Cocktail for Canada Day

July 1, 2009

Campari & SodaSince Italian bitters such as Campari and Cynar are bringing Milanese flare to fancy urban lounges and patios this summer, bitters seemed like the perfect place to start when I considered developing a Canada Day Cocktail.

I love the dry, quenching taste of a classic Campari and soda like the one pictured here (Thanks for another great photo, Tracy Cox!) but I wanted to make something even more summery for our country’s birthday. In the end I combined yummy, cold watermelon with campari to create this Campari Canadiana pitcher drink that you can share with friends. Cheers!

Campari Canadiana

1/3 cup (75 mL) campari
1/3 cup (75 mL) sweet vermouth
3 cups (750 mL) watermelon chunks
2 cups (500 mL) crushed ice

Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until slushy and evenly combined. Serve in tall glasses with a straw and a stir stick. Makes 6 servings.

Classic Campari Cocktail

1 oz (30 mL) campari
1 oz (30 mL) sweet vermouth
1 orange wedge

Fill a double old-fashioned glass almost full with ice. Add the campari and vermouth and squeeze the orange wedge over the glass. Top with soda and garnish with the orange wedge.

Do you have a special Canada menu or drink that you serve every year?

Caipirinha: The perfect summertime cocktail

May 27, 2009

CaipirinhaLooking for the perfect drink for summer? Look no further than the citrus-y, sweet caipirinha (pronounced kai-per-een-yah), a signature drink for Brazil’s Carnivale where revelers really need something to help them cool down after hours of dancing in the hot sun!

While articles like this one in the Chicago Sun Times talk about caipirinha variations made with raspberry and other flavours, I see no reason to reinvent an already fantastic drink that’s easy to make. There are four ingredients in a classic caipirinha: fresh limes, fruit sugar, crushed ice and cachaça (pronounced ka-shah-sah), which is made from sugar cane and tastes similar to white rum.

Want to make one right now? Follow these easy steps:

1. Cut half a lime into four pieces. Place in a cocktail shaker or sturdy glass. Sprinkle over 2 tbsp (30 mL) sugar and muddle the limes using a wooden cocktail muddler or a wooden spoon until the mixture is juicy and a lot of the sugar has dissolved.
2. Pour in two shots of cachaça and stir well. Transfer to a double old-fashioned glass and top with enough crushed ice to fill the glass. Stir before serving.

By the way, my friend and professional food photographer Tracy Cox took the photo for today’s post. After this shot was taken, she and I and Sabrina took these very drinks outside to our Test Kitchen patio and toasted the sunshine on Victoria Day Monday. After all, if you’re working on a holiday, there should be some perks, right? You can see more of Tracy’s work on her website.

Weird things you can do with vodka

January 23, 2009

skittlesvodkaPhoto credit:

Over the holidays I felt sorry for vodka. People were drinking gin martinis, Manhattans and many other spirit based drinks but vodka bottles, the former darling of the modern bar, were growing dusty on the back shelf. In fact, I made only one batch of pomegranate martinis during the whole festive season.  

Always keen to help a friend (even if it is a distilled spirit) in need, I did a little internet sleuthing and discovered that a strong faction of vodka support remains.

Check out these interesting ways to enjoy vodka. They might come in handy as you couch surf in the next few wintery weeks enjoying the return of Battlestar Galactica, Lost and Damages (oh, how I love a cocktail and a good hour long drama!):

Skittles vodka
Vodka in a tube
Sweet Tea vodka

And, if you want some truly innovative ways to use vodka around the house, consult this list.

What’s your favourite use for vodka? Do you drink it in martinis, infuse it with candies or use it as a foot odour cure like the site above recommends?


Gin and Tonic revisited

March 24, 2008

Gin and tonic

One of my first experiences with drinking alcohol involved gin poured into a Sprite bottle so that it could be consumed incognito. I won’t tell you how old I was or where this undercover ‘Sprite’ was consumed (those details will only make people question the quality of the parenting I received and that wouldn’t be fair. My parents were actually pretty good at their job. It was me who wasn’t good at following rules).

But I digress…. this post is not about how I squandered my youth and in the process came to loathe gin, but about how I rediscovered gin now that I am a sensible adult. My cocktail mentor Len Fragomeni, owner and chief mixologist at the Toronto Institute of Bartending (BTW, if you have to be institutionalized, this is the best place I’ve found to be incarcerated) and I worked on a project last year to promote Bloody Caesar cocktails. While I created food to go with Caesars, Len focused on reinterpreting this classic Canadian drink in new and interesting ways. One of his drink creations was gin based and, as the weeks went by and I learned more about gin from Len, I was lured to try this juniper-scented spirit anew.

The rest of the story is rather predictable. Gin and I flirted for a few weeks, which led to a sip here, a sniff there. Then, one day gin and I found ourselves running toward one another in slow motion only to meet and fall into one another’s arms in a passionate embrace. (Oh wait a second, that wasn’t gin and I at all. That was the end of the Hallmark movie of the week, which I watched on PBS while drinking gin).

Regardless of how it happened, I am now a Gin and Tonic drinker. Although I joked about its effects above, I find I need only one gin and tonic to feel satisfied. I’m also fussy about the gin. I’ve fallen for Hendricks gin; it has subtle cucumber and rose flavors that make it a fresh, palate bracing choice. I use a double old-fashioned glass filled almost all the way up with ice for my G&T (that’s what aficionados like me call them). Try one after dinner while you watch Jeopardy. I’ll toast you during the first commercial break.