You should already be pretty excited for Toronto Cocktail Week, a libation celebration presented by The Grid, SpiritHouse, and Toronto Institute of Bartending. But you should be especially excited for the Hogtown Shakedown, our first annual hunt for the city’s finest drink-slinger. Here are three of the 10 semi-finalists; you can meet the other contenders in upcoming issues of The Grid, and see the winner crowned on Oct. 3.
Josh Lindley, Bar Isabel
Most underrated drink?
I think that tiki drinks have a bad name in Toronto because a lot of people consider them to be too sweet or juicy. I really like making them, as long as the ingredients are around.
Stance on flair bartending?
I think flair looks cool—but if it takes me too long to get my drink, it doesn’t matter how many bottles you can pour from at the same time after rolling them down your arm and balancing them on your chin.
What’s the best way for a bartender to cut someone off?
Bargaining. “I’ll give you another drink once you’ve finished three glasses of water,” or offering a Campari and soda instead of a Negroni. For the most part, people will realize that if the bartender is being polite enough to ease them off the booze, it might be time to call it a night.
“Up yours and down mine!” or “Gobble gobble gobble!” then you take the shot and say, “Olé!”
Veronica Saye, The Home of the Brave
What popular drink is a total bitch to make?
I really enjoy making all cocktails—except if it’s incredibly busy on a Saturday night, I’m four-deep at the bar, and someone orders a Caesar.
What’s the last thing you’d drink in liquor cabinet?
I have a bottle of Kirsch that I opened once and tasted—and it’s been sitting on my shelf for the past four years.
What makes a good drinking buddy?
Someone who reminds you to drink water!
Have you ever faked a drink you had zero idea how to make?
I have no problem saying, “I actually don’t know how to make that,” and then asking the customer. I also have Google at my fingertips.
What makes a great bartender?
It’s all about presence and the way you speak to people. Those are two things that can’t be taught. Anyone can learn to make a drink, but it’s more about the ability to connect with people. Making people feel comfortable is just the most important thing.
Rob Granicolo, Museum Tavern
Most underrated drink?
The Boulevardier [sort of a bourbon Negroni]. It’s still not popular enough to ask for it by name, but it’s the perfect cocktail. It’s simple, anyone can do it, and it’s not pretentious.
Best way to get a bartender’s attention?
Tip properly the first time around.
Best way to cut someone off?
Speak slowly and with conviction, but don’t be demeaning, so as not to embarrass anyone.
Nothing specific. Maybe just a toast to the night—like it’s the last one.
Best pick-up move you’ve witnessed at a bar?
I’ve had buddies come in as strangers before and I’ve helped them run game. Yeah, I’m a proper wingman.
Snag tickets for the Hogtown Shakedown finals, happening Oct. 3 at The Drake Hotel, at http://thegrid.to/cocktailtix.
Meet the other Hogtown Shakedown semi-finalists here.