It’s better with bitters

Ms. Better’s Bitters Miraculous Foamer is a vegan substitute for egg whites in frothy drinks such as the Hotel Georgia cocktail. Tarquin Melnyk photo

It’s right there in the original description of a cocktail, dating back to 1806: “a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters – it is vulgarly called a bittered sling.”

In other words, bitters are what make a cocktail a cocktail. And that makes bitters an essential part of any home or professional bar.

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The Last Wall

The Last Wall. Tarquin Melnyk photo.

This Mexican-influenced variation on the classic Last Word cocktail was created by bartender Tarquin Melnyk to highlight the fresh, juicy Ms. Better’s Green Strawberry Mah-Kwan bitters. “It has the biggest wow factor when people are trying bitters for the first time,” he says.

• 1 oz (30 mL) mezcal, preferably Siete Misterios
• 1 oz (30 mL) green Chartreuse
• 1 oz (30 mL) Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
• 1 oz (30 mL) fresh lime juice
• 2 dashes Ms. Better’s Green Strawberry Mah-Kwan bitters

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Elderflower Tom Collins

Robyn Gray’s Elderflower Tom Collins. Dan Toulgoet photo

Recipe by Robyn Gray, head bartender at Prohibition in the Rosewood Hotel Georgia.

• 2 oz (60 mL) Old Tom gin
• 1 oz (30 mL) lemon juice
• ¾ oz (20 mL) elderflower liqueur
• Soda water

Shake gin, lemon juice and elderflower liqueur in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a Collins glass filled with fresh ice, then top with soda water. Garnish with 3 lemon wheels. Serves 1.

—by Robyn Gray

Liquid Sunshine

Brad Stanton’s Liquid Sunshine. Dan Toulgoet photo

Recipe by Brad Stanton, head bartender at Prohibition in the Rosewood Hotel Georgia.

• 2 oz (60 mL) pisco, preferably Encanto
• ¾ oz (20 mL) cantaloupe juice
• 2 tsp (10 mL) lemon juice
• 2 tsp (10 mL) orange juice
• 4 to 5 fresh mint leaves
• 1/2 oz (15 mL) maple syrup

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Twentieth Century

This classic cocktail dates back to 1937 and is named not for the time period, but for the stylish 20th Century Limited train from New York to Chicago. It’s a perfect example of how an aperitif (Lillet) and a liqueur (crème de cacao) can combine to lift a cocktail above the ordinary.

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How to stock your spirits cabinet

Nightingale head bartender Rhett Williams. Dan Toulgoet photo

Every cocktail starts with a base spirit. Every home cocktail bar should do the same. The question is, what spirits do you really need to stock at home? What’s worth spending money on (and what isn’t)? After all, those bright, shiny bottles can be expensive.

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Cocktail books every home bartender should own

Take a note from the experts and decorate your coffee table with this hit list of Cocktail books. Photo courtesy of The Canon Cocktail Book.

Stocking your home bar? Before you invest in spirits, tools and glassware (not to mention that handy bar cart), you should get some expert advice. Luckily, there are plenty of great cocktail books out there to help you make the right choices.

Here are the essential tomes to quench your thirst for both well-made cocktails and the know-how to make them.

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