This Spring the Toronto social scene is fawning all over the cocktail. Now Magazine featured the subject on their cover with their rendition of the city’s top 10 recently; the LCBO designated a sub-site to the traditional recipes and appreciation of early cocktail culture (notably influenced by the success of the Manhattan-friendly “Mad Men”); and then there was the recent Made with Love event at the Dolce Social Ballroom that featured bartenders from the GTA – and a couple special guests from Montreal – like the lovely Fanny Gauthier of Ateliers et Saveurs – mixing it up on a Monday under the direction of host, Kevin Brauch (formerly the Thirsty Traveler – and now found on Iron Chef).
Certainly, the success of this – and previous events – speaks to the trending status and resurrection of the cocktail for Ontario and Quebec in 2011; for, even on a night that is traditionally reserved for Industry employees that miss out on weekend romps, the Made with Love event was also packed with family; friends; and thirsty 9-to-5 locals early on. At 6:03pm, as the event doors opened, I received a text from a Sous Chef from a notable downtown restaurant that was familiar with my usual tardiness for events. It read: “It’s rammed. Get here, quick”.
By the time I did arrive, the expected lineups were still swelling around the bartenders, while lounge beats washed over the colourful room. By 9:00pm the crowds started to dwindle as the swirl of conversation began in an effort to decide whom one should give their drinking allegiance to – literally in the form of a dog tag to be draped around the neck of the bartender that concocted your chosen beverage.
My friend, Wes Galloway came in a very close second in the category of People’s Choice. His creation, “My Pear Lady”; sung Spring and featured Hendricks Gin; spiced honey syrup; and pear puree – to name key items. There was also a bacon and maple infused Caesar; a smoked espresso-laden sipper; one silky coconut and white chocolate creation; and winners Nishantha Nepulongoda’s “Caribou Crossing” (featuring Vice – a very Canadian mixture of ice wine and vodka; and Michelle Tham’s “Appleton V/X with original recipe Cola syrup”that attested to every competitor’s dedication to artistry; technical skill; and use of trending sustainable/organic and local ingredients.
Of particular note was the “F&B” from the Montreal duo of Brynley Leach and Fanny Gauthier; as I could see myself drinking it regularly, and with extreme ease. Featuring Scotch Whiskey; white cranberry juice; basil; orange peel; lemon juice; and the extremely sexy Cohiba Maduro 5 cigar syrup – it also included the use of an electric smoker!
With the craft movement in beer and wine gaining ground, via nods to talented brewers and winemakers alike, who are refining the Industry; providing the consumer with the new insights; and using exciting local products – it seems that we should remember our old friend the bartender; the mixologist; the cocktail folks that share these qualities; and perhaps hold even an elevated attention to detail as the demand for consistency is perhaps harder by the glass than by the bottle or keg – plus without a doubt, they throw the best parties.
Check out the: Made with Love Blog for recipes, winners, and videos!