this one, featuring caramel, saline solution, apple bitters, Punt E Mes, and an elaborate dehydrated apple lattice as garnish.
Kentucky Campfire - Mr. Flamingo
Recently opening above popular DuWest hangout Bambi's, Mr. Flamingo has been developing a strong cocktail program with the addition of James Taylor (Montecito) to the team. Stirring together Booker's bourbon with Benedictine, Cocchi vermouth, demerara syrup and a house campfire bitters, the whole drink ($16) is then lifted with aromatic sage to lend an herbal quality.
Hot Spiked Cider - The Gaslight
The Gaslight, at Bloor and Symington, is the perfect place to hunker down over the cold winter months. The great hospitality that owners Tim Pritchard and Megan Jones provide is just as inviting and warm as this apple cider toddy. Made with Drambuie, bourbon, apple cider, ginger, lemon grass syrup, and garnished with a bay leaf. Grab a glass for $8.50, or share a thermos for $30.
Maple and Balsam Fir Flip - Barchef
I'm a huge sucker for a flip. They're rich and smooth, and when made right, are like enjoying a light and boozy custard. Frankie Solarik's effort ($14) combines bourbon, maple syrup, madeira wine, and star anise, shaking the mixture up with a whole egg.
Navidad Espiritu - Civil Liberties
In fairness, I dropped into Bloor and Ossington's Civil Liberties only to see what Nick Kennedy, Cole Stanford, and David Huyhn have been up to all these months since they departed from Salt. When I asked for a good winter drink, David shuffled off down the bar before returning with a perfectly executed, fresh-made eggnog from a recipe he'd been working on. Featuring Havana Club, cream, whole egg, cayenne, Mexican cinnamon, cardamom, and a grated nutmeg top, this one is fabulously deep and rich, and David promises to make them all winter for $14.
Winter Daiquiri - Mamakas
Opening on Lower Ossington in the summer, this modern Greek tavern has been a welcome addition to an already outstanding neighbourhood for restaurants. The Winter Daiquiri sees another cocktail relying on the fabulously smoky properties of lapsang souchong tea. Shaking those up with dry white rum and lime, it also gets a health dose of fig syrup for a fruity note to balance the whole thing out.
Lost in Translation - Ki
The folks at top sushi spot Ki, on Wellington and Bay, aren't just sticklers on how fresh their fish is. They have a pretty serious cocktail program to match all that maki and sashimi. The Lost in Translation cocktail ($13) is a great example, combining Woodford Reserve bourbon, Havana Club rum, Drambuie, Chartreuse, brown sugar and Angostura bitters. All ingredients are then barrel-aged for 21 days, before being served in a chilled martini glass and being garnished with brandied cherries.
Early Frost - D Bar
If you're up in Yorkville, the new Four Seasons has a very pretty cocktail lounge adjacent to Cafe Boulud. It's worth stopping by for this light and sweet winter tipple ($18), with a honey and chamomile-infused gin, a pomegranate-infused Lillet Blanc, and pear juice.
Did I miss any? Leave your picks for winter cocktails in the comments.
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