There may be no greater comfort on a cold, blustery night than a hot chocolate—or for adults, an aromatic cocktail. Those looking for a stylish retreat to quell holiday blues will want to grab a seat at the bar at Chambar (562 Beatty Street), where new lead bartender Jacob Sweetapple is concocting inventive, wintery cocktails to brighten even the dullest of spirits.
At a media preview Tuesday (November 15), Sweetapple introduced five cocktails that will be added to the restaurant’s cocktail card. Upon arrival, I sipped on the Classic Chambar Winter Punch, a throwback to the mysterious “mix” at holiday house parties. However, Sweetapple’s delightful brew is made with rye whiskey, house-made apple cinnamon syrup, peach bitters, ginger beer, and Aperol (an Italian aperitif). The result is a sweet and citrusy well-balanced drink with the spiciness of ginger to awaken the senses. It’s easy to sip, and larger groups dining at Chambar over the holidays might want to start a meal off by sharing a communal bowl of the punch.
Next came a fleet of three cocktails: Hogarth’s Mistake, Jane de Belleville, and Los Altos. The cleverly-named, Beefeater gin-focused Hogarth’s Mistake is named in honour of William Hogarth, a painter commissioned by the British government to give gin a bad rep. One of his works, Gin Lane (1751) depicts a woman dropping her baby after taking a swig of the spirit. Too bad his tactics didn’t work out so well. Sweetapple’s Earl Grey-infused gin is mixed with house-made cinnamon and citrus syrup, and orange bitters.
Meanwhile Jane de Belleville takes its name from a female pirate avenging her husband’s death. The rum-centred cocktail is stirred with Aperol, house-made Falernum (a gingery syrup), and plum bitters. Los Altos pays tribute to the tequila region, with tequila, port, fig syrup, and fresh-pressed citrus. Sweetapple, who considers himself a cocktail “purist”, lets the spirits shine in all three new cocktails.
To end the tasting, the Australian-born bartender, who replaces Chambar’s long-time bar lead Wendy McGuinness, created La Signor della Notte (The Lady of the Night) with rye, Amoro (another Italian digestive), blood orange syrup, and lemon bitters, which would typically be served on the rocks. The delicate but zesty cocktail had all the makings of a warming, comforting drink. Perhaps the perfect way to cap off a winter’s night.
You can follow Michelle da Silva on Twitter at twitter.com/michdas.