Bartender John MacDonald is offering up some deliciously drinkable lessons in the area’s storied past at Origin’s Liberty Village outpost.
Cocktail: Heavy Industry
$14 at Origin Liberty Village (171 East Liberty St., Suite 100)
John MacDonald is a history buff, but he’s no slave to the past. You won’t find him sporting an old-timey vest and handlebar moustache behind the bar, like so many of his fashionably behind-the-times contemporaries on Toronto’s bartending scene.
Likewise, the drinks that the 29-year-old bar manager is serving up at Origin’s Liberty Village location—like the rich and savoury Heavy Industry—are vintage-inspired, but not exactly the old-fashioned, straight-spirit concoctions that have dominated local cocktail menus in the past few years. Heavy Industry is booze-forward, all right, but with a hint of refreshing citrus and intriguing sweet-wine syrup providing a depth of flavour that keeps you coming back for more. This is a drink that probably wouldn’t have been found in a 1920s saloon.
“Straight-booze cocktails can become too bracing after a while,” says MacDonald. “I wanted to make something that looks like a boozy, Prohibition-era cocktail, but drinks like something with a little more spice and aromatic flavour.” Those qualities are imparted primarily by his house-made Carmenère wine syrup, which MacDonald makes by adding invert sugar to the earthy, smoky wine, a technique he learned from Origin pastry chef Christine Fancy. (Invert sugar is helpful in booze syrups, since it doesn’t oxidize the wine or lower the alcohol content.)
But his inner history buff does get the better of him when he’s designing his thoughtful menus, in which he tries to bring out the backstory of the neighbourhood itself. (MacDonald studied both history and anthropology at Nova Scotia’s St. Francis Xavier University, before getting sidetracked into a career behind the bar.) Heavy Industry references Liberty Village’s industrial past, and other drinks, like the Jailbird Sour ($12) and For Ronnie ($13), are named after local icons: respectively, the prisons that dominated the area a century ago, and Veronica Foster, Canada’s Bren Gun Girl.
“My family always said that it doesn’t matter where you live, just always make sure to find out the story about where you are,” says MacDonald, “After seven years here, I’m still inspired to discover more about Toronto’s story.”
JOHN MACDONALD’S HEAVY INDUSTRY
Bulleit Bourbon + Amaro Lucano + Lemon juice + Carmenère syrup + Garnished with a lemon zest and served over one large ice cube