Great world bars we love: The Connaught Bar, Mayfair, London

Photo courtesy of The Connaught Bar

Once we can travel and socialize again, we know just where we’ll be heading. We’re going to a bar. And not just any bar. The very best bar in the world.

That’s The Connaught Bar, which was named No. 1 by The World’s 50 Best Bars last November, after spending 10 years on the list. It’s an elegant 1920s-style space on the ground floor of The Connaught Hotel in London’s posh Mayfair neighbourhood. The room is both glamourous and cosy. Although it’s a vintage space, it was redesigned by David Collins and relaunched in 2008 with swellegant nods to Cubism and Art Deco.

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The mysterious monk

Bénédictine’s storied role in cocktails old and new

Bénédictine’s romantic story is part of its appeal. Photo courtesy of benedictinedom.com

If you’re the sort of person who likes their cocktails served with a side of storytelling, then Bénédictine is the drink for you. Consider it the Forrest Gump of the spirits world, popping up at just the right moments and in the just the right cocktails.

Bénédictine is an herbal liqueur produced in France, based on Cognac, sweetened with honey and flavoured with 27 herbs and spices including saffron, hyssop and lemon balm. Like Chartreuse, it was originally produced centuries ago, concocted by monks as a medicinal tonic.

Or was it?

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Canada’s James Grant named Diageo World Class Bartender of the Year

Edmonton’s James Grant is 2021 World Class Bartender of the Year. Supplied photo

For the second time in only four years, a Canadian bartender has taken home the title of World Class Bartender of the Year.

After a gruelling four-day virtual final, Edmonton’s James Grant triumphed over his colleagues from 50 countries to win the world’s biggest and most prestigious cocktail competition, Diageo World Class.

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Fun in the sun

Playful cocktails in retro formats are just what we’re craving right now

Getty Images photo

This summer we plan to party like it’s, well, not pandemic times. In fact, we’re going to have some fun playing with retro cocktails in different formats, like jelly shots and boozy popsicles. I mean, who says a cocktail actually has to be liquid? Here are the nostalgic patio crushers we plan to enjoy all summer long.

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Margarita Popsicles

Margarita Popsicles. Joanne Sasvari photo

Note that you will need popsicle moulds and, if you don’t have plastic holders, wooden popsicle sticks for this recipe.

0.5 cup sugar

1 cup water

0.75 cup fresh squeezed lime juice (5 to 6 juicy limes)

0.25 cup silver tequila

0.25 cup orange liqueur

Garnish: flaky sea salt (optional)

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Frozen Strawberry-Lime Daiquiri

Frozen Strawberry-Lime Daiquiri. Joanne Sasvari photo

Perfect for the patio. That is all.

• 1.5 cups white rum

• 0.75 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice (5 to 6 juicy limes)

• 0.25 cup simple syrup (more if you like your Daiquiri on the sweet side)

• 1 (600 g) package frozen strawberries

• 4 cups ice cubes

• Garnish: strawberries or lime wheels (optional)

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Negroni Gelée Shot

Negroni Gelée Shots. Joanne Sasvari photo

These look like those after-dinner gelées you get in fancy restaurants, but come with a boozy and bittersweet kick.

• 1 cup London Dry gin

• 1 cup Campari

• 1 cup sweet vermouth

• 1 cup water

• 4 packets (0.25-ounce each) powdered gelatin

• Garnish: sanding sugar, candied orange zest (optional; recipe below)

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5 drinks every home bartender should know how to make

Our editor’s essential cocktails

An Old Fashioned is a classic cocktail every home bartender should know how to make. Getty images photo

Now that we’re all spending so much more time at home, this is a good opportunity to brush up on our home-bartending skills. That means learning at least a few recipes to serve to the people in your bubble and, eventually, all the many friends you’re making on Zoom.

The most important drink you should know how to make is the one you like best. That’s also the best advice for stocking your liquor cabinet, though for your sake I hope it’s something simple, like a highball, rather than, say, a Ramos Gin Fizz, which requires egg whites, orange blossom water and a seltzer bottle, among other things.

After that, it’s best to start with classics. They are, after all, classics for a reason—they taste good, and they work—but they are also a good place to start experimenting if you want to get creative. Here are five drinks every home bartender should have in their repertoire.

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Upscale off-sales

The cocktail kit is the best way to bring your favourite bar home

Sabrine Dhaliwal and Lily Duong have put together four different kits at Chickadee. Photo courtesy of Chickadee

It’s been a long day and all you want to do is get into your pyjamas (if you ever got out of them, let’s be real) and settle in with a good cocktail. But it’s just too much effort to make one yourself. Never fear, thirsty reader. The cocktail kit is here to help.

During the pandemic, many Vancouver restaurants have turned to takeout and some have added cocktails to their to-go menus. What you get varies depending on the establishment. Most offer some sort of mixer, bottle of spirits and garnish; some also offer top-quality ice as well as tools and glassware. Not only do these kits quench your thirst, they also make great gifts and, best of all, support your favourite establishments when they need it most.

Here are just some to try. Note that in restaurants sales of alcohol must be accompanied by sales of food; check the websites for details regarding price and availability.

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The Martini

The murky past of a clear favourite

Martini. istockphoto.com

Plenty a tall tale has crossed the polished oak; after all, bartenders like to dish out lively anecdotes along with the gin and spiced nuts. But when it comes to boozy myths, legends, outright lies and wholesale whoppers, “more cling to the Martini than any other cocktail.”

So writes Robert Simonson in his IACP-nominated book The Martini Cocktail (Ten Speed Press). He is fascinated by the outsize role the Martini has played in popular culture ever since its invention in 1849, or maybe it was the 1880s, or possibly 1906, who knows?

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