by Andrew Coppolino | November 2023
Making spirits bright and keeping the beverage alcohol light: cocktails and mocktails from Waterloo Region bars and restaurants set the pace for the colder days and nights of the year, approaching the festive season and beyond.
These specially crafted beverages draw on local ingredients and collaborate with local businesses at the same time relying on bartenders’ personal inspirations and experience that might also stir up the ancient history of both well known and less familiar cocktails.
Here’s a random sampling of four restaurants and seven bevvies – with and without alcohol – for you to explore.
There’s icy warmth and Polish inspiration at TWH Social Bar & Bistro
TWH Social bartender Karolina Sliwinska says fizzy Crisp Air is inspired by the crackle and jolt of winter air – moderated by the warming rays of sun as you look out the window at the snow.
“Jameson Irish Whiskey is that warming sun,” says Sliwinska, “while a cool floral breeze comes through in the St-Germain, an elderflower liqueur from Savoie, France. A cucumber slice and basil add to a frosty green environment,” she says.
A bit of simple syrup adds some sweetness to balance the tart touch of lime juice.
“The fizz comes from a splash of soda. I like to think of a day at a winter resort and a sunny afternoon seen through the frosty window,” adds Sliwinska of the contrast.
“It’s warm and icy at the same time the green peaks of pine trees are covered in snow. The drink warms you on the inside just as the sun warms the outside.”
For a mocktail, Sliwinska serves a chillaxing Blackberry Chill that draws on the very old cocktail concoction known as a “shrub,” an ancient drink that often includes fruit and a tart component.
“This is a blackberry-rosemary shrub,” according to Sliwinska. “We then add a touch of vanilla simple syrup and some lemon juice. But another component that helps define the drink is some pear juice for a really added layer of flavour.”
The Chill gets some fizz and spice from a top up of ginger beer on its way to becoming a drink for which Sliwinska draws on her family background for inspiration.
“I remember the berry- and herb-based syrups I made with my grandmother in Poland while I was growing up. It was usually in the fall and the ingredients came from her garden. We would use them to enjoy in hot teas or sparkling mineral water.”
Beets two ways at The Jane Bond Café Waterloo
In many ways and perhaps surprisingly to some, from its eclectic décor to its hidden nature off the main drag of Uptown Waterloo, The Jane Bond has been a food purveyor proffering beats as a popular music haunt – and as an icon of veggie-based food – for more than a quarter of a century.
So, The Bond has beats and beets. Earth Angel is a creation from bartender Tegan Becker that foregrounds an Ayr, Ontario, distillery and farm: Willibald’s barrel-aged gin is complemented by red beet, ginger, pear nectar and an invigorating splash of sparkling wine.
“It’s a fresh, fruity and bubbly drink featuring the sweetness of pear and the earthiness of red beets. We paired it with fresh ginger for balance along with the grain-forward notes of Willibald gin,” Becker says.
Becker has also whipped up a seasonal sipper called Mack the Knife – a recent Bond concoction that augurs well to become a fall favourite. It draws on the awesomeness of Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey that has been washed with brown butter to create a stunningly smooth yet complex drink.
“The warming spirits, including the brandy we add, is paired with notes of cinnamon and maple syrup,” adds Becker. “And that is given a further dose of spice and herbaceousness with Angostura and rosemary.”
What they said.
Prime your taste for tapas
New to downtown Kitchener, La Lola Tapas Bar has moved from their original Cambridge location to Benton and Charles streets. The cozy and casual tapas restaurant and its wall of windows looking onto the busy intersection as the ION runs past has been open only a few weeks now.
Their new list will slowly release cocktails “to give them the intro they deserve,” according to co-owner Vanessa Stankiewicz. Inspired by Spain and using imported Spanish ingredients and products whenever possible, first up is their Agua de Valencia.
“It’s Cava sparkling wine, vodka and gin, along with the sunny flavour of freshly squeezed orange juice,” says Stankiewicz. “Stay tuned and prepare to be transported to Spain!”
And don’t forget their home-made sangria.
The Proof is in the creativity
Kyle Elliott, mixologist and bartender at Uptown Waterloo’s Proof Kitchen + Lounge, has been thinking about the pending cold weather at the same time thinking about the right Proof formulae for warming you up.
“Our Viale – Italian for boulevard – is a riff on the classic Boulevardier,” Elliott says.
An equal-parts 1920s cocktail of Campari, vermouth and bourbon, the Proof Boulevardier is re-interpreted but still focussed on layers of flavours shining through with some of the most delicious ingredients in the mixologist’s arsenal.
“It’s Basil Hayden’s with its light-profile vanilla and smokiness and modifiers Aperol and Fernet-Branca, a Milanese amaro that was developed in the mid-1800s. Here, we’re leaning into an herbaceous, lighter side that is less bitter,” Elliott says.
The drink is presented to you in a rosemary-smoked snifter along with a dehydrated orange wheel and rosemary sprig, says Elliott adding that the Viale comes to the table as an interactive experience.
“Part of the fun is the interconnected and balancing flavours, and part of the fun is that you interact with creating the cocktail as you unveil it.”
On Proof’s mocktail side, and in another interpretation of a classic, Elliott and his team are happy to put together a Cranberry-Sage Mojito – without the traditional Cuban punch of rum.
“It’s pretty simple and captures something very approachable as we lean into some fall and winter flavours,” he says. “The muddled sage adds depth to the lime juice and ginger-beer spice. It’s rich and perfect for the winter season, and it’s a great replacement for the classic mojito.”
Andrew Coppolino is food columnist with CBC-KW and Metroland newspapers. The author of Farm to Table (Swan Parade Press) and co-author of Cooking with Shakespeare (Greenwood Press), he is the 2022 “Joseph Hoare Gastronomic Writer-in-Residence” at the Stratford Chefs School. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @andrewcoppolino.