The Spirits of Canada Day – Canadian Cocktails
With Canada Day just around the corner we thought it would be fun to dig up some truly Canadian cocktail recipes. As a fan of Fernet Branca I knew just where to start: with the Toronto Cocktail.
It behooves me somewhat that the best-known classic Canadian cocktail is named after the city of Toronto. I grew up in Montreal and currently live in Vancouver so I harbor the usual anti-Toronto sentiment common in those who do not hail from ‘the center of the universe.’ But I know a good drink when I taste one, so I won’t hold the name against the concoction.
Interestingly enough the Toronto cocktail may not have originated in Canada. The drink first appears under the Toronto moniker in David Embry’s 1948 book The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. Embry was a Manhattan attorney who aimed to make drinks accessible to the at-home cocktail enthusiast. The recipe calls for Canadian Whisky, a product that Americans became accustomed to drinking during prohibition, which offers the simplest explanation for the name. There is evidence, however, that the cocktail dates back to the 1920s. A recipe for the Fernet Cocktail found in Robert Vermeire’s 1922 book Cocktails – How to Mix Them notes “This cocktail is much appreciated by the Canadians of Toronto.” Vermeire was a European bartender and his Fernet Cocktail did not call for Canadian Whisky, further confounding the historian.
Sean Soole points out that there was a great inflow of Italian immigrants to both Toronto and New York City between 1910 and 1930. These immigrants would have brought their love of Amaro, which in turn would have influenced the drinks of the period. This, of course, offers no definitive proof of the origins of the cocktail. I say regardless of its ancestry the originator was obviously tipping his hat to Canada’s biggest metropolis, and we should too.
The Toronto Cocktail
- 2 ounces Canadian Whisky
- .25 ounce Fernet Branca
- .25 ounce gomme syrup or simple syrup
- 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
- Shake over ice. Strain. Garnish with an orange twist.
The Vancouver Cocktail
I first had this cocktail on a lazy summer Sunday afternoon on the patio of The Sylvia Hotel. At the time I had no idea of the iconic nature of the drink or of the establishment. The Sylvia, originally an apartment complex built in 1912, was converted to a hotel during
The Depression. In 1954 it was granted the first legally licensed cocktail lounge in Vancouver. That bar still stands today, largely unchanged it is a relic of a bygone era. The cocktail was likely developed sometime between 1954 and 1955. Vancouver rumormongers allege that it was the last drink consumed by Errol Flynn before he leapt to his death from the roof of The Sylvia in 1959. The story is likely false, other reports cite that he died of a heart attack or pulmonary embolism, but who doesn’t like a good piece of folklore with their cocktail?
The Vancouver Cocktail
- 1.5 ounces Victoria Gin
- .75 ounce Punt e Mes
- .25 ounce Benedictine
- 2 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters
- Stir over ice until chilled. Strain. Garnish with a lemon.
Note: You can substitute a different gin here but we used Victoria for the CanCon. You may also replace the Punt e Mes with any other sweet vermouth, but do expect it to be sweeter. Regan’s Bitters can be hard to find so any other orange bitters will do in a pinch.
Sources: http://www.upmagazine.com/story/article/summer-cocktail-recipe-vancouver-cocktail http://www.sylviahotel.com/about.htm http://and1morefortheroad.blogspot.ca/2012/06/vancouver-cocktail.html http://www.slideshare.net/shawnsoole/classic-canadian-cocktails-seminar http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Errol_Flynn#Death
The Montreal Cocktail
As I sat down to research this article I had never heard of a Montreal Cocktail, but as it is my hometown I was desperately hoping that the Internet would provide an intriguing recipe. And it did, sort of.
Despite Montreal’s history of bootlegging, jazz, and burlesque there is no iconic Montreal cocktail. However diffordsguide, a trusted and valued source of cocktail information offers a titillating recipe named simply Montreal. While the ingredients seem as synonymous with New Orleans as Montreal the similarity between the two cities, with their French influence and joie de vivre, must be embraced. Give this drink a shot and decide whether it’s worthy of its name. Laissez les bon temps rouler!
The Montreal Cocktail
- 1.5 ounces Rittenhouse Rye
- .75 ounce Martini Rosso
- 1 teaspoon Pernod
- 3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
- Stir over ice until chilled. Strain. Garnish with an orange twist or a cherry.
The Bloody Caesar
No article on Canadian cocktails would be complete without the inclusion of The Bloody Caesar. My grandmother poured herself a Caesar promptly at 11:30am every day. The drink was common to me, yet I had no idea of its Canadian roots until I tried to order one on an American aircraft sometime in my early twenties. The flight attendant, a burly yet gregarious male, scoffed at my order. Looking at my seatmate he demanded “And what would you like, Ma’am, an Orange Julius?!”
The Bloody Caesar was invented in Calgary in 1969 by Walter Chell, the restaurant manager at Marco’s Italian Restaurant at the Calgary Inn (now the Westin Hotel). Schell used spaghetti al vongole as the inspiration for the drink. Early cocktail guides do contain similar concoctions. The Red Snapper, which dates back to 1921, contained gin and a juice that likely contained clam and tomato. Other clam and tomato recipes appear in the virgin section of several bartender bibles. The release of Mott’s Clamato cocktail in 1966 made the drink accessible to the home enthusiast.
Despite the fact that Clamato is an American product, the Caesar has been slow to spread to our neighbors in the south. D recently had an exceptionally delicious Caesar at Clyde Common in Portland Oregon, which he ordered simply for the novelty of finding the bevvy south of the 49th parallel. In typical American style it was served with a beer chaser.
The Bloody Caesar
- 2 ounces vodka or gin
- 5 ounces Clamato juice (use the brand name here)
- Several dashes of Tabasco (to taste)
- Several dashes of Worcestershire (to taste)
- Lemon wedge
- Celery salt
Wet the outside of a beer glass with the lemon wedge then dip the rim into celery salt. Fill the glass ¾ full with ice. Add the spirit, the Tabasco, Worcestershire and horseradish. Top with the Clamato. Season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon, giving the mixture a good stir. Garnish with celery, pickled asparagus, beans, olives, or whatever the heart desires. Sing Oh Canada.
Image Credits Title: toronto_skyline by vinimanoj is licensed by CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Title: The aquabus making its rounds by David J Laporte is licensed by CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Title: Montréal Skyline by Adam is licensed by CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Title: Calgary_Saddledome by JMacPherson is licensed by CC BY-NC-SA 2.0