Weslodge bartender Jonny Gray looked to the Battle of Hastings for his newest creation.
$15 at Weslodge (480 King St. W.)
Sure, Jonny Gray is really into alcohol. But this 30-year-old bartender also happens to be nursing a very serious history habit. For example, when Gray went to christen his newly invented cocktail, he looked to the roots of his main ingredients: French Cognac and Calvados, as well as more traditional British flavour combinations like rum, allspice, and clove. That’s when the image of French troops trouncing the Brits at the Battle of Hastings sprang to mind. And that’s where we get the backstory for the 1066, one of Weslodge’s fall cocktails, which takes its name from the year of the Norman conquest.
“I love when I get a chance to talk to a customer about history, especially the history of what’s in his or her glass,” Gray says. “Even a vodka soda is the end result of a fascinating story about both vodka and the development of carbonation.”
The 1066, however, has neither vodka nor bubbles—it’s strictly a bold, barely adulterated brown cocktail, in keeping with the general historical re-enactment aesthetic at Weslodge. The gilt-edged saloon has over-the-top taxidermy and antique glassware, along with a menu that riffs on booze from way back, when saloon-goers were partial to strong, spirit-forward drinks. As such, the 1066 is a classy little number with light wood, sweet apple, and a hint of spice.
Gray’s combined love of history and drinking fits like a glove at Weslodge. But it took a bit of wandering before he found his calling. Raised in London, England, Gray spent a few seasons as a tour guide in Sydney and also worked in film, which he studied in school, in post-production. He became intrigued by hard liquor’s range of tastes while bartending at Brassaii, just across the street from Weslodge.
“I like letting the spirit speak for itself,” he says. “With so many people out there doing infusions and molecular stuff, there’s a massive canvas to work with. But the challenge for me is how to keep it simple.”
Jonny Gray’s 1066
Cognac + Calvados + Orange-spice simple syrup + A wash of añejo rum