The Comrade’s Jess Toombs struggled to create a spring-friendly bourbon cocktail, but all it took was a little inspiration from comedian Garry Shandling—and a fish sandwich.
Cocktail: Hail Garry
$14, at The Comrade (758 Queen St. E. 416-778-9449)
Until recently, spring was the cruelest season for Jess Toombs. “I used to have a lot of trouble coming up with drinks for springtime,” she says. Working at The Comrade, the east end’s temple to bourbon, she deals in the kind of straight-booze cocktails many people associate more with chillier weather. “But,” says the 25-year old Toombs, “I’m starting to figure out how to keep even a spirit-forward cocktail light.”
Her simple and savoury Hail Garry is evidence of success: a straightforward, light, crisp cocktail with a fresh smell and bittersweet body that finishes off with a strong smoked-spice note. It’s a bit dry, with a big punchline—perfectly appropriate for its namesake, comedian and actor Garry Shandling, one of Toombs’ heroes.
The drink was the result of the sort of brilliant, lateral inspiration that only a hangover can produce. One morning, after a raucous night Toombs woke up craving a fish sandwich and, intrigued by the smoked paprika with which she garnished it, decided the spice would mix well with brown liquor.
She might well have spent the rest of that hazy day catching up on old episodes of Shandling’s The Larry Sanders Show. A filmmaker and stand-up comedian, Toombs watches the program to get a glimpse of how some of her favourite comedians got started, drawing inspiration for stand-up routines and the horror-comedy films she writes and produces with her partners (they’re now working on their first feature).
“I’ve never had a really social job before this, so I love that I get to work here and try out my material on people,” she says. “I find that what works here goes over well on stage. And what doesn’t do well behind the bar fails on stage, too.”
Of course, it’s hard to miss with a great joke. Or, for that matter, with bourbon.
Jess Toombs’ Hail Garry
Basil Hayden’s bourbon + Campari + Smoked paprika syrup + Rosemary