Cocktail: Aged Tromboni
$13.50 at Mistura/Sopra (265 Davenport Rd., 416-515-0009)
While many (okay, most) bartenders spend a lot of off-hours engaged in heavy “research” at other bars, Adrian Stein plays it more low-key. Mostly, in fact, he just stays home with his dog. Stein doesn’t drink—at all.
Well, that might be the slightest overstatement. He’ll taste a millilitre or two at a time to make sure that the cocktails he’s serving are turning out the way he wants. But midtown’s booze-free bartender is becoming well known as a pioneer in the field of “craft mocktails,” even inviting recovering alcoholics from a 12-step program he volunteers at in Richmond Hill to come to Mistura and try out his drink-tasting menu. Stein has dealt with substance abuse himself in the past, and he’s a 12-step graduate, hence his interest in creating non–mind altering cocktails that actually taste like the real thing.
“People are happy to learn that there’s more than just ginger ale and cranberry out there,” says Stein. “And it also gives people a lot of hope to meet a bartender who doesn’t drink.”
Not all his options are teetotaller-friendly, however. The Aged Tromboni is one of his best, a dry and sophisticated cocktail tempered with a sweet finish and a hit of tequila. The drink is the best of all worlds, opening with the invigorating flavour of an Italian aperitif, then mellowing out with vanilla—a result of the whole mixture being barrel-aged.
“It’s like a sourdough bread,” says Stein. “I start the original batch in the fall, and I never let it run out. I just keep topping it up and it keeps getting better and better.”
Barrel-aging has been a popular craft-cocktail technique for a couple of years—some bartenders find that the flavours mellow and mingle inside the barrel in an intriguing way, eventually producing a cocktail entirely different from the mixture that went in to begin with. It’s a perfect fit at Mistura (and its upstairs lounge, Sopra), where customers tend to stick with the classics, but appreciate a little twist now and then.
“I started with a Negroni, which is really popular here, and then I worked to make it a little sweeter,” explains Stein. “I’m not ashamed to say it: I like sweet drinks.”
Adrian Stein’s Aged Tromboni
Tromba Blanco tequila + Sweet vermouth + Aperol + Galliano and orange bitters + Aging in a Tromba tequila barrel