Sort-of Secret: Radio Cocktails, a boutique virtual bar delivering bottled cocktails and salumi boards
A series that shines a spotlight on the city’s hidden edible gems
The sort-of secret: Radio Cocktails, a boutique virtual bar specializing in classic recipes (in partnership with Italian restaurant Il Covo)
You may have heard of it if: You follow industry veterans Luca Cesaretti or Gina Aguilar on Instagram
But you probably haven’t tried it because: The small-batch operation has only been around for one month
In December last year, the government finally green-lit the sale of bottled cocktails for takeout and delivery: truly the stuff of dreams in the pre-pandemic era. Radio Cocktails, a self-titled “virtual bar” by husband-and-wife team Luca Cesaretti and Gina Aguilar, deals in beautifully executed classics at accessible price points. Think reliable flavour profiles—negronis, manhattans, martinis—stabilized for months-long shelf life (in your fridge), and sometimes accented with house-made mix-ins.
Each cocktail is ready to drink straight out of the bottle, so there’s no need to shake or stir. (Feel free to pour into a glass, though. Or not. It’s up to you.) The gin martini, for instance, is balanced with a small amount of water, replicating the slight dilution you’d normally get from ice. Speaking of martinis, the espresso variety is a standout—it’s velvety smooth and just sweet enough, with deep, punchy flavour thanks to house-made coffee liqueur and brewed Italian espresso. The dark, boozy Toronto cocktail, made with Fernet Branca and Canadian whiskey, is another early favourite.
“We like to tell the stories behind our cocktails on social media, as we usually do with customers at the bar,” says Cesaretti. He and Aguilar are bonafide industry veterans—they met working at Jerry Thomas, Rome’s famous speakeasy, where he worked the bar and she was a floor manager. The pair married and moved to Toronto in 2017, when Cesaretti took up the post of bar manager at Little Italy’s Il Covo, where he’s worked ever since. He’s been mixing drinks since his teenage years, having worked his way up in the bars and speakeasies of Rome, Milan and his hometown of Rimini—a vibrant hub of beachside nightlife on the Adriatic coast. Until the pandemic, Aguilar worked front of house at Riverside’s Est restaurant—she handles the logistics, marketing and graphic design for Radio Cocktails.
The margarita is spirit-forward, but balanced. A house-made cordial of lime peels, juice and sugar gives it a sharp, citrusy freshness you just won’t find in a regular bottled mix. Keep it in the freezer and drink straight up or on the rocks. The negroni, too, benefits from a house-made flourish: it has all the classic ingredients—gin, sweet vermouth, Campari—along with a mildly spiced wine reduction brewed with hints of cinnamon, sugar and orange peel. The accents here are just that: lovely but barely detectable, with no detraction from the primary flavours. Each cocktail comes in a pretty, wax-sealed bottle (the cheery labels were designed by Aguilar).
“We aim to be recognizable and affordable. These drinks are for everyone,” says Cesaretti. The price points are a major draw here, especially given the quality—each half-litre bottle contains enough for five drinks and costs $39 (except the Negroni, which costs just $29). At that price, you can safely round out your perfect night in with their selection of breads and preserves, cold cuts and cheeses. The best deal is the full kit ($49), that comes with two house-made ciabatta buns, marinated olives and artichokes, creamy burrata with olive and sea salt, and a selection of three cold-cuts: salame milano, paprika- and chili-spiked salame ventricana, and delicate bresaola.