Three autumn cocktails from three awesome restaurants

It only seems natural that in a city where excellent cuisine and diverse flavours are a source of cultural pride, purveyors of fine cocktails are becoming much easier to find. These days, restaurant bars in Toronto are mirroring their kitchens’ offerings by taking a seasonal, artisanal and signature approach to cocktails. This season, dark spirits and autumnal flavours inspired by crisp citrus, wood fires and syrupy preserves are gracing the drink lists of some of Toronto’s best restaurants. Here are three perfect-for-autumn cocktails.  

Autunno a Belluno, Buca, $13 (pictured above)

It’s rich, it’s sweet, it’s classy and it’s accompanied by a single preserved chestnut cradled in an etched spoon. A blend of scotch, lemon juice, black walnut bitters, cinnamon and the house-made fig preserve featured in Buca’s sanguinaccio dessert, the Autunno a Belluno (named for autumn in a northern Italian town) makes an elegant liquid dessert.

Autuno a Belluno, like all of Buca’s cocktails, is intended to “reflect the philosophy of the restaurant and complement the menu,” says bar manager Christian Petronio, who is is developing Buca’s list alongside bartender Dave Mastromatteo and sous chef Daniel Janetos

Together, the Buca crew uses fresh, seasonal ingredients while putting its own twist on things.

Think of this autumnal treat as a teaser for the liquid goods at the anticipated Bar Buca, which plans to open at 75 Portland Street early in the New Year. Petronio predicts that Bar Buca will be more “cocktail friendly” than the wine-heavy libation list at its parent location.

Buca, 604 King Street W., 416-865-1600

The Velvet Glove, Splendido, $16

A customer once likened Christina Kuypers’s cocktails to an idiomatic velvet glove. Her resultant namesake concoction reveals why. The smooth initial sip — a complex blend of honeyed, bitter and burnt flavours — is quickly followed by a firm slap from the cocktail’s deep rum base. The Velvet Glove, a blend of El Dorado 12-year-old rum, Cynar and Amaro Montenegro garnished with burnt orange cheek, is a balanced, bittersweet sophisticate.

The lovely lady behind Splendido’s bar takes a pragmatic and detailed approach to mixing, stressing the importance of having “a clear vision of what you want to accomplish” when it comes to cocktail creation.

The Velvet Glove is a great appetite-primer. The inclusion of Cynar — a bitter Italian aperitif made predominantly from artichokes — helps build gastronomical anticipation. All the better to enjoy the sumptuous dishes that have contributed to Splendido’s deservedly excellent reputation.

Splendido, 88 Harbord St., 416-929-7788

Admiral MacCutcheon, Campagnolo, $14

A smoky-sweet blend of Bowmore scotch, vanilla-infused Cointreau, fino sherry and angostura bitters, Campagnolo’s Admirial MacCutcheon is what you picture yourself drinking in front of a blazing granite fireplace, swaddled in a brocade bathrobe with your feet propped on a gold-encrusted ottoman. It kind of makes you feel like you’re the most interesting man (or woman) in the world, sipping a sultry scotch alternative because it just isn’t the time or place for a Dos Equuis.

The vanilla and orange notes from the infused Cointreau bestow a smooth potability, and the orange peel is a refreshing complement to the cocktail’s smoky nose.

Bartender Josh Lindley tries to keep his cocktail menu seasonal and local to parallel the kitchen’s offerings while taking a playful approach to his craft.

“I want to get people as excited about booze as I can,” he says.

He pulls the wool over my eyes with a high tale of Admiral MacCutcheon’s great legacy — only to admit that his cocktail is actually named after a running whisky reference on Lost

After a long sip of the stiff and smokey Admiral, my embarrassing ignorance of pop culture just doesn’t matter anymore. Besides, everything tastes better when accompanied by a narrative.

Campagnolo, 832 Dundas St. W., 416-364-4785

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO