PHOTO: Laura Brehaut/Postmedia News; Luke Correia-Damude of UNION's Rum Manhattan, left, and Rum Old Fashioned
Laura Brehaut/Postmedia News
Originally published on December 13, 2012;
Cold weather cocktails, at their best, are spicy, robust and warming. In this special, holiday edition of Seasonal Sips, Luke Correia-Damude – General Manager of UNION restaurant in Toronto – puts a wintery spin on two classic cocktails. “I try to keep an emphasis on classic-style because there are so many amazing old cocktails,” Correia-Damude says. Although UNION does offer some signature cocktails, the emphasis is on sourcing the right ingredients, and making bitters and syrups to “enhance or solidify the old classics.”
When selecting cocktails to offer guests at holiday get-togethers, Correia-Damude suggests getting the classics down in order to understand the flavour components of a good cocktail – namely the balance of acidity, sugar, bitter and alcohol. “You have to gauge your guests because you don’t have to go crazy,” he says. “Start with a simple cocktail and make that really, really well and start elaborating and start experimenting but you don’t have to go for broke right away.” Correia-Damude suggests that the Manhattan and the Old Fashioned (recipes below), homemade eggnog, hot toddies, a pitcher of Negroni, or a rum punch served in a vintage bowl would all be good options.
“I’m not usually a rum drinker but there’s something about Christmas and all the spices in spiced rum that makes me think about rum at the holiday time,” Correia-Damude says. Spiced rum is a particularly good spirit to play with during the holidays because it incorporates classic seasonal flavours such as clove, nutmeg, orange, vanilla and caramel. In the Manhattan and Old Fashioned recipes below, he has swapped out the traditional bourbon for Sailor Jerry spiced rum. “It just spices it up – gives it a little bit more Christmas flavour. I think people are more into a little bit sweeter, everything’s a little bit richer, and you’re spending a little bit more money around Christmas, everybody’s kind of down with a little more luxury and gluttony,” he laughs.
In terms of stocking your bar for holiday entertaining, Correia-Damude suggests including bourbon, rum, and single malt Scotch, which he feels capture the flavours of the season: “Something that people can feel comfort with and a warmth with, so the ones that are sitting in those barrels – the ones that have that depth of flavour. It’s a time for sitting by the fire and enjoying something that has a higher flavour profile – something that has more robust characteristics.”
At UNION, Correia-Damude makes his own bitters solution, to which he adds cherries or cranberries, depending on the season. This time of year, he might add a clove to it to give it a “Christmas mulled wine sense memory.” He points out, though, that you don’t necessarily have to make bitters from scratch in order to add a personal touch. Instead, start by adding a bottle of Angostura bitters to a jar, and add your flavourings and cherries or cranberries from there. “You don’t have to go super origin-based on making it,” Correia-Damude says. “It’s about making it your own. You don’t have to necessarily start from scratch all the time.”
Having the right bar tools is important and Correia-Damude lists a good jigger, mixing glass, stir stick and garnish peeler as his favourite tools of the trade. “I feel that zest and essential oils are really important. Some people think putting a splash of Cointreau is just going to be the same as actually taking the time to peel a nice zest and actually squeeze the oils in there, and it’s not the same,” he says.  “Drinks like an Old Fashioned get bastardized all the time because people are just putting too much orange stuff in whereas all it really needs is a little orange zest syrup. We use a tiny bit of that and some orange zest.” He adds that you don’t want to get too much pith in your citrus garnish, so having a sharp peeler that you can use quickly is integral.
Having the right kind of ice cube at your disposal is also key. “We use a large cube for the Old Fashioned and the normal cubes for other drinks,” Correia-Damude says. He adds that it’s the consideration put into details like this – the kind of ice, the glassware, and the garnish – that makes a difference to people when they’re drinking a cocktail.
Courtesy of Luke Correia-Damude, UNION
2 oz Sailor Jerry rum
dash of orange zest syrup*
2 small dashes of bitters
for garnish:
orange twist
1. Fill an Old Fashioned glass with ice and set aside to chill.
2. Fill a mixing glass with ice and add all ingredients (except for the garnishes). Stir to mix (approximately 15 seconds). “It’s okay to let it sit in [the mixing glass] a little bit to get a little water flowing in the cocktail because it is a pretty strong cocktail.”
3. Add a large ice cube to the chilled Old Fashioned glass and strain the cocktail from the mixing glass.
4. Zest an orange for the twist and squeeze the twist over the glass to release the oils. Rim the glass with the twist and garnish.
*Orange zest syrup: Zest an entire orange, discarding the white pith. Combine equal parts of granulated sugar and water in a saucepan (enough to cover the zest), add the zest and bring to a boil. Heat on a low simmer until the zest is cooked through and sugar dissolves. Cool completely before using. The syrup can be kept in the fridge.
2 oz Sailor Jerry rum
1 oz vermouth
Small dash of bitters
For garnish:
toasted marshmallows*
1. Fill a cocktail glass with ice and set aside to chill.
2. Fill a mixing glass with ice and add all ingredients (except for the garnishes). Stir to mix (approximately 10 seconds).
3. Strain into the chilled cocktail glass and garnish.
*Put three mini marshmallows on a glass garnish pick. Using a Creme Brulee Torch, carefully toast the marshmallows.
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