Category Archives: Raising the Bar

Add Zen to your cocktail and conquer those exotic hearts

greentea

There’s no doubt that the Far East has heavily influenced our health conscious way of thinking in North America. There’s something exotic about thousands of years of tradition and total body health that the Asian philosophy offers. From Tai Chi and Chai Teas (say that 5 times fast) to fresh ginger root, Echinacea and other holistic and alternative remedies, we’re embracing eastern culture in both Canada and the United States like never before and more and more people are looking for acupuncture as an alternative and less invasive form of treatment. What does this have to do with cocktail culture you ask? How about this for alternative medicine…

As you may expect, many spirit and liqueur manufacturers took notice of the trend and the cocktail marketplace is now starting to see new and exciting Asian inspired creations. Although some may consider it a stretch to believe that drinking a martini could be a health conscious decision, having yourself a Green-teani will certainly offer you more healthy benefits than your average rye and coke. Consider that green tea offers tremendous amounts of antioxidants, which have both anti-aging properties and aid in the prevention of disease

With a big number of producers in Canada and the US realizing the growth potential of this market. It seems like there are no shortage of followers as spirit manufacturers align themselves to keep on top of the latest trends.

Baristas have long known the popularity of teas. After water, tea is the second most widely consumed beverage on the planet. Despite the popularity of teas elsewhere, the North American obsession with coffee has left little room in the marketplace for exclusive tea houses, however, most upscale coffee houses will offer a wide range of teas.

With all of these options available it’s hard to know how to create a great drink that will balance the dry taste of tea with spirit or liqueur while exciting your guests and satisfying their discerning palates. Although the basics of cocktail synergy suggest that a bartender balances sweet and sour when creating a custom cocktail, in this case, we’re balancing sweet and dry. Teas will produce a similar dry feel on your tongue to that of a red wine that’s high in tannins. While you may find it difficult to get your hands on some of these spirits and liqueurs north of the border, Mixology Canada Inc. has come up with a non-alcoholic bar friendly solution in the form of Tea Fuzions – a line of unsweetened tea concentrates including green tea, earl grey, orange pekoe, chai and matcha.

Scott Megit, president, Mixology Canada Inc., says the line of tea concentrates were custom blended to allow the tea to be mixed with alcohol. They were created in recognition of a huge resurgence in teas as a cocktail or smoothie base in restaurants, cafés and martini bars.

While I don’t recommend you rely on the anti-aging properties of the Green-teani as your personal fountain of youth, it does make for a tasty beverage, which will appeal to an increasingly curious consumer base.

Keep your eyes open for new trends from the Far East because they are coming strong.

See you behind the bar.

recipe

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A crash lesson in Tequila and Margaritas

azure margarita

To Canadians, the mention of tequila inspires flashbacks of an all-inclusive vacation in Mexico with a delicious agave induced hangover. To others it’s simply a shot that gets thrown back with a lick of salt and a squeeze of citrus fruit to kill the after taste. One way or the other, this spirit has consolidated its place within our drinking culture. Nonetheless, the knowledge about it, it’s poor at best. Well, that is about to change, just keep on reading

Tequila is one of the more versatile spirits. It’s diverse and its great depth of flavour makes it a natural ingredient for cocktails. Despite a massive worldwide tequila shortage in 2000 and the resulting increase in price as supplies diminished, tequila remains one of the premier spirits on any bar south of the border. While vodka still reigns supreme as the number one spirit sold, the cosmopolitan falls light years away to the margarita which has been one of the the world’s most popular cocktails for years now.

Tequila is such a phenomenon that there are upscale tequila around the globe: from New York City to London, to Hong Kong you will find  bars boasting tequila lists with 300-400 brands,  priced in the stratospheric range of a great single-malt scotch. As a rule of thumb, a good tequila venue should have a decent collection of quality tequilas, in particular those of the 100% agave variety and a staff trained accordingly to assist the customers with their choice, as well as to delight them with the top tequila cocktails every time.

In Canada, the presence of government controlled liquor stores limits the selection of tequilas on offer, which results in most provinces having  only a few dozen tequilas available for sale.

To simplify things, here are a few tequila facts to dispel the rumours.

Tequila is usually bottled in one of five categories. Only the first two should be used to mix cocktails

  • Blanco “white” or plata “silver” – not aged white spirit.
  • Oro “gold” – unaged or young, which means that caramel, fructose, glycerin and wood flavoring can be added to resemble aged tequila.
  • Reposado “rested” – aged a minimum of 2 months but less than a year in oak barrels.
  • Añejo “aged” or “vintage” – aged minimum one year, but less than three years in oak barrels.
  • Extra añejo “extra aged”– aged minimum three year in oak barrels

One reason margaritas may have never enjoyed the same success in Canada as they have in the south is due to the fact that most bartenders rim the glass with table salt and the three tiered rimmer “dip and dunk” method. When you’re rimming a margarita glass remember that the rimming ingredient belongs only on the outside edge of the glass, not on the inside, where it will likely become part of the cocktail. Moisten the outside of the glass with a lime and roll the moistened surface in coarse sea salt or kosher salt for your glass rimmer. It’s the easiest way to ensure that your glass is not overloaded with salt. If you must use the dip and dunk method, please do yourself and your guest a favour and wipe the excess off of the inside of the glass with a beverage napkin before you pour the cocktail in and inadvertently create a salt water margarita.

To get you into the world of Tequila and Margaritas here is the following recipe using Kaban, tangerine infused tequila. The synergy of tangerine with the larahas orange flavour of Blue Curacao is a natural match that is appealing to both the eye and the palate.

Made correctly, the tangerine-infused azure margarita will sell itself. With guests rightly demanding more from their bartenders and their dining and drinking experience, it’s important to make sure your staff is well trained.

Until next time keep ‘raising the bar’ in your establishment, because if you don’t, someone else will!

azure margarite recipe

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Aushentoshan Switch Competition August 12th!

Last night I attended the Regional finals (as a spectator, this time) of the Toronto Heats for the Aushentoshan Switch Competition at Rock Lobster Restaurant in Toronto! It was a great turnout of both industry-folk and friends of the bartenders. I would of been a competitor in this mixology competition as well…probably… but my submission did not get to them in time. Ah, such is life. But I’m glad it turned out the way it did, because I would of gotten WHOMPED at this event. Here’s why:

There were some big names present like Michael Webster of Bar Isabel, Adrien Stein of Rock Lobster, and even David Mitton, known to judge competitions like this, was stretching his competition muscles once again. Alongside these industry leaders were some up and comers like  Adam Vogler and Aaron Male. I was quite impressed with the caliber of cocktails and the choices the Mixologists made for their creation.

In the end, second place was awarded to Michael Webster with first place taken by Vincent Pollard! Vincent happens to be a former student of BartenderOne School. At the event, him and I got to reminisce on how his bartending career as grown and he mentioned that it started when I, personally, taught him. I see and meet a lot of people, so I at first I was very humbled, but I definitely remember Vincent from a Get Into The Spirit workshop he attended one evening at BartenderOne.

That’s how it all starts folks.  I say this to all my students: all I hope is that they take one new idea or concept away from a class/lecture/workshop/bartender training that I, or any one of the BartenderOne instructors, teach you. That’s my passion and my reward, and to see it in practice at Toronto Competitions that I attend is heart-warming. Maybe that sounds a little conceited, but that’s why I became an instructor: to make better bartenders, and it’s happening. Oh, it’s happening. Congratulation All!

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IBC Finals Spring 2012

With a new crop of budding mixologists, eager to showcase their learnings from the past 5 weeks, the stage was set for the final exam for IBC 5. 6 new cocktails from each mixologist, thoughtfully assembled and balanced to a tee… well almost!

The vodka, rum, gin, whisky, tequila and brandy cocktails of the evening ranged from simple to complex… here are the highlights!

Faye MacLauglan scored well in many categories with her Sage Advice, Heat Wave and Brandy Twist cocktails however she scored highest in the rum category with her Tiki Tea cocktail pictured below.

Tiki Tea Cocktail

Tiki Tea Cocktail

Lili Shi came up with some imaginative cocktails using ingredients that seldom show up on cocktail menus and scored best with Her Gin (Green Teeth) and Whisky (Bite your Heart shown below) cocktails.

Bite your Heart Cocktail

Bite your Heart Cocktail

Claire Liu made some straight classics (the Sea Breeze) and some Asian inspired new age libations like her aptly named Yellow Tail (pictured below.)

Yellow Tail Cocktail

Yellow Tail Cocktail

Jordan Sanders came up with some of the most inventive and creative applications for cocktails, including a smoked rum cocktail that had a great flavour, and a lesson about using the right amount of smoke in a cocktail, along with the binding and aroma containing elements of egg whites in a cocktail.

Jordan's Ceasaritza Cocktail

Jordan's Ceasaritza Cocktail

Sunny Meng Du tried her hand at some crafty molecular techniques, her Whisky (Sea Salt Whisky Caramel) and Brandy (Nice and Warm) cocktails were both highlights of her flight of drinks.

Sea Salt Whisky Caramel Cocktail

Sea Salt Whisky Caramel Cocktail

The night turned out to be a night of great cocktails, made from every spirit category.  Stay tuned for full recipes coming soon!

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Misconceptions about locations and libations…

Misconceptions…
As a bartender, I frequently deal with guests who have misconceptions about the cocktails I make.  People tend to drink beverages with little or no flavour other than the lime that is squeezed into their lowball.  It is a little beyond me why someone might want to drink something that tastes like nothing, but my own pre-conceptions aside, everyone is entitled to drink what they want.  Far be it for me to tell you what you like!  Give me a chance and I will certainly show you my version of a well balanced creative cocktail, and if you dont like it, I will buy it for you and you can go back to your vodka soda.
I have recently purchased a house with my fiancé, in one of my most unfavoured places, Oshawa, Ontario.  Commonly known as  ”the SHWA”, “the SHWIGGEDY”, I had my own misconceptions that had always had a sour taste in my mouth about this place, that was until I recently met my new neighbor Missy. She welcomed us to the neighborhood with a bottle of gin from her late husband. “I can’t stand the stuff”, she said with a scrunched up face.  That was my cue to show her what a wonderful backbone a good Gin could be in a cocktail that was lovingly mixed.  I had never tried this particular bottle, but I played with it a little and when I was happy with a new gin cocktail that worked with this particular spirit, I decided to invite Missy over for a to taste it. I proceeded to mix her up a cocktail that was adapted from a bartender I met years earlier, but worked particularly well with this spirit.
No.209 gin, Pimms No. 1, Rubicon guava juice, cloudy apple juice, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup & some bruised mint. Finished off with some caramelized Angostura Bitter figs. Needless to say, she had never tasted anything like it and I think I am her new best friend! Just as I had a misconception of the place I now call home & she had a similar misconception of gin. I was reminded of the dangers of passing  judgement on something, because sometimes all it takes is the right individual to show you how it really is.  They say that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. As it turns out, I love to teach people about mixology and bartending and while there is a quiet cocktail culture out here in Durham, I think I shall be the pioneer & unleash some phenomenal cocktails on the taste buds of the SHWIGGEDEZE!. The cocktail was called Gone Native, think I’ll change it to what I am now proud to be….Oshawa Native. From out east, may your vessel never be empty, keep mixing :)
Jeremy!

As a bartender, I frequently deal with guests who have misconceptions about the cocktails I make.  People tend to drink beverages with little or no flavour other than the lime that is squeezed into their lowball.  It is a little beyond me why someone might want to drink something that tastes like nothing, but my own pre-conceptions aside, everyone is entitled to drink what they want.  Far be it for me to tell you what you like!  Give me a chance and I will certainly show you my version of a well balanced creative cocktail, and if you dont like it, I will buy it for you and you can go back to your vodka soda.

oshawa

I have recently purchased a house with my fiancé, in one of my most unfavoured places, Oshawa, Ontario.  Commonly known as  ”the SHWA”, “the SHWIGGEDY”, I had my own misconceptions that had always had a sour taste in my mouth about this place, that was until I recently met my new neighbor Missy. She welcomed us to the neighborhood with a bottle of gin from her late husband. “I can’t stand the stuff”, she said with a scrunched up face.  That was my cue to show her what a wonderful backbone a good Gin could be in a cocktail that was lovingly mixed.  I had never tried this particular bottle, but I played with it a little and when I was happy with a new gin cocktail that worked with this particular spirit, I decided to invite Missy over for a to taste it. I proceeded to mix her up a cocktail that was adapted from a bartender I met years earlier, but worked particularly well with this Gin.

No.209 gin, Pimms No. 1, Rubicon guava juice, cloudy apple juice, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup & some bruised mint. Finished off with some caramelized Angostura Bitter figs. Needless to say, she had never tasted anything like it and I think I am her new best friend! Just as I had a misconception of the place I now call home & she had a similar misconception of gin. I was reminded of the dangers of passing  judgement on something before you have really given it a chance, because sometimes all it takes is the right individual to show you how it really is, or how great it can be!  They say that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. As it turns out, I love to teach people about mixology and bartending and while there is a quiet cocktail culture out here in Durham, I think I shall be the pioneer & unleash some phenomenal cocktails on the taste buds of the SHWIGGEDEZE!. The cocktail was called Gone Native, think I’ll change it to what I am now proud to be….Oshawa Native. From out east, may your vessel never be empty, keep mixing :)

Jeremy!

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Bar Chef Finals Spring 2011

Have you ever tasted a cocktail and thought hmmm I could definitely do a better job myself? Or maybe you have envisioned what you suspected to be delicious mouth-watering cocktails with ingredients one may never normally use in the bar? Six experienced bartenders from Toronto decided to bite the bullet on the evening of May 30th for the spring finals of the International Bartender Certification and each created some masterpieces that tantalised the judges’ taste buds on the night.

IBC Finals Spring 2011

Over the course of five weeks these bartenders attended the BartenderOne IBC course as students and tasted over three hundred different spirits, bitters, liqueurs, sweeteners, infused foams & spirits and alternate types of citrus and cocktails.

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Coffee, Caffe, Café!

Coffee anyone?

Coffee anyone?

Coffee, Caffe, Café! It doesn’t matter where you come from or how you say it: If there is one thing I can’t go a morning with out this would be it. It’s a good thing I live in the Café rich city of Toronto.

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Barback “the backbone of a great bartender”

Running-Back

A running back in football breaks a tackle and runs the whole field for a glorious touchdown run, but no one reflects on the vital block thrown by the fullback that made it all possible.

A lawyer makes a break in a big case and becomes an instant legal star, but who thinks about the members of their team who did all of the vital legwork behind the scenes to make the big break happen?

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The Power of a Good Team

Jeremy presenting his cocktail for the IBC

Jeremy presenting his cocktail for the IBC

Long before bartending even entered my mind the biggest thing in my life was organized sports, more specifically ice hockey. Being part of a competitive sports team taught me many life lessons that have helped shape my life and I often reference them in my day to day travels. Through the years my grandfather was always my biggest fan and one of the things he used encourage was offseason training to stay sharp and ahead of the curve. He used to always say “if you play with better players they will make you better without you even knowing it” Every summer I would train and actively play in summer teams, but it wasn’t until I started playing with players of a higher calibre that I truly evolved as a player. They indirectly pushed me to be better by holding me accountable for my mistakes and making me strive to be at their high level. How this pertains to bartending you ask?

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BartenderOne in New York

Gin and Pears and Rosemary, Oh My!

Gin and Pears and Rosemary, Oh My!

Imagine walking into a phone booth, dialling a number, and being redirected back to a world of sipping cocktails next to Charlie Chaplin, Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald……

On March 11th of this year, I traveled to New York to experience some of North America’s finest Speakeasies and Mixology bars. With only having one amazing speakeasy in Toronto, we were eager to head to the Big Apple and meet the bartenders that compete in Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans.

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