Guest Spots

Sorry about the silence.
I have been spending my online time at Bartender Atlas, if you were curious.

Guest spots are exciting. A real chance to exchange information from person to person without needing a glowing rectangle. In 2012 I took myself on a tour of a bunch of different bars in Toronto to see what everyone in the city was doing. Then it dawns on me that I have been writing on this blog for 4 years now. Ouff.

Anyway, for the first time in my bartending career, I find myself in a place and position where I can start hosting guest bartenders. Tomorrow (Wednesday August 31st) Shane Ely will join me behind the bar at The Harbord Room from 10 until…well, until we’re done.

Shane and I met when we were assigned to the same cabin at Camp Runamok last summer. Since then he has moved from Banff to Vancouver where he spends his nights making drinks at Nightingale and The Granville Room. He competed in a Jack Daniel’s competition that had him present his drink as though he was in a silent film and is currently part of Grey Goose Pour Masters.

The best part about guest spots is that you get a chance to see someone else’s style and check out their influences. I know when I watch a bartender from another city or country make drinks, I think of it like listening to a record by a new band. “Oh, that kind of has a Sonic Youth quality but with a Bad Religion backing vocal and Green Day pop hook” or whatever.

The exchange of information through personal discussion and working in alien environs is one thing that I believe makes for a better bartender.

Come watch Shane and I learn from each other.

Patios are stupid

Sumer time! Huzzah! Warm weather and less clothing and no need for mass transit because we have bikes.

Despite the fact that at various times in my career, patios have made the difference between me getting the nice coffee from the good coffee place and me settling for Tim Horton’s, I think eating on a patio is dumb.

It’s going to smell bad. If it is hot out and food gets spilled there is no way to fully clean it up before the next person sits. Then there will be flies or bees or both. I don’t even care if they land in my food or my drink, they gotta eat too. They land on my neck or my face while I’m trying to catch my napkin before it blows off of my always wobbly table and I feel like the world is just ridiculing me.

Wanna read a book or newspaper? Too bad, the breeze will ensure you read the same sentence 4 times, or that a leaf gets directly in the light you need to see the book.

We have come a long way to make it so that we don’t need to eat outside.

Let me be clear though, drinking outdoors is the best.


Fare & Provisions

Almost immediately after taking on the bar manager job at The Harbord Room I got an e-mail from the people at The Drake General Store. The e-mail concerned a project called Fare & Provisions, where several chefs in Toronto were going to make a condiment or ingredient to go with a very special whisky.

© Jessica Blaine Smith |

The whisky is Wiser’s Last Barrels. It is the closest thing I have ever tasted to a bourbon…made in Canada. God damned delicious is a pretty good way to describe it. I was asked to come up with a cocktail and a feature ingredient to be used with this whisky.

At the time of getting this e-mail I was on a pretty big tiki kick. Whisky and tiki don’t often work (but when they do, look out!), so I was leaning toward spice and fruit combinations. Cinnamon and Grapefruit are pretty good pals, and I figured Honey would tie them together. So I made this.

© Jessica Blaine Smith |

Wilcox syrup, named after Kathi Wilcox, but put into a cocktail with a Canadian Whisky (David Wilcox anyone?) and lemon juice makes for a nice spicy whisky sour I called the Lost Bearcat.

The best news is that you can buy a jar of my Wilcox Syrup at Drake General Stores right now! If you don’t get your hands on any, that’s cool, I will have some behind the bar at The Harbord Room when we change the cocktail menu in a week or two.

© Jessica Blaine Smith |

Photos by Jessica Blaine Smith

Demon In The Sheets

The last cocktail on this list is one of my own. Sandy insisted that I include one of my own. She is full of good ideas.

I only worked officially with Hendrick’s Gin for 9 months. It is a short stint for a brand ambassador, but some things are not meant to be. That said, I still love the gin and the philosophy behind Hendrick’s.

It also worked out that while Evelyn Chick was in charge of The Harbord Room, I sent her a few of the last cases of Quinetum in the world. I am using what’s left for my contribution to the O.G.T.O. Cocktail list.

Essentially a bitter gimlet, this drink is Hendrick’s Gin, Quinetum Tonic Cordial, Lime juice and a muddled piece of jalapeno.


There is something that I would like to add to this entire list of drinks by the people I see as inspiration in Toronto. The 8 bartenders on this list that I am calling Original Gangsters are by no means the only 8.

I asked Jen Agg to be a part of it and she thought the idea was great. As she has always been with me, she was supportive and even though she was in the middle of opening a bar in Montreal she sent me a recipe. The only reason that her drink isn’t on the cocktail list is because I didn’t have access to the proper ingredients. If you are going to make someone else’s drink, you have to make it perfectly.

This is the same reason that Frankie Solarik doesn’t have a drink on this list. Again, I reached out and he loved the idea, but the way that he has built Barchef doesn’t leave room for interpretation.

Kevin Brauch, Gavin MacMillan, Christine Sismondo, Elan Marks, Paolo Dalla Rosa, Gord Hannah and countless others came to mind when I was thinking of who in Toronto shaped the way this city drinks.

There are a lot (A LOT) of bartenders in this city making drinks now that I love too and that are working intently to keep running with what has been laid out before them. If you want to find me outside of the Harbord Room, I will be sitting in front of one of them.

Endless English Summer

This one breaks the rules a little bit. The rest of the cocktails on the current cocktail list at The Harbord Room are from Toronto bartenders who over the last 8 years have contributed to the growth of cocktail culture in this city, not this one though.

The Endless English Summer was created by my friend Evelyn Chick. Evelyn moved to Toronto only a year and a half ago from Vancouver and she was the bar manager immediately before me at The Harbord Room. Her and I had met several times before her moving to Toronto (cocktail competition trips and Tales and my visiting Vancouver) and when she first moved to this city, she stayed at my house for a few weeks until she got set up.

This drink though, whoa. Beefeater Gin, Salted Pernod (“I want to bathe in that stuff!”- Liz Campbell), Fino Sherry and her Green Park Cordial. She won an international cocktail competition with this beast. She deserved it. And that’s why this drink stayed on the list when she passed it off to me.


The Lady Sniper and Ronald Clayton

Dave Mitton owns The Harbord Room. He gave birth to this place and trusted me and my Toronto Legacy Cocktail List idea. He spends most of his time travelling, preaching the gospel of Wiser’s Whisky. Both of these drinks are his creations and they are both boozy and delicious.

The Lady Sniper is made with equal parts Tromba Tequila Blanco, Cynar and Yellow Chartreuse.

The Ronald Clayton is named after Dave’s grand dad or uncle or someone else from Moncton. It is made with vanilla infused Lot 40 Whisky, a sweetened tobacco tincture and maple bitters.


The Velvet Glove

I have written about this drink before. Years ago, when this blog was nothing but, well, a blog…which it still is. Created by Christina Kuypers, who is now one of the higher ups at ICON.

Christina and I first met at The Drake Hotel in 2007 when she was brought on a floor manager. Since then she has been a CAP at Tales of The Cocktail, managed a bar in Vancouver with Simon Ogden, was the head of the cocktail program at Splendido, did some brand ambassadoring (not a word) with Diageo, did a stint at Ursa and laid the ground work for a hotel bar in Dubai.

in 2012 she was working on opening a restaurant with a notable Toronto chef and asked if I would be her bar manager. That is where this drink came from. I think that it is a great addition to the Toronto cocktail list at The Harbord Room. Positioned as our after dinner drink for a series of pop-ups, the Velvet Glove is a an aged rum, Amaro Montengro and Cynar piece of heaven.

She also has one of the best smiles ever.

Doctor’s Orders

Mike Webster is a man possessed. So driven by acquiring knowledge that he breaks a sweat reading about bitters. I am not joking.

He and I worked together at The Drake Hotel for a long time, but he really began to shine through Kindling events (which I mentioned here), and of course Bar Isabel. He was a cap at Tales and we were part of the first all Canadian cabin at Camp Runamok. He is now part owner of Bar Raval and has some other things on the go. This drink for The Harbord Room T.O. Legacy cocktail list, is a very slight variation on the one of the same name from Isabel.

Like a rounded out, spiced up bourbon sour, The Doctor’s Orders is an appropriately named cocktail. Bourbon and Lemon juice with some port, some Dubonnet, plus Angostura and Paychaud bitters.

Here is a picture of Mike and I drinking in an alley.


Winter Mojito

Renata Clingen was a participant in the first cocktail competition I ever attended. Which means she played a big part in making me realize how creative and serious you can be about creating drinks. She was a natural choice for the Toronto Legacy cocktail list at The Harbord Room.

Renata (currently at Valdez) has also had some of the most “out of left field” cocktail ingredients I have ever heard of, even to this day. She made a gin drink with sweet potato milk. She worked at a restaurant (Cafe Belong) at The Brickworks that was so focused on seasonability that her list would change weekly and sometimes daily.

For the cocktail list at The Harbord Room we are using one of her more accessible drinks. The Winter Mojito is made with amber rum, mint, and lime juice. The winterosity (not a word) comes from cranberries and maple syrup.

Here is an interview with Renata from 7 years ago.