Cocktail preferences can be very personal. Some folks like their booze served fizzy and fruity, a tall ade to refresh and wash away the day. Others prefer a stiff drink, one that tastes of hooch and means business.
The trend of late among sophisticated barflies is to order cocktails based on ingredients — call 'em out, and see what your neighborhood mixologist can do. The goal: a balanced drink that tastes so good you'll order another.
The Toronto cocktail provides three flavor experiences in perfect, elegant balance: a beloved brown liquor, a rich sweet base and a deeply bitter finish.
Wade Hall McElroy, managing partner and bartender at Chicago's Sportsman's Club, defines the Toronto as a simple whiskey drink.
"It fits into the same wheelhouse as an Old Fashioned — it's like an Old Fashioned with a dose of Fernet."
The Fernet he refers to is Fernet Branca, a member of the increasingly popular amaro (bitter) family of digestifs. In fact, McElroy calls it a "super-digestif, that leans more to the bitter, bracing" end of the amaro continuum. Another key ingredient, rye whiskey, provides the boozy, spicier-than-sweet notes that distinguish it from bourbon.
Many bartenders (McElroy included) prefer making bar syrup from raw demerara sugar for its toffeelike notes, which adds depth along with sweetness to whiskey drinks. The final touch comes from Angostura bitters, which offers classic herbal notes and a true aromatic bitterness.
The drink is served "down" (as opposed to "up" or "on-the-rocks"), meaning stirred with ice and then strained into a rocks glass instead of a martini-style vessel. Part of the appeal of this drink is its rich mouth feel, and serving it on ice would encourage dilution.
A recipe for the Toronto appeared in "The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks," David Embury's 1948 bar manual that has since become standard reading for bartenders worth their jiggers. Embury called for Canadian whiskey instead of rye, so that may explain how it came to be named for Canada's city on Lake Ontario, although some native Canadians claim it was invented by Italian digestivo-loving immigrants in 1920s Toronto.
The drink enjoyed some popularity in the late 1940s in New York and, luckily, has lately been revived by Fernet fans.
Makes: 1 cocktail
Adapted from Sportsman's Club.
2 ounces rye whiskey
1/4 ounce Fernet Branca (1/2 tablespoon)
1/8 ounce demerara syrup (1/4 tablespoon)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Combine all ingredients over ice in a cocktail mixing glass. Stir thoroughly, then strain into a chilled rocks glass. Garnish with a strip of orange peel.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun