It seems that winter has finally arrived in southern Ontario. To keep cozy, it’s wise to layer—a truism as applicable to cocktails as it is to sweaters and long johns. Go beyond the simple shaken-or-stirred and discover some of Toronto’s most flavourful artisan libations, guaranteed to give you a warming glow.
Barchef’s Orange and Cacao
Scotch, that ever-popular winter warmer, is given a touch of summery heat with muddled orange rind and flamed orange zest, then sweetened with cacao-infused vodka and vanilla syrup. Careful with this one: amidst Barchef’s film-noir, incense-scented interior, it’ll sneak up on you. 472 Queen St. W., 416-868-4800.
The Black Hoof’s Ghostly Negroni
The Green Fairy adds its anise-flavoured magic to this cocktail devised by top Toronto bartended Jen Agg. Join the good company of famed absinthe aficionados such as Hemingway and van Gogh with this undiluted concoction that packs a meal-ending one-two punch with its dizzying mix of gin, aperol, lillet and a touch of absinthe. 923 Dundas St. W., 416-551-8854.
Brassaii’s Spiked Eggnog
No winter cocktail list would be complete without the Yuletide indulgence of eggnog. Why stop just because jolly old Saint Nick’s made his rounds? Enjoy this lush mix of spiced rum with cream, turbindo syrup, egg and cinnamon for a welcome break from your New Year’s diet resolutions. 461 King St. W., 416-598-4730.
The Comrade’s Log Cabin
Nothing brings to mind our nostalgia for Canadian winters like the Log Cabin—in this case a glass of smoked bacon–infused rye, dry vermouth and bitters, drizzled with maple syrup and topped with a curl of orange peel. 758 Queen St. E., 416-778-9449.
The County General’s Punch ‘n’ Pie
Rich pies are synonymous with chilly weather, so why not indulge in a slice, er, sip of The County General’s Punch ‘n’ Pie—a spiced mélange of rum, pumpkin purée, apple cider and a sprinkling of nutmeg. It’s your mother’s best dessert, all grown up and fit to drink. 936 Queen St. W., 416-531-4447.
The Harbord Room’s Saxby Gale
Bartender Dave Mitton’s list of premium cocktails each boast a tongue-in-cheek moniker—the Saxby Gale, so named for cyclone that struck Canada in the 19th century, is no exception. This interpretation of a dark and stormy drops spiced syrup and citrus into a mix of Flor de Cana rum and ginger beer, and is sure to have you chuckling in the face of Old Man Winter. 89 Harbord St., 416-962-8989.
Luma’s Rudolph’s Rum Diary
Its name is festive, but this drink isn’t exactly for the little ones: it’s a sinfully sweet blend of dark rum, butterscotch liqueur, maple lemonade and ginger ale. The cheeky touch of movie-themed wit is a perfect introduction to a cinematic night at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. 330 King St. W., 647-288-4715.
Parts and Labour’s Collins McMacintosh
Many people swear by a cup of lemon tea with honey to ward off the seasonal blues. Parts and Labour’s boozy re-interpretation layers Plymouth gin with the distinctly sweet flavor of Chartreuse liqueur, spiced honey, cardamom, bitters and lemon. A dash of sparkling water seals the deal. 1566 Queen St. W., 416-588-7750.
Splendido’s Smoke & Mirrors
For a truly head-spinning cocktail, look no further than Splendido’s Smoke & Mirrors. The base is Enmascarado Mezcal, a smoky Mexican liquor, which is then livened up with the bite of Lagavulin single malt scotch and Benedictine Amaro Montenegro. With such finely balanced flavours, the addition of juice to cut the alcohol would be an offense. 88 Harbord St., 416-929-7788.
Table 17’s Bull Shot
This will put some hair on your chest: Stoli vodka, bouillon de boeuf, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauces, and a generous dose of salt and pepper come together in Table 17’s Bull Shot. It’s a brash answer to the Caesar and a real shot to your winter blahs. 782 Queen St. E., 416-519-1851.