NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Headed to Toronto? I hope you're hungry. And thirsty. And hungry again, because Canada's largest city is bursting with "culinary cocktails," drinks that bridge the bar and the kitchen.
Between the burgeoning local-food movement and a plethora of fab ethnic eateries (Toronto is home to one of the most diverse populations; roughly half of its population is foreign-born, and everyone brings their food with them), it's no wonder all that goodness spills over into the drinks scene too.
I asked a Toronto local who asked not to be identified ("I don't want to hear from the bars I didn't name") about the best Toronto cocktail haunts and received this reply: "Who makes the best cocktails? Where is the best place for a great drink? Are there two more controversial questions?"
However, options abound. Perhaps the hottest cocktail strip is found in the Dundas Street and Ossington area (just west of downtown) with places like Boehmer (www.boehmer.ca/) for wine and classic cocktails and gritty hipster haven Parts & Labour (www.partsandlabour.com/).
Black Hoof (theblackhoof.com/), a bustling and boisterous locavore-oriented spot, is another local favorite.
So seasonal is the cocktail list, the drink menu posted online warns visitors that the items "are not guaranteed to be there when you drop by."
Stick to whiskey or gin cocktails to pair with the Pork Carnitas Tacos; co-owner and sometime bartender (no "mixologists" here) Jen Agg is known for her vocal disdain of vodka.
At BarChef (www.barcheftoronto.com/), helmed by acclaimed mixologist Frankie Solarik, culinary touches include ingredients like honey and black pepper syrup or thyme-infused spiced rum.
Look for molecular mixology drinks with plenty of wow factor (for example, the Sailor's Mojito lists "beach essence," "mojito ravioli," and "vanilla air" among its ingredients).
Meanwhile, hotel-dwelling business travelers may want to take advantage of two great cocktail settings within hotels: the panoramic Roof Lounge atop the Park Hyatt (bit.ly/clsVAE), and the TOCA bar (bit.ly/ijlz8J) within the new Ritz Carlton, where Moses McIntee has made a name for himself with solicitous service and creative drinks like the Watermelon Aloe (watermelon-earl grey tea syrup, aloe water, basil, rum).
RECIPE: WATERMELON ALOE Courtesy of the Ritz Carlton
2 oz Bacardi Superior Rum
1 oz lime juice
0.75 oz Watermelon-earl grey syrup (instructions below)
5 basil leaves
0.75 oz aloe water
Garnish: watermelon slice and basil sprig.
Combine all ingredients in a Boston Shaker, add ice and shake vigorously for a few seconds. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish.
Watermelon Earl grey syrup
1/2 cup earl grey tea (or 10 bags)
2 liters sugar
2 liters watermelon water
Heat the mixture until the sugar has dissolved. Allow to infuse overnight. The next day, fine strain and bottle the syrup.
Editing by Paul Casciato