Tasting Last Week – Part 1

I had two great tasting experiences last week, neither at all beer-related. (Both work and pleasure do occasionally send me into non-beer realms.) The first arrived on Wednesday and took place just up the road from where I live, at the definitive Toronto cocktail destination, Barchef.

I was up to chat with Barchef co-owner and head mixologist Frankie Solarik, and while so doing he generously made me a few cocktails, including two freestyle, tequila-based creations.

It was a duo of whisky-influenced cocktails that really made my head spin, though. The first I had enjoyed once before, when Frankie crafted it “off-menu” for my wife on the Labour Day weekend. I mentioned this before, but got it wrong, I’m afraid, having only had a sip or two of Maggie’s jealously-guarded drink. It was saffron-infused brandy rather than bourbon, plus Islay whisky, an egg white, fresh lime and hickory-smoked simple syrup. It will be on Barchef’s fall menu soon, so if you live in or will be visiting the Toronto area soon, make plans to pay Frankie a visit and try one.

The other wow-factor drink I had that night was Frankie’s signature Vanilla Hickory Smoked Manhattan. Never mind the price tag ($45) or the fact that he uses Canadian whisky (Crown Royal Extra Rare) instead of bourbon, this is something to experience! A heavily smouldering fire is formed around the drink on a metal platter and a glass dome is set on top to contain the smoke, which somehow infuses into (or sticks to?) the drink so that every sip from the first to the very last is a flavour-rich, smoky delight. I arrived a fierce sceptic of this drink, but left a believer who will return for another.

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