Seasonal Spirits: Welcome winter with these eight bartender-approved bottles
As we keep our rosÃ© by the pool and our Aperol ready for the spritz until next summer, it’s time to bring out more seasonal bottles: spirits and homemade liqueurs to thaw our chilly souls and transport us. until spring.
Think of them as the alcoholic equivalent of a cable-knit sweater: comforting spirits filled with warm notes of baking spice, honey and hot apples. Pour a little into a toddy, add your hot chocolate, prepare an old-fashioned autumnal or sip them pure by a fireplace.
To help you get your home bar ready, we asked eight savvy Toronto bartenders to weigh their favorite cold-season bottles (and what to do with them).
Zwack Unicum, $ 27
âI always orient my cold drinks towards amaros and digestives. At this time of year, I find I eat heavier foods, so the hot spices are comforting. This cold season I switched to a Hungarian liqueur called Zwack Unicum. It comes in this adorable bottle that looks like it’s from a bygone era. It’s bitter, so use it sparingly – I’d instead throw it Angostura bitters in a manhattan, or maybe add a bar spoon’s worth in a boulevardier. âRob Granicolo, co-owner of the Cry Baby gallery (1468 Dundas Street West)
Boulard Calvados Pays d’Auge, $ 51
âMy favorite autumn / winter spirit in this climate is Calvados. It is an apple brandy from Normandy made like cognac, but with apples instead of grapes. What you get is a sweet, strong, sweet, earthy apple brandy that literally fits a queen – calvados is the regimental drink of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada. It’s the perfect spirit for a cold evening, and you can sip it neat at room temperature, over ice, or mixed into a cocktail. âSandy de Almeida, bartender at Drake Hotel (1150 Queen St. W.) and Paris Paris (146 Ossington Ave.)
Ren Vodka, $ 52
âWhen the temperature drops, people usually start to turn to more edgy cocktails – stronger drinks that warm you from the inside out. I love supporting Canadian companies that source local ingredients, and Ren Vodka does just that, while delivering high quality vodka with a unique flavor profile. This is my favorite, thanks to its velvety mouth feel and smooth finish. The subtle flavors let it fit in a martini or add it to a fruity or citrus cocktail – it won’t completely take over or steal the show. Try it in a winter spiced cosmos for the holidays. âBlake Canning, bartender at Butcher Chef (8 Harbor St.)
Rum Bumbu Original, $ 61
âI love a good bottle of aged rum like Bumbu – a Barbadian rum made from a 400-year-old recipe – in large part because of its versatility. The comforting notes of cinnamon, toasted nuts and allspice blend perfectly with other fall and winter flavors and spices. My personal favorite way to enjoy aged rum during the colder months is to add a bit of it to hot chocolate or coffee. Or try it in a hot toddy, but keep a bottle handy all year round – it’s excellent in a classic daiquiri in the summer. âZoe Carey, bartender at Harriet’s (550 Wellington St. W.)
Japanese harmony Hibiki, 140 $
âThis season I’m drinking Hibiki Japanese Harmony, created by the iconic whiskey house Suntory. As a bartender, I always strive for balance in drinks, and this whiskey is an outstanding example of finely balanced nuances. It’s expertly blended from three distilleries and aged in five types of casks, merging the decadent flavors in perfect harmony. For me, the best way to drink it is neat on ice. I think the master blender took care of the mixing and all that remains is to savor! âGabor Fodor, Global Bar Manager at Chotto Matte (161 Bay St.)
Brandy St-RÃ©my, $ 43
“What screams other cold remedy than French cognac? This bottle is aged in virgin French oak barrels before aging longer in traditional brandy barrels. This technique adds a round layer of sensation. on the palate with that warm, balanced sweetness, but there is no added sugar or syrup – the natural sweetness will help you achieve cocktail perfection. Plus, less sugar means less hangover. This bottle is exactly what you need to lift your spirits during Canadian winters. âMatt Conway, Director of Beverages at Pastiche (59 Ossington Ave.)
Aberlour A’Bunadh, $ 95
âWhiskey is my favorite winter drink, especially when aged in sherry oak barrels. I generally like it clean, while looking at the fireplace on a cold, snowy evening. My favorite winter whiskey is Aberlour A’Bunadh, a beautifully rich Speyside whiskey aged in Spanish Oloroso sherry casks. My favorite cocktail is a negroni when I go out, but when the weather changes, my negroni changes too: I change the gin for a rich and warm scotch and I add a few drops of bitter orange. âDin Jusufi, Director of Beverages at Farzi CafÃ© (100 City Center Dr., Mississauga)
Lustau Amontillado Los Arcos Sherry, $ 18
âOne of my favorite bottles to take this season is a good Amontillado sherry. It’s awesome, dry, and a little out of the ordinary – like the stuff grandmothers used to put in the back of the closet. That said, sherry has made a comeback in recent years, and for good reason! It has a low blood alcohol level and works great as a base or as a substitute in classics. Notes of nuts, herbs and dried fruits are very versatile. My favorite is a sherry cobbler, with some added winter spices like cinnamon and allspice. âEvelyn Chick, beverage expert and owner of Ahma (1564 Queen Street West)
JOIN THE CONVERSATION