Five DIY cocktails for a stay-at-home summer

Five DIY cocktails for a stay-at-home summer

Toronto’s best bartenders are conjuring up killer cocktails at home—and now you can, too

Princess Quarantine Spritz

A drink made with pantry supplies from Project Gigglewater’s Alfred Siu

Project Gigglewater’s Alfred Siu isn’t letting the pandemic rain on his parade—he’s spending his at-home time sipping on vacation-worthy cocktails. His favourite drink recipe is a super-laid-back concoction. “I didn’t want to brave the outdoors to stock up, so I made this cocktail using ingredients I already had in my kitchen.” It’s just bubbles, jam, lemon and a splash of aperitivo. “A little bit of this, a little bit of that, and you’ve got yourself a tasty little treat!”

What’s in it
A splash of cava or sparkling wine
1 tbsp of berry jam or marmalade
A splash of fortified wine (sweet vermouth works with jam and Lillet works for marmalade)
1 lemon wedge
Glass: Wine or rocks glass

How to make it
1. Add ice to a wine glass
2. Mix one hefty tablespoon of jam with a splash of water and pour it into the glass. Don’t worry if the jam settles at the bottom
3. Cut a small lemon wedge and squeeze the juice into the glass—just enough to brighten up the drink
4. Add a splash of vermouth
5. Top off with cava

Withnail & I
A fruity, scotchy cocktail from Sandy De Almeida of the Drake

“As a lifetime collector of books, records and movies, I’ve basically been preparing for lockdown my whole life,” says De Almeida, whose collection of John Cassavetes DVDs came in handy when she was homebound. “I tend to create drinks with accessibility in mind, because I want to be able to enjoy them wherever I am and not just in the bar I work at,” she adds. Case in point: this simple scotchy cocktail with some pear and vanilla for a hint of fruity freshness.

What’s in it
2 oz blended Scotch whisky
¼ oz Laphroaig (or any Islay scotch)
¼ oz vanilla syrup
2 slices ripe pear
Lemon zest
Glass: Double old-fashioned

Vanilla syrup:
1. Add 1 cup granulated sugar and ½ cup water to a small saucepan over medium heat
2. Add Madagascar vanilla paste to taste, or a couple of vanilla pods, slit down the middle
3. Stir until sugar is dissolved
4. Let cool, then pour into a glass jar and seal tightly with a lid. (If you’re using vanilla pods, De Almeida recommends letting them infuse for a few days)

How to make it
1. In a mixing glass, muddle the pear slices and vanilla syrup
2. Add in both whiskies and ice. Give it all a stir
3. Fine strain into your glass using a sieve or a coffee filter (you don’t want pear bits in the final cocktail)
4. Squeeze and twist the lemon zest over the drink

Red Eye #2

A bright and savoury mezcal-based highball from Reuben Virasami of Maple Leaf Tavern

During the pandemic, balance is key for Maple Leaf Tavern’s Reuben Virasami. “Some days, I’m incredibly productive, putting together virtual spirits education seminars. Other days are just spent with family and Netflix.” In between episodes of whatever he’s currently bingeing, Virasami makes simple cocktails for himself and his family, like this mezcal-based highball. “I like fresh and light drinks to fit the season, but I wanted to add a savoury element as well.”

What’s in it
1 ½ oz mezcal (Virasami prefers Mezcal Agua Santa)
1 ¼ oz black cherry juice
¾ oz fresh lemon juice
½ oz rosemary syrup (see below)
3 dashes of green
Tabasco sauce
1 ½ oz sparkling water
A cocktail onion and a rosemary sprig for garnish
Glass: Collins

Rosemary syrup:
Add ¼ cup of sugar and ¼ cup of water to a pot. Simmer with a single sprig of rosemary until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, keep covered and allow to infuse for two hours. Strain and refrigerate when cool.

How to make it
1. Add everything except the soda into a cocktail shaker filled with ice
2. Shake vigorously for six seconds, then add the sparkling water
3. Fill a tall Collins glass with ice
4. Give the mixture one more stir, then pour it into the glass
5. Garnish with a cocktail onion and a sprig of rosemary

Sammy Paradise

A cucumbery martini from Chris Anderson of the Walrus and Ivory Room

Martinis are Chris Anderson’s calling card, and the classic cocktail is what’s getting the Walrus bartender through these trying times. For this take on a martini, Anderson incorporates some common kitchen staples—olive oil, pepper, salt—and he lets the vodka act as a blank canvas. “The most unique element of vodka is the mouthfeel. My favourite, Prairie Organic, is distilled from corn, which gives it a more viscous texture. I wanted to highlight that.”

What’s in it
2 oz vodka (preferably Prairie Organic)
½ oz dry vermouth (Anderson likes Dolin)
3 slices cucumber
1 ½ oz infused olive oil (see below)
Lemon zest
Cucumber ribbon for garnish
Glass: Martini, Nick and Nora, wine or rocks glass—no need to be picky right now

Infused olive oil:
1. Add 1 ½ oz of olive oil to a small saucepan and put on low heat
2. Add a tablespoon of peppercorns (ground pepper works too) and a pinch of salt
3. Simmer for five minutes
4. Strain through a coffee filter into a Mason jar and let cool

How to make it
1. Muddle the cucumber in a cocktail shaker (a solid drinking glass works just fine)
2. Add the vodka and vermouth
3. Add some ice and stir for about 30 seconds, or until the outside of the vessel is cold to the touch
4. Strain into your glass
5. Add four to five drops of your infused olive oil. The mixture should float right to the top
6. Squeeze and twist your lemon zest over the top of the cocktail
7. Feeling fancy? Add a skewered cucumber ribbon

Jungle Bird
A tropical tiki drink from Alana Nogueda of the Shameful Tiki Room

For Nogueda, owner of Parkdale’s Shameful Tiki Room, the last few months have been busy, despite the lockdown. She’s been working with the Bartenders Benevolent Fund, a non-profit financial resource for hospitality workers, and leading virtual cocktail tutorials with her team. The boozy Jungle Bird is one of her favourite drinks. “It’s tropical and refreshing but also a little bitter, and it will have you thinking of better times. Plus, you don’t need a ton of fancy ingredients.”

What’s in it
2 oz pineapple juice
½ oz lime juice
¼ oz simple syrup
¾ oz Campari
1 ½ oz dark rum
Glass: Rocks

Simple syrup:
1. Add ½ cup granulated sugar and ½ cup water to a small saucepan over medium heat
2. Stir until sugar is dissolved
3. Let cool, then pour into a glass jar and seal tightly with a lid

How to make it
1. Put all your ingredients in a shaker
2. Add ice and shake hard for about 10 seconds or until the outside of the shaker is nice and frosty
3. Pour into a rocks glass
4. Garnish with a few pineapple fronds