Tag Archives: drinks

Cocktail Culture

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

When I was a bartender in the 1980’s, cocktails were brightly coloured, syrupy-sweet concoctions finished off with a festive umbrella.  It didn’t take much talent to serve drinks, unless you wanted to add some flair to your technique like Tom Cruise in the eponymous movie.

But just as food has undergone a revolution in the last few decades, so has the development of the cocktail. Bartenders are taking cues from chefs to create well-balanced libations with ingredient lists that often read like recipes from restaurants and include herbs, fruits and vegetables, and even bacon.

Please Don't Tell's Benton's Old Fashioned(Please Don’t Tell’s Benton’s Old Fashioned, Photo: Cocktail Revival)

Bars like Please Don’t Tell in New York created truly individual drinks, like the Bacon-Infused Old Fashioned. Ironically, while the flavour profiles of these cocktails are extremely modern (and follow similar food trends), many are based on pre-Prohibition era favourites, like manhattans, gimlets, and punch bowls (nothing like your mother’s punch, I promise you). And keeping with the history of these drinks, many modern cocktail bars are set up like private clubs, such as the Toronto Temperance Society (which has a $285 membership fee) or 1920’s speakeasys, hidden away from the general public.

Bar Chef's Vanilla Hickory Smoked Manhattan(Bar Chef’s Vanilla Hickory Smoked Manhattan Photo: Intelligent Bartender)

Hunting down these places is often well worth it, as much to experience the mixologists’ creations as the atmosphere. Take Bar Chef’s molecular menu, which reads like the alcoholic version of a Top Chef episode; their Vanilla Hickory Smoked Manhattan arrives under glass, the namesake smoke infusing the drink before your eyes. But craftsmanship like this comes at a price- most cocktail bars charge at least 15 dollars per drink and the aforementioned manhattan is a whopping 45 bucks!

Recipe Book, The American Cocktail(Photo: Atomic Books)

To recreate these artistic concoctions at home, pick up a copy of The American Cocktail which includes 50 recipes from some of the best bartenders in the country. Don’t worry, none of them involve trapping smoke under glass, though the ingredient lists can get a little long. The results are worth it though and your guests will be much more impressed than if you poured a boring old gin and tonic.

Flavoured Bitters, an ingredient in some cocktails(Photo: Outblush)

Most of the recipes include spirits that are readily available in liquor stores and produce from your standard grocery store (or even better, local farmers’ market). In some cases, specialty ingredients are called for, like flavoured bitters. Fee Brothers is a popular brand with a wide assortment of flavours to enhance traditional cocktails or to create your own masterpiece. The more adventurous home-based foodie can even make homemade bitters.

Cocktail: Tequila and Sage Smash(Tequila and Sage Smash, Photo: Huffington Post)

Creating cocktails like this can be an expensive proposition, so you might want to start slow by brightening the flavour of more traditional drinks with herbs. The Huffington Post provides a list of 5 herbaceous libations, including the simply delicious Tequila and Sage Smash.

Food and Wine's Cocktail App(Food & Wine Cocktail App, Photo: iTunes)

Interested in keeping up with cocktail culture? Check out Imbibe, a magazine which provides the latest information on “liquid culture.” Or get Food & Wine’s new Cocktail app, which lets you search recipes by the alcohol that you have on hand or hunt down the best bars to try the latest and greatest cocktails in your area. Cheers!

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Heart of Glass

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

yanko design

After a weekend of over indulgence for our American readers it may be hard to believe that this is just the start of the holiday season, but there are definitely still festivities to come, and that’s why this post is dedicated to designer glassware. Along with silverware, glassware touches the lips making it integral to the dining experience. If you want to really wow your guests splurge on the good stuff and say goodbye to mismatched wine glasses. Here are a few examples beautifully designed drinking vessels that will keep things sparkling for a long time to come:

carafe and glasses by Bib&Sola

Bib&Sola make some fun and fabulous handblown glassware. I am especially smitten with this  Ash carafe and glass set in rainbow hues. Truly a unique piece that will look just as spectacular on a shelf as on the table.

chisel glassware (set of four) from zgallerie

Give your guests the Midas touch with this set of gold foil-enhanced glassware. Wouldn’t these be completely lux on a holiday table? You can also get the same set in silver, but I’m especially partial to the muted gold.

Mori Sake Cups from canoe

This petite set of sake cups are not technically glassware because they’re made of ceramic, but they are too cute to ignore, and completely gift-worthy.  Each cup feautures a unique grooved pattern that influences how the cup is held. They even come in a little pine box for gifting or storage.

Norman Copenhagen Whiskey Glasses by Bodie and Fou

Whiskey has become the cool drink in town. Connoisseurs know there is both an art and a science to drinking whiskey and these designer glasses take care of both.  The elegantly rounded base nestles in the hand and the shape ensures that temperature, aroma and volume are all in perfect alignment.

wheelie bike pint glasses by vital

Like bicycles and beer? These pint glasses by vital combine great design and a relaxed sense of whimsy. They’re also probably a great present for your impossible to buy for younger brother. He will be pleased, I promise.

Revolution Glassware from luminaire

Last of all is the Revolution set that I hesitate to categorize as glassware; they are much more like sculptures. The volume proportions of each glass are a play on positive and negative space. This is really a set for collectors and aficienados of great design.

Those are just a few of my top picks, but I think glassware, more than any other table accessory, is a matter of personal preference. When looking for new glasses pick them all up and hold them a moment until you find one that feels just right.


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A Shot of Steamy

Image via Burn the Canvas

It’s been gray, damp and dreary where I live. It’s so blah and depressing, it can attract all sorts of melancholy thoughts and sad memories, as the chill moves up from the toes and threatens to move into the heart and head.

Back off, I say.

But then again, this is perfect napping weather. as long as you can cuddle up with something hot and steamy, and I don’t mean Hugh Jackman. I’m going along the lines of something you can pour in a cup and sip, although I wouldn’t mind having a mug of something like Hugh if the opportunity came along.

Here are some examples of steamy hotness that get me (and hopefully, you) through bouts of dull weather or spates of blues.

Hot Chocolate

Chocolate is my happy drug of choice. The first mouthful is the best. It’s when I feel an overwhelming sense of relief, which brings out a sigh that releases all that pent up tension, and suddenly all is right in the world. Chocolate is seriously magical stuff.

Order it, make it from a mix, or make it from scratch, it’ll hit the spot as long as it’s intense and concentrated — I would use two packs of mix if one is too weak.

The best hot chocolate I’ve ever had is from a Max Brenner’s cafe. They serve it in this humongous custom-made mug that fits perfectly in my hand, radiating warmth and happy energy. The concoction itself was Mayan bliss! It packed an extra zing — a hit of chili, nutmeg, cinnamon, and pepper. Woohoo!

Image via Traveling Mamas

The use of warm, earthy, sexy spices — such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, star anise — make these other drinks all the more cuddle-worthy.


Masala Chai, which literally means “spiced tea”, otherwise known simply as “chai”, can be made by steeping tea with a mix of spices, such as cinnamon, cardamom, peppercorns, cloves and ginger. It transforms your regular black tea into something so exotic and fragrant and gorgeous. It’s wonderful with milk, but I also love it without.

Here’s a recipe from Sanjeev Kapoor.

Image via Sanjeev Kapoor

Hot Ginger-Honey-Lemon Drink

I’ve got a scratchy throat and sniffles, and my sweet darling sister made me a hot cup of comforting deliciousness that had ginger, honey, and lemon in it. It was incredibly soothing and made me feel a whole lot better and happier.

Now if you want something even sexier, kick it up a notch — add some liquor! Ha! You’ve then got true blue toddies in your hands.

Hot Toddies

There are lots of versions of toddies, but here is a pretty easy-to-make hot ginger toddy.

Image via Maybe Next Week

Mulled Wine

This is a such a cozy orange-y clove-y drink. Here’s a recipe from Gin and Crumpets.

Hot Butter Rum

How can you go wrong with butter and rum? They’re great as an ice cream flavor, and as ingredients in bananas foster. And as a drink, they’re rich, decadent, and a little bit heady. Here’s how to make it.

Image via Ask Men

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