Ursa barman Robin Goodfellow breaks down “The Claremont,” a tart and honeyed cocktail to keep you warm while spring remains AWOL.
1. The sour: The drink gets a punch of acid from house-made honey kombucha, which is a fermented drink made with bacteria and yeast that’s grown in popularity thanks to its reputation as pro-biotic. Chef Jacob Sharkey-Pearce wants you to have a healthy gut, even when you’re drinking booze.
2. The infusion: In the summer, Sharkey-Pearce grows his own shiso, a mint-like Asian herb, in Ursa’s rooftop garden, but at this time of year, store-bought has to suffice. Goodfellow uses a low-temperature sous-vide poaching technique to add shiso to his vodka. “It’s very delicate,” Goodfellow says. “If you just leave it at room temperature, it turns brown and gross.”
3. The sweet: The cocktail originally called for Calpico, a yogurt-based soft drink that’s big in Japan and that bartender Atsushi Suzuki first introduced to the Ursa staff. But nearby Japanese food store Sanko had trouble keeping a regular supply of it in the winter (it’s a summer treat), so the barmen cast about for alternatives. They settled on horchata, a Mexican rice-milk drink made with jasmine rice, honey, and citrus oil. Ever the Pollyanna, Goodfellow is now grateful for the Calpico shortage. “Making our own vegetarian version of the ingredient is more in keeping with what we do here,” he says.
4. The heat: This cocktail is warmed with a steamer, just like a cappuccino. (Incidentally, that’s the beverage that Goodfellow serves to people who need to be cut off.) It can, however, be served cold.
5. The bitters: Goodfellow thinks Scrappy’s makes bitters better than he can. The cardamom variety gives this drink a spicy lift.
» The name: Goodfellow likes to name his drinks after Toronto streets—there’s The Hopewell (where he grew up) and The Argyle Gimlet (after a West Queen West street). The Japanese food store Sanko, which is an important part of the cocktail’s backstory, sits at Queen and Claremont, so the name was a gimme.
» The result: With its healthful ingredients, The Claremont looks on paper like something a raw-food evangelist might dream up. But the cocktail is more than the sum of its parts: It’s an opalescent beauty that tastes like a lightly fragrant NeoCitran, with a small spoonful of tart and tasty lemon meringue stirred in.
$14. 924 Queen St. W., 416-536-8963.