Tap in to Winter

Tapped Out and Ni9

Well, we didn't expect it so soon or so fiercely, perhaps, but it was inevitable. Winter.

But let's not forget that winter has its benefits - including a chance to focus on indoor pursuits, to create warmth in whatever style suits you. Cocktailing is one such activity (in moderation, of course!) and we have a couple of very special ingredients to mention as we anticipate warm flavours to battle the cold outside.

First, Graeme Foers has a history right here in our neighbourhood but much of his time is spent in the woods handcrafting his Tapped Out Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup. Now, if you ever went to a sugaring off in the bush you might have a memory of taps in the trees and lines running from all around the lot to a tank in the middle. To some people that's quaint and they know that maple syrup operations run the gamut from mom & pop farms to industrial scale evaporation processors. Tapped Out makes even the mom & pops look like a factory floor. He is literally asking each tree for permission to take sap and collecting it individually, keeping the fires burning all season long to make the best maple syrup there is and then aging it in bourbon whiskey barrels brought up from the States.

Nickel 9 Distillery is also very close to home - just a few blocks away in the Junction - and making a mark with a couple of spirits available at LCBO stores. But they've also released this wonderful line of aromatic bitters. Some - like the hibiscus or the lavender citrus or the grapefruit orange - could be used to summon summer in a glass if you're so inclined. But I'm looking at the smoked apple and the cedar cherry bark and the rosemary black peppercorn and thinking I could just lean into winter quite comfortably.

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Rocking Like Roncy

Kinsip Sampling at Roncy Rocks

We all know that Roncy rocks, generally speaking. But tomorrow is the day when the street puts that sentiment into action (and music) with one of the city's best street festivals, drawing on both visiting talent (like the Conor Gains Band) and neighbourhood heroes (like Lindy Vopnfjord). For a complete rundown of participating musicians, artists and vendors, check out Roncy Rocks online.

Our part in the festivities is pretty low-key - we don't have a BBQ or anything. But we do have lots of treats and refreshments inside and we're anticipating at least SOME Father's Day shoppers who are thinking a week ahead. For those in that category we have some great ideas for bar, barbecue and lots more.

We do also have some wonderful new friends from Kinsip in Prince Edward County. We wrote about them in this space a few weeks ago and we're proud to offer their Whiskey Barrel Aged Maple Syrup and their awesome selection of aromatic bitters (either of which would make a great Father's Day gift, BTW!). Not sure? Kinsip will be set up in front of the store for Roncy Rocks offering samples of both the bitter and the sweet and we'll be offering $1 off any Kinsip product from 11-4 on Saturday.

No, YOU rock!

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Think Outside the Box (of chocolates)

Mercantile Love Window

Now let's be clear: Valentine's Day is kind of like riding a bike with training wheels: if you're confident in your expressions of affection you don't wait for one particular day or limit yourself to certain kinds of tokens of that affection. But we forgive Valentine's Day it's amateur status because it's really very sweet. And the gifts we give are generally quite simple (and also often very sweet!) And yes, we have a great range of products purpose built for the day - from cheap and cheerful bags of cinnamon hearts and those message candies the kids all seem to really love to more sophisticated choices like the Laura Slack chocolate valentine boxes with dulce-de-leche skulls included or the heart-shaped shortbreads from Mary MacLeod's or the heart-shaped raviolis from Queen's Pasta (find those in the freezer) and a great selection of cards (note the "Hay Girl" Ryan Gosling card in the photo).

But let's think outside the box of chocolates for a moment. Here's a romantic accent you can apply any time of year on any occasion:

As you enter the store, to your left you'll find our cabinet of cocktail accoutrements - including a fine selection of aromatic bitters. Look for the cardamom bitters (we carry a couple but we find the Scrappy's is best for this application). Instead of buying an expensive champagne, get yourself a decent bottle of very affordable prosecco.  Prosecco is fermented in stainless steel tanks rather than wooden barrels so it's mostly about the brightness and the effervescence rather than the complex flavours. Put a few drops of the cardamom bitters in your glass of prosecco and you instantly add a kind of creamy, woody, exotic note to a very simple celebratory beverage. And if we sell out of the cardamom, there are lots of options to choose from perhaps the chocolate bitters would kill two lovebirds with one stone (so to speak)!

One of our regular customers from the neighbourhood is Matt See who comes in to stock up on various bitters - including the cardamom - that he makes great use of in his brilliant Chinatown restaurant, People's Eatery. Not a bad spot for a romantic night out, come to think of it, but at the very least you'll find inspiration on his cocktail list for delicious and inventive ways to use bitters on Valentine's or any other day.

Cheers to love. May we all have more of it!

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The Bitter Taste of the Holidays? Don't say that like it's a bad thing!

The Bitter Taste of the Holidays? Don't say that like it's a bad thing!

Whether you're looking to stock your bar for the holidays in a way that prepares you for every taste and any eventuality or you're looking for the perfect gift for the budding mixologist in your life, may we recommend something from our own well-stocked section of cocktail bitters.

Originally developed as medicines, tonics and digestifs, bitters have found their rightful place behind the bar and come in both alcohol-based and glycerin-based formulas representing a wide variety of flavours to add that certain something to cocktails and even some other kinds of recipes. For example, you can't really claim to have made a proper Manhattan or Toronto cocktail without the inclusion of bitters. Or try this: add a few drops of Scrappy's Cardamom Bitters to a glass of cava or prosecco to add a note of creaminess to the experience!

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