A Superlative Alternative

Seedlip Distillates

Alcohol seems to go hand in hand with the holidays - from cheer to "cheers!" - for better or worse.

For some that presents a personal challenge. For others it creates a conundrum about what to serve the non-drinkers at the gathering. And for many of us a New Year's Resolution to cut back our alcohol consumption is just around the corner. That means a spike in soft-drink sales but, honestly, what non-alcoholic beverage offers the complexities, subtleties and sensations of a finely crafted spirit? Are we doomed to drinking syrupy-sweet "mocktails" on a night out?

Ben Branson, the founder of Seedlip - the world's first non-alcoholic spirits distiller - found the answer to those questions and more in a book of medicinal distillation recipes dating back to 1651 and the company now offers three distinctive flavour profiles in gorgeously evocative packaging. Sip them straight, mix with tonic or apply your best mixology skills to creating the next breed of non-alcoholic cocktails. There's nothing "mock" about them. This truly is the solution of what to drink when you're not drinking.

Just because you choose to drink less, doesn't mean you can't drink well.

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The Bitter and the Sweet

Kinsip Bitters and Maple Syrup

Were this good sized chunk of land not clinging to the north shore at Twelve O'Clock Point between Brighton and Trenton, Lake Ontario would have its very own Prince Edward Island. Instead, we have a Prince Edward County - a genuine sweet spot in the province with its very own microclimate to prove it. 

Famous poets, musicians and painters have been drawn to the area over many decades along with some extraordinary farmers, vintners and food artisans. It is the source of wonderful produce, fine cheeses, beers, wines, ciders and now a new distillery called Kinsip making gin, vodka, shochu, whisky, rye, rum, brandy and even a "County Cassis".

Of course, we are not licensed or equipped to carry any of these fine tipples but Kinsip does produce some delicious things we can carry:

Introducing Kinsip Bitters in Sour Cherry, Orange, Ginger, House Recipe, Lavender Lemon and Hibiscus Rosehip - great additions to the toolkit of any pro or amateur mixologist - and Kinsip whisky-barrel-aged Maple Syrup. It's got a really lovely, robust, smoky flavour that pairs as well with pancakes as it does with cocktails.

Find both in store to your left as you come in the store in the bitters and maple syrup sections respectively!

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Happy New Year from The Mercantile

Happy New Year!

As we look forward to entering our 10th year on Roncesvalles, we wanted to thank you all for making us your friendly neighbourhood specialty shop. Whether you're looking for a special gift or that missing ingredient for your first foray into Moroccan cooking or a simple treat on the way home, it is so gratifying to meet our customers daily, weekly or even just occasionally and know that they think of us as the place where you're likely to find just the thing.

Thanks to you all, we had a terrific 2017 and we hope you did too. And of course, we hope that 2018 brings you everything you hope for and that you'll keep us in mind for both your every day needs and your special occasions.

It goes without saying that we are also your go-to store for ringing in the New Year - whether you're hosting or looking to bring just the right contribution to the snack or bar table: the best selection of aromatic bitters in the neighbourhood, cocktail mixers and soft drinks, snacks, chocolates, olives, pickles, gourmet treats or all kinds and accoutrements for the bar, cheese board or kitchen counter. And of course we've got Walter Craft Caesar Mix for New Year's Day!

Have a safe and happy new year and we look forward to serving you in 2018.

A reminder that we're open 10:00am-4:00pm on December 31st, closed on New Year's Day.

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Summer Blue

Meredith's Blueberry Elixir

Ontario strawberries come for that brief period at the beginning of summer and they are spectacular. Ontario blueberries have a longer season (roughly May to September) and in that sense they define the taste of summer in this province. So it's perhaps not surprising that Meredith - our favourite mad scientist of Meaford - has captured that flavour in her latest specialty elixir. The lemon, lime and straight ginger versions remain the core of the line-up but this branching out into seasonal editions has been spectacular - combining powerful ginger with honey she raises herself and bold fruit flavours.

Some people use them medicinally, some purely for flavour, some for a soothing tea, some for a bracing soft drink and some for a zingy cocktail. It is versatile, healthy and delicious and the blueberry variety has really captured the essence of Ontario in a bottle for us all. Try gin or vodka and soda with a splash of this for an instant summer classic. You'll find it in the fridge at the back of the store.

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Dad's Day Kickstart

We've said it before - for both Mother's and Father's Day: the best possible way to celebrate the people who play those roles in your life - biologically or otherwise - is with your time. Whether that's in the form of a phone-call or FaceTime or a home visit or dinner out or a brand new experience or just hanging as usual, that's what it's all about.

Of course, people want to present some little gift as well or do something a little bit special. And naturally we have all kinds of things in store that would be fitting tokens of appreciation - from BBQ sauces and rubs to snacks and cocktail accoutrements. The possibilities are as diverse as dads!

So here's one little uber-Canadian suggestion for Sunday morning: a breakfast Caesar cocktail (okay, okay - brunch. Let him sleep in a little!)

  • Start with Walter Caesar Mix. Actually, before you do that, check the ingredient list on the supermarket brands to understand why Walter is the clear choice: all natural ingredients, no artificial colours or preservatives and clam juice from OceanWise certified sustainable sources. Plus it's a Canadian company!
  • Once your due diligence is done, rim your glass with Saltwest Naturals Seasar Pleaser from Vancouver Island. (And here's a tip: don't wet the rim with water or a wedge of lime. Dip the rim in a saucer of vodka and let drip for 5 seconds or so before dipping in another saucer with the rimmer - you'll get the perfect rim every time!)
  • Put ice in the glass (or Mason Jar if you must). Add 1.5oz of your favourite vodka (or tequila or certain gins) or virgin if you need Dad alert right away. Depending on whether you're using the Walter classic or Walter mild or if you just like a little boost, augment with Worcestershire or tamari, a dash or two of your favourite No. 7 Hot Sauce, a small spoon of Bubbie's Horseradish (find it in the fridge at the back of the store) and a squeeze of lime, then top the glass with the Walter mix and...well...mix!
  • This is where it gets really fun: the garnish. We recommend an Extreme Bean or a Voth's Pickled Asparagus spear! Or you could go for the classic celery stick, or a carrot stick, or a plump chilled tiger shrimp, or a cube of cheddar or a chunk of chorizo or leftover steak from last night or some combination of any or all of these... again, the options are as individual as the dad-guy in your life.

With that fortification to start things off, let the day unfold. May it be a memorable one!

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Home Mixology

Bittermilk Cocktail Trio

At the last cocktail bar we went to, it took about 15 minutes to choose from among all the enticingly described options in the lengthy menu and another 15 just to make the drink. Various ingredients were scorched and twisted and filtered and rinsed and squeezed and stirred. The bartender wore a pharmacist's coat, wire-rimmed spectacles and all de rigeur tattoos and facial hair. It was all quite the show and the drink was priced accordingly. Lots of fun but not something for every day and certainly not the kind of effort you want to have to expend while also greeting your guests for a night in!

Enter Bittermilk - a small operation out of Charleston SC founded by restaurant and bar veterans dedicated to making your home cocktail experience as interesting as your special night out. As any mixologist will tell you, every cocktail is about balancing the characteristics of your ingredients: acid, sweet, smokey, salty, earthy, floral, bitter, herbaceous, etc. etc. Bittermilk has done that balancing act for you so all you need to do is add booze, shake with ice (or not), strain and serve. Lab coat, spectacles, tats and hipster-beards optional.

You'll find these beautifully packaged cocktail mixers just underneath the bitters section as you enter the store on your left: Tom Collins with Elderflower and Hops, Smoked Honey Whisky Sour and Charred Grapefruit and Sea Salt Tonic.

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Le Lab

Le Lab

New to our cocktail and accoutrements section: artisanal syrups from Montréal's storied Bar Le Lab and preserved garnishes from another Montréal company, Camilla Wynne's Preservation Society - including her cocktail for toast: Marmgarita!

These items join our already excellent selection of syrups and tonics and bitters and garnishes and bar tools. So if you're looking to up the ante where your cocktails are concerned, you could either take a drive down the 401 or a walk down Roncy!

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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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