In Absinthia: where to sip the strong stuff in Toronto
The legendary wormwood liquor of green fairies, severed ears and global bans is in the midst of a revival. Here, three excellent places to sip the strong stuff.
564 Queen St. W., 647-352-8815
Stepping into the 20s-themed Parkdale parlour is a like taking Owen Wilson’s Midnight in Paris taxi to the belle époque. The pomaded and mustachioed barkeeps shake the most serious absinthe cocktails in the city, like The Lew Field, which muddles Le Clandestine (a blue-hued, Swiss-distilled brand born in 2000), fig syrup and fresh mint with crushed ice in a frosty copper cup. The anise-powered slushy makes a bracing contrast to a plate of briny oysters. $18.
299 Adelaide St. W., 416-599-0299
Behind the bar at Ivan Reitman’s new power restaurant, booze expert James Taylor dispenses La Muse Verte, a top-shelf, 68-proof Bordeaux absinthe rare to Canada. With the enthusiasm and detail usually reserved for oenophiles, he waxes on la louche: the 200-year-old practice of pouring ice water from a tall tower (in this case a vintage replica from BYOB on Queen West) over the chartreuse liquid until its sweet, lemon-grassy aromas bloom. He skips the sugar cube to let the natural floral flavours shine (or punch you in the face, depending on your tastes). “When I bring the tower into the room, heads turn,” he says, “soon everyone wants to try. It’s a brilliant social ritual.” $12.
35 Tank House Ln., 416-203-2632
The 11,000-square-foot restaurant in the Distillery District is the best spot for wormwood neophytes. The bar serves Lucid, the relatively mild-tasting, pale olive-hued absinthe you can find at the LCBO, which keeps the price fairly low. Sugar cubes infused with bitters, like Black Walnut, Lavender and Sriracha, dispense with pretensions of purity and make sampling fun, even if hot sauce and sweet fennel go together like Solange and Jay-Z. $8.