Tuesday, January 24, 2012

There are two types of cocktail parties: The mid-week kind with your Top 6 Favourite People, and those with a more-varied group of near-strangers. The former requires less organization, elicits less stress, and happens more often. The latter deserves a bit of attention, a more extensive plan.

For your friends, it's critical you keep the bar cart stocked with their particulars. For T.J. it's a constant supply of tonic to go with his gin, and at least one bottle of beer for the part of the night when a "cleansing" is required. Mark needs spiced rum, Hannah needs champagne, and while most of our friends drink gin like me (on the rocks with a few thinly-sliced cucumbers), it's critical to have a couple bottles of red wine and some icy-cold white, too. You know, in case straight-to-hard-liquor isn't the mood.

But if you're hosting people for the first time, or a larger group of irregulars, a signature cocktail might be the way to go. While this approach doesn't replace the need for a fully-stocked bar, it's nice to spend some time concocting something special, and tailor-fit to the event you're hosting.

Nobody sets a cocktail menu like our friend John. Last year's Oscar Party deserved its own statuette, featuring drinks inspired by the nominated films. His "Blackout Swantini" involved a healthy thwack of gin and a splash of Blackberry Brandy. I can't wait to see what he'll come up with this year. Tree of Life might inspire something called "Inexplicable Dinosaur Piss". Fingers crossed.

So the next time you host, think of a drink, would you? It doesn't have to be clever or funny. In fact, it could be downright old fashioned.

Photography: Me
Recipe, Food and Prop Styling: Ashley Denton
Props Provided by: Rustica Tabletop

I'm a big, big fan of Canada's first premium gin by Victoria Spirits. By my estimation, it's the only legitimate competition for Hendricks. And, guess what: Aside from their spot-on small-batch gin, they also make oak barrel-aged gin. WHAT? You heard me. They allow the gin to rest in new barrels until it's amber-coloured and caramel-flavoured.

Now my gin can act like my bourbon.

The Victoria Old Fashioned

2 teaspoons rosemary simple syrup*
3 dashes Victoria Orange Bitters
Splash of water or club soda
2 ounces Victoria Oaken Gin

Stir together the sweetener and the bitters. Add a splash of water or club soda, ice, and your gin. Garnish as you please (orange peel or slices, rosemary for that "What the F is in my drink?!" reaction) and serve. Yum.

*Just as with regular simple syrup, bring equal parts of white sugar and water to a boil. But here, throw a few sprigs of rosemary into the mix and allow to infuse the syrup with flavour.


Be My Guest (August 1, 2008)
The Bachelorette (August 14, 2010)
Songs for Winter Cocktailing (December 11, 2011)


  1. That looks very good! Thanks for sharing.

  2. This post makes me very VERY happy...and anxious for a mid-week cocktail with you.
    p.s. the cleansing beer is key!

  3. I've been meaning to try this Oaken Gin - d'you know any spots in Toronto where I could get a glass?

  4. i love gin -- thanks for the grand ideas!! wondering if you have had the occasion to sample Bruecklelen gin*? I'm a big fan of Hendricks and curious to know if it's worth trying.

    *(http://brkdistilling.com/) introduced to it via "Made By Hand" documentary -- no affiliation on my part to either...but worth checking out vid series.

  5. yeah...that's not what i had at the hotel in Utah. sadly.

  6. Also, I'm referring David to this post in hopes that he finds the "manly" cocktail of his dreams.

  7. did you get the oaken gin in toronto? I can't seem to find it in any lcbo's.

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