Better with bitters

Add your own unique flavour to cocktails with homemade bitters. Here’s how

A variety of spices, herbs and other botanicals give bitters their intense flavour. Dan Toulgoet photo

Making your own bitters at home is a lot easier than you may think. However, we need to understand a few things first. Cocktails, by definition, are made up of four essential ingredients: spirits, sugar, water and bitters. Spirits are self-explanatory. The sugar and water elements can be exactly that or they can take on other forms, such as syrups and juices. Bitters are much more complex, though. Bartenders use bitters to bridge the flavours of spirits, sugar and water so they come together. The key to selecting the right bitter is to use one that complements the other three components in the cocktail.

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Picnic Smash

The Picnic Smash, made with Seedlip Spice 94, is ideal for your next outdoor adventure. Photo courtesy of SeedlipThis recipe from Seedlip is ideal for tucking in a picnic basket or insulated backpack for your next outdoor adventure.

• 2 oz Seedlip Spice 94
• 0.75 oz pink grapefruit juice
• 3 tsp strawberry jam
• 2 basil leaves, plus additional for garnish

Place all ingredients in a jam jar filled with ice. Tighten lid and shake well. Garnish with an additional basil leaf. Serves 1.

Zero Proof Clover Club

Mike Norbury’s Zero-proof Clover Club uses Lumette! Photo courtesy of Lumette!

Recipe created by Mike Norbury of Veneto Kitchen + Bar in Victoria.

• 2 oz Lumette!
• 0.75 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
• 1 Tbsp raspberry jam
• 1 oz egg white

Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker without ice and vigorously dry shake. Add ice and shake again until chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe. Serves 1.

The Hound

The Hound, created by Jess Morton at Reid’s Distillery. Photo courtesy of Sobrii

Recipe created by Jess Morton at Reid’s Distillery in Toronto. She suggests using a vegetable peeler to create ribbons from the fresh ginger root.

• 1 or 2 ribbons of fresh ginger root
• 1.75 oz Sobrii
• 4 oz grapefruit-flavoured seltzer
• Garnish: 2 to 3 large mint leaves or a slice of grapefruit

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Thai One On

Southeast Asian flavours and a pretty purple hue make this cocktail from The Diamond (and Elk Room) irresistible.

• 1.5 oz yuzu sake
0.5 oz Wray & Nephew overproof rum
• 0.5 oz butterfly pea flower syrup
• 0.75 oz lime juice
• Tonic water
• Garnish: sprig of mint

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Sangria

The classic Sangria at Bodega on Main. Supplied photo

The classic—and sessionable—red wine punch from Bodega on Main

• 1 lemon
• 1 orange
• 1/2 apple
• Handful blackberries
• 1 bottle (750 mL) Spanish red wine
• 1.5 oz Triple Sec or Grand Marnier
• 1.5 oz brandy
• 2 oz lemonade
• 2 oz orange juice
• 6 to 8 oz soda water or 7Up

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Forgotten Temple

The Forgotten Temple at Campagnolo Upstairs. Supplied photo

At Camp Up, smoky and bitter flavours combine in an appealingly dark sipper.

• 0.75 oz Los Siete Misterios Doba Yej mezcal
0.75 oz Cazadores blanco tequila
• 0.75 oz El Bandarra vermouth
• 0.3 oz Legend Naramaro
• 0.3 oz Odd Society Mia Amata amaro
• Dash Apothecary Bitters Darkness Coffee and Cacao Bitters
• Garnish: orange twist

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La Granada Cocktail

La Granada Cocktail and D/6 Bar & Lounge

At D/6 Bar & Lounge, manager Tianna Brammer combines her appreciation for tequila and lemonade in this elegant drink.

Campari-pomegranate ice cube:

• 0.5 oz Campari
• 0.5 oz pomegranate juice
• 3 oz water

Cocktail:

• 1 oz Volcan blanco tequila
0.25 oz pisco
• 0.5 oz orgeat
• 0.5 oz citric acid
• Garnish: dehydrated lemon slice, pomegranate seeds

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Twilight Blooming: The Sky at Dusk

Twilight Blooming: The Sky at Dusk gets its blue hue from butterfly pea blossom. Photo courtesy of H Tasting Lounge

Recipe by Premium Bartender Andrew Kong at H Tasting Lounge at The Westin Bayshore, in partnership with Tealeaves. The cocktail comes in two parts, an infused-gin-and-tea base and a citrus-soda side. As you pour the citrus into the infused gin, the acidity transforms the deep blue to bright purple. Magic.

• 2 oz Star of Bombay Gin infused with Tealeaves Classic Blue Blend (see note)
• 0.5 oz steeped Tealeaves Classic Blue Blend tea
• 0.75 oz lemon juice
• 0.75 oz elderflower cordial
• 2 oz ume (plum wine)
• 0.5 oz soda water

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JOEY’s Jungle Bird

JOEY’s Jungle Bird. Supplied photo

In this updated tropical classic, Campari is swapped out for subtler Aperol. 

• 1.5 oz Appleton Estate Signature Blend rum (formerly Appleton Estate V/X)
• 0.5 oz Aperol
• 0.5 oz lime juice
• 1.5 oz pineapple juice
• 0.5 oz cane or simple syrup
• Garnish: Fresh lime wheel

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