Category Archives: Raising the Bar

One Way Ticket to Margaritaville!

Keep the salt on the outside of the glass; nobody can indulge in a great cocktail when it tastes like they are drinking ocean water!

Keep the salt on the outside of the glass; nobody can indulge in a great cocktail when it tastes like they are drinking ocean water!

As a Canadian, when I think of tequila I get flashbacks of an all-inclusive vacation in Mexico with a hangover. To most of us, 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. All of that is about to change…

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 a distant second to the margarita which is the world’s most popular cocktail, and has been for years.

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Sweet on Sours.

Once you have a fresh sour, you will never go back to barmix!

Once you have a fresh sour, you will never go back to barmix!

With the diversity of liqueurs on the market today it is possible to make a drink taste like virtually anything. Distillers have made it easy for mixologists to shape the profile of a drink. With base flavours like vanilla, cacao and hazelnut, it’s no wonder drinks like the Crispy Crunch shooter are consistently popular. I often wonder how long it will take before we see a chocolate martini dessert, where the kitchen begins to mimic the flavours being produced on the bar instead of the other way around. Perhaps the service of fusion dishes in traditional bar glassware like wraps in oversized shooter glasses and dessert mousses in martini glasses is an indication that it’s already
happening.

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Asian Inspired Ingredient Adds Zen to the Green-teani

Yes, you can have a cocktail and indulge in healthy antioxidants at the same time!

Yes, you can have a cocktail and indulge in healthy antioxidants at the same time!

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. Dr. Andrew Romanelli of the Sports Performance Centres says 75 per cent of his patients are looking to 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…

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Who Says “It’s Not Easy Being Green?”

Cocktails with colour draw your guests' attention, making them more likely to try something new!

Cocktails with colour draw your guests' attention, making them more likely to try something new!

From the classic long island iced tea to start off your evening, to a warm and comforting blueberry tea after a good meal, tea flavoured cocktails have been around for forever. The recent surge in popularity of green tea, coupled with the fact that teas are included on more and more cocktail menus, is a great indication that we’re all about to get a healthy dose of antioxidants. In North America, high quality tea products are now more accessible than ever. With its highly publicized health benefits, wholesale tea sales have grown more than 600 per cent in the last 15 years. Trailblazing restauranteurs are noticing the trends from the Far East and incorporating what was once considered a very ceremonial ingredient into today’s cocktail revolution. Matcha is one of the latest types of tea to hit the Canadian marketplace. Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of it, few people, or bartenders for that matter, have. With both Starbucks and Booster Juice recently adding matcha to their menus, it won’t be long before it’s a household name. Just know that matcha is the new chai, and it’s a buzzword that may just turn the industry on its ear.

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Imagination and Culinary Creativity Shake the Bar Scene

The Mojito is many bartender's first step into creating hand-crafted cocktails.

The Mojito is many bartender's first step into creating hand-crafted cocktails.

You may have heard the old cliché that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. For many restaurants and bars, service and product quality in the venue represent that weak link. Through years of systemizing our hospitality concepts, only a few operators have successfully maintained their level of bartender training and product quality. Quite often, it’s easier to practice management by abdication than management by delegation. In other words, it’s easier to fill a position with someone who has enough bartender training to get by, than to take the time and effort to train them to be great! The trouble is your front line employees deserve nothing but the best training; they are after all, the first and last impression that your guests will have of your operation.

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Mixology Mondays – Punches

Alcoholic Punches

Alcoholic Punches

Hot on the heels of one of the most well-attended Mixology Mondays yet, the March round of MxMo could be even bigger. Hosting the March round (that’s Mixology Monday #47 if you’re counting) is Mike at Hobson’s Choice, and for this round Mike has chosen Punch as the theme.

Punches just seem like a great way to get a group of people socially lubricated on something tasty. While bartenders here in Toronto loves the concept of the hand crafted cocktail, a hand crafted punch is not only a bit of a lost art, but an effective way of articulating the finer points of bartending and mixology on a larger scale. Thinking back to cottage weekends when we were younger, there were few summers when we didn’t dump a bunch of booze in a bowl and mix it up with some fruit juice on Saturday, then wake up on Tuesday wondering what the hell went wrong. Even drilling a hole in a watermelon and filling it with Gin is a bit of a primitive punch, although I think today’s offerings are a little more refined and tasty.

Chuck Norris doesnt throw up when he drinks too much... he throws DOWN!!!

Chuck Norris doesnt throw up when he drinks too much... he throws DOWN!!!

Chuck Norris

225mL Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
100mL Navan Natural Vanilla Liqueur
45mL Domaine de Canton
60mL Lemon juice
225mL Apple juice
100mL Pomegranate Juice
10 dashes of Fee Brothers Lemon Bitters

Combine all ingredients in a juice jug and chill for 1-2 hours before service to prevent dilution. Pour chilled mixture into an iced decanter or punch bowl lined with apple and lemon slices.

Makes 1-12 servings depending on how much of a pussy you are. The image of the can on the right has nothing to do with the punch recipe, I just thought it was funny… Chuck Norris doesn’t need an energy drink!

“Punch in the Grill”

500ml Sailor Jerry rum
1.5l peach juice
60ml lime juice
Whole Pineapple, orange and peaches.

Grill slices of pineapple and peach. Brulee orange segments. Allow to cool back to room temperature.
In your grandmothers crystal punch bowl, combine liquids and fruit pieces. Add 2 frozen water balloons (Chambord bottle sized/ balloon removed)
Have guests bring their own pimp cups. YEAH-AH!

“24 Hour Karate School” aka “Punch with a Kick”
24 hour Karate School

Inspired by Duggan Mcdonnell’s (Cantina / San Francisco) Tangerine Collins. I have given his recipe a few roundhouse kicks of my own, to end up with this Punch that even Chuck Norris would drink….and Mos Def would rap about.

Mos Def would be proud

Mos Def would be proud

300ml Shochu (preferably sweet potato based)
180ml Hendrick’s gin
300ml Freshly squeezed Clementine juice
60ml Freshly squeezed Lime juice
120ml Simple syrup
30ml Campari
4 dash MacMonster O.J bitters
2 dash MacMonster ODB bitters
Cava or Prossecco (to serve)
Flamed Orange zest (to garnish)

in a large container combine all ingredients(except sparkling wine) and chill for at least an hour. Fill a large pitcher with and fill with chilled mixture. Stir well. Strain into chilled coupe glasses(appprox 2/3 full) and top with Sparkling wine. Garnish with flamed Orange zest and serve.
This will serve a minimum of 8 drinks, depending on your glassware.
HI-YA!

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MxMo.to – Tea Cocktails

Welcome to this months MxMo, before we start a special thanks to Cocktail Slut for hosting. Schedules didnt permit as large a gathering in Toronto as we would have liked this month, but Rob Montgomery came through with flying colours with “God Save the King” aka “Royal Gin Fizz”

God Save the King with home made MacMonster Bitters

God Save the King with home made MacMonster Bitters

Adapted from the “Silver King” from Wylie Drufresne’s restaurant WD-50 in NYC. A deceptively simple drink that is truly greater than the some of it’s parts. The “Silver King” contained no tea, so I set about to add some. My first attempt of tea infused sweet vermouth was tasty, but lacked a little punch. Digging around the fridge I found a bottle of Lyles Golden syrup. Perfect (give it a try instead of regular simple syrup in your favorite recipe). Once the ratios were right, I added a few drops of vegetable based red food coloring to give the drink a nice royal glow.

60ml London Dry Gin (I used Brockmans but any top shelf will do)
30ml fresh lemon juice
30ml fresh lime juice
45ml Royal Red Sizzurp**
1 dash MacMonster ODB bitters
1 egg white (approx. 30ml)
30ml sparkling water
Orange slice (to garnish)

Combine first 6 ingredients in boston glass and fill with ice. Shake it like you mean it. Then shake some more. Strain over fresh ice in a collins glass. Top with sparkling water. Garnish with orange slice and a straw. Serves 1. Word.

**Royal Red Sizzurp

360ml Strong Brewed Earl Grey Tea
120ml Lyles Golden Syrup
30ml Sweet Vermouth (I used Martini)
6 drops veg based red food color
Combine in a small pot and warm slightly to speed dilution
Will keep in the fridge for 3 weeks before losing freshness.

You can reach Rob at www.themiller.ca where he presides over the bar, or also at kidcampari@gmail.com

If you twit, you can keep up to speed by following @kidcampari, @mcmasterlive, ar @bartenderone

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BartenderOne Cocktails on ET Canada

Recently, BartenderOne teamed up with Fastlife,  Canada’s most stylish speed dating and singles’ events service, for a featured piece on Entertainment Tonight Canada.

The event, named Cocktail Creations, took place at one of Toronto’s elite Nightclub venues, Shmooze.

The evening began as ten single women, and ten single men arrived with hopes of meeting that special someone.   The idea was that the ladies would be behind the bar, making cocktails for their dates.  Every eight minutes the gong would sound signifying the men on the outside of the bar to grab their freshly made cocktail, and rotate to the next date. Every other date would have the ladies creating drinks using fresh ingredients.

To start off, the ladies would receive proper instruction on how to create the cocktail with a little flair from Gavin MacMillan and the BartenderOne team.  They would then recreate two of each drink. One for themselves, and one for their date.

On the menu for the event were drinks such as the Mojito, Cosmopolitan, Margarita, Orgasm, and a Slippery Nipple shooter.

All of the recipes were a huge success, but the biggest reaction was definitely  for the Slippery Nipple. Not for the name or the recipe, but because of how the shooters were to be taken.

The event planners set up a row of ten chairs and asked the men to take a seat.  Then, the shooters were handed out and the men were instructed to hold them between their knees.  The ladies were then told to take back the shooters but were not allowed to use their hands.  Not bad for a first date!

The evening continued on and it was obvious that the singles were loosening up and having a great time.

Some sparks were flying around the room, and a few couples were really hitting it off.

The Entertainment Tonight Canada cameras were there to capture the event in its entirety, including the shooter portion, which for some reason didn’t make it to air.

The episode aired on Friday January 8th, and both FastLife, and BartenderOne gained great exposure.

Thanks to Fastlife and ET Canada for another fantastic event!

 

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BartenderOne Represents Canada at the International Cocktail Experience

In a head to head competition among Canadian bartending schools, and Mixology Companies, and independent mixologists, BartenderOne emerged as the 1st place Champions in the International Cocktail Experience in November 2009.

The 2 day competition involved educational components and drink design and was judged by 3 of the planets top mixologists, Dre Masso, Nick Strangeway, and Frankie Solarik, who owns Toronto’s “Bar Chef.”  BartenderOne’s winning cocktail “The Invisible Touch” was judged based on use of fresh, local, seasonal ingredients along with quality spirits and liqueurs.

The Invisible Touch was created in the style of a “Crusta” a classic cocktail technique where a layer of raw sugar is crusted to the outside of the glass, and allowed to dry.  “This allows the drinker to taste a little bit of sweetness without getting a mouthful of sugar every time they take a sip,” says BartenderOne front man Gavin MacMillan.  “The recipe we created is based on Beefeater 24 Gin, with Wyborowa Exquisite Vodka used to lengthen the flavour of the Beefeater 24 without overpowering the drink with juniper and Gin’s other botanicals.  Then we added Cointreau and Hand Squeezed Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice to a base of muddled blueberries and lemon bitters.”

One of the elements that a lot of people overlook in a cocktail is the quality of the ice that you use.  “We used large, cold, fresh ice cubes” MacMillan explains, “the decrease in surface area of larger ice cubes means that your cocktail doesnt get diluted nearly as quickly.”

Competitions like this continue to elevate the skill level of Mixologists, through collaboration, education and the exchange of tips, tricks and ideas.  BartenderOne owner Gavin MacMillan travels to dozens of Mixology competitions and conferences every year.  It’s the only way we can stay on top of the industry, and ahead of the curve for bartender training.  Having a bartending school is a big responsibility, our graduates will be the next generation of mixologists who will be making drinks for you and me.  Our program changes constantly to reflect new techniques that are emerging around the world, to make sure that the Bartenders that leave our program truly understand what it takes to be successful at an international level.

For a long time, learning to Bartend in Toronto, meant going to a classroom and learning with coloured water and juices, we saw an opportunity to use real ingredients in our training, and give our students the opportunity to taste what the cocktails, martinis, wines and beer are like instead of just imagining it.  Its nice to finally have the opportunity to compete head to head with other bartending schools, it gives us an idea of where they’re at in terms of their training, and is a nice reminder that BartenderOne is moving in the right direction.

The Grand Prize for the Competition was a one week, all expenses paid trip to London, England, and Warsaw, Poland to meet and exchange ideas with some of Europe’s top Mixologists, and included a tour of the UK’s top mixology bars.  “We’re very proud to represent Canada, and very much looking forward to defending the title next year!

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Fresh cocktails may take a little longer, but the result is worth the wait

Cocktails made with fresh ingredients

rosemary-bar-1-72

Few (if any) would ever think of asking an executive chef to rush cooking a medium rare steak or hurry up and assemble a perfectly prepared meal. Yet for some reason people won’t wait for a well made drink.
In an era where time is of the essence, consumers need to understand building a drink with fresh ingredients is well worth the wait – the taste is a world apart from what they have come to expect from the average cocktail made with post-mix bar syrup or powder.
With all the talk of mouth-watering, hand-crafted cocktails coming out of bars in London, New York and San Francisco (and the associated profitability), bartenders in Canada have been hard at work designing recipes made with fresh ingredients, homemade syrups, artisanal bitters and infused spirits. And as many Canadian bartenders transition from making rum and cokes to more labour intensive drinks like handmade mojitos, guests are noticing a change in the time it takes to get their drink.
Though no one is immune to the cultural shift in expectations that has led consumers to expect quick service, a well trained bartender should be able to engage in conversation while preparing a drink, either to educate the client on the cocktail they’re about to enjoy or simply learn a little more about the person they’re serving.
Perhaps the average consumer isn’t ready to embrace a well made cocktail because they don’t know what one looks like, much less tastes like. And educating bartenders about spirits and liqueurs that they’re not familiar with is like introducing a new crop of ingredients to a chef. Most consumers and many bartenders are intimidated by their own lack of knowledge about spirits and liqueurs.
Need proof?
Make two whisky sours – one with a post-mix or powdered bar mix and the other with the following recipe:

1.5 oz whiskey
Juice from half a fresh lemon, squeezed
1 bar spoon sugar
1/2 oz egg white
3 dashes of Angostura bitters

Taste both while blindfolded; there is no comparison.
The more knowledge imparted to staff, the more they will sell higher margin spirits. Teach bartenders to assemble a well made cocktail and it will boost an operator’s bottom lime. Though it might take some time, it’s well worth the wait.

Gavin MacMillan is a master mixologist, bar chef and owner of BartenderOne Corp., Canada’s fastest growing group of bartender training facilities. Gavin is an award-winning flair bartender and published author. He is also considered one of Canada’s leading authorities on cocktails and mixology. Contact Gavin at gavin@bartenderone.com.

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