A few weeks ago, we were invited to sample the creative cocktail concoction of Toronto’s own Simon Hooper, but a week before he was to head off to Amsterdam to compete in the boozy battle that is the Disaronno Mixing Star. Hooper – who spends most of his time behind the bar at spots like Bloke & 4th and the recently opened EFS – had just claimed victory in the Toronto leg of the competition, beating out his counterparts with his luxe libation, Juan Gallardo the Matador. While he may not have claimed the worldwide prize (honours went to Tess Posthumus from the Netherlands), he nonetheless inspired us to follow some ground rules for mixology when we hit up our favourite, ultra exclusive bar: home. Here’s what he taught us…
Don’t Tea-se Me
If you’ve been following the cocktail trends in the city, you’ll notice that tea is taking a prime role in mixology. It’s no wonder: with hundreds of variations on flavour and intensity and dozens of applications for use, tea is a perfect pairing to even the most delicate of spirits. Steep it, use it to steam-infuse flavour, whatever. It’s flagrantly fragrant, and that’s just why we love it.
Judge a Book By Its Cover
We all know that we taste with our eyes first. If we didn’t, chefs would spend little to no time finessing a dish’s presentation before allowing us the pleasure of digging in. Same goes for cocktailing. Hooper employed a glass cover on a round marble slab to infuse the scent of the Lapsang Souchong tea into his cocktails. The smoky tea filled the vessel, along with some dry ice, allowing for a grand reveal. That’s what we call masterful mixology, dahlings.
Savory is Sweet
Gone are the days of Sex on the Beaches and Appletinis. (If you’re still drinking those, stop… immediately.) Cocktails can, and should, have depth of character. Juan Gallardo the Matador succeeded in offering a smoky body which complemented the sweetness in the Disaronno and the spice of the tequila. Save your sweet tooth for the cronut… a cocktail is deserving of your savory savouring.
PLUS: Watch the 2013 Mixing Star Final…