Food & Drink

The city’s latest cocktail trend is savoury, salty and sometimes even soupy

Featuring Project Gigglewater’s pho-inspired cocktail along with other umami sips and home-bar essentials

By Kate Dingwall| Photography by Ashley van der Laan
Project Gigglewater owner Alfred Siu

The components of a cocktail menu are pretty standard: liquor, simple syrup, soda, citrus, bitters, seaweed, mushrooms, bean sprouts—wait, what? At his Dundas West cocktail bar, ­Project Gigglewater, owner Alfred Siu offers a drink dubbed Pho Get About It, a rum-based beverage that’s all about savoury flavours. To make it, he starts with a mis en place of pho essentials: star anise, cinnamon, coriander, fennel, cloves and cardamom. Siu infuses Plantation rum with those herbs and spices, then shakes it with lime juice and a cilantro-basil rice milk syrup. The final creamy green product is finished with a sprig of Thai basil and some bean sprouts. It’s like the gazpacho version of pho, but boozy.

Project Gigglewater owner Alfred Siu putting the finishing touches on the Pho Get About It, his soupy, savoury pho-inspired cocktail

Drinks like Siu’s soupy sipper lean harder into umami and oddball flavour combos than the caesar or dirty martini, the OG savoury cocktails. “A lot of people mastered classic cocktails at home during the pandemic lockdowns,” says Siu. “Now, bars have to innovate to keep things interesting.” Down the street at Cocktail Bar, Salad Days is a bright and briny gin gimlet of sorts with Roma tomato, lemon, olive oil and a syrup made from green pepper and arugula. “For when you’re feeling healthy,” the menu cheekily suggests.

Three savoury essentials from the Cocktail Emporium

Bittermilk's New Orleans–style Old Fashioned Rouge syrup

Bittermilk New Orleans–Style Old-Fashioned Rouge Syrup This syrup is made with licorice, spice, wormwood, fennel and gentian root layered together in Kentucky bourbon barrels. Add a splash to your favourite whiskey. $25,

Addition's curry cocktail tincture

Addition’s Curry Tincture These cocktail “spices” pack big flavour into small bottles. This particular tincture gets its mild spice and earthiness from a whack of turmeric. A few drops of it in a bold whiskey will work wonders to enhance the complexity. $26

Singers' black garlic caesar rimmer

Singers’ Black Garlic Caesar Rimmer The caesar is the ultimate savoury cocktail—briny, spicy and tomato-y. This rimmer emphasizes the drink’s umami backbone with a blend of black garlic, salt and mustard powder. $13

More savoury sippers

Bar Koukla: Essentially a Greek salad in a glass, the vodka-based Kapsoura Martini combines tomato, celery, cucumber, onion, Kalamata olives and porcini.


Little Sister: The Mike Made Me Do It, a boozy take on jamu juice, a turmeric-ginger Balinese health tonic, combines rye whiskey and bourbon with fresh lemon, raw-sugar syrup and yellow curry.


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