I was tending the bar at a birthday party when an elderly woman asked for a gin and tonic water. I carefully poured the Beefeater into her glass, and tilted the bottle of tonic over the rim of her glass when she said:
“That’s enough. Don’t kill it.”
I stopped mid-pour, a little surprised, and handed her the drink, which was now half full and about 50% spirit. I didn’t understand what she meant, or why she wanted less tonic. Only later did it strike me that perhaps this woman appreciated an era where the drinks were stiff and the taste of alcohol was regarded with high importance. These days many drink to make merry rather than to relish the taste; however, it wasn’t always like that.
The era I’m referring to is that of the pre-prohibition, when speakeasies were aplenty, selling illicit liquor and going against the Ontario Temperance Act, which led to the prohibition of alcohol in Toronto and Ontario one-hundred years ago.
Today, one can still find the right kind of boîte if so desired. New York City has the swanky 21 Club, a speakeasy that dates back to 1929 and was one of the highest profiled clubs in the country. It catered to Hemingway, Bogart, and Sinatra and is still around today. Across the pond, London has many hidden speakeasies, such as Bar Nightjar, Purl, and Evans & Peel Detective Agency; all truly authentic in their pre-prohibition ambiance and cocktail selection.
In Toronto, if you’re looking for a stiff cocktail with the atmosphere of a 1920s speakeasy, The Toronto Temperance Society (TTS) is a member’s only club for those who enjoy the art of drinking and the taste of fine alcohols. It serves a growing demand for genuine pre-prohibition cocktails in Toronto.
“We decided on the pre-prohibition model because that really was the height of the cocktail movement. Prohibition killed the booming cocktail scene, and it didn’t really recover. Proper cocktails should be balanced and about showcasing spirits, not about masking flavours,” says Casey Bee, partner at Toronto Temperance Society. “Our members stay for the service, quality of drinks, and ambience, and enjoy the perks of membership. We have about 600 active members at this time, and are still accepting about 5-10 members a week.”
Clearly, some of the greatest – and simplest – cocktails hail from the 1920s. In that spirit, here are three highly regarded elixirs – pour yourself a stiff one and enjoy.
¾oz Orange Blossom & Honey Simple Syrup
1oz Fresh Lemon Juice
Mix Gin, Syrup mixture, and Fresh Lemon juice well in a shaker with ice
Pour into a chilled cocktail glass
Garnish with fresh lavender sprig
½oz Fresh Lemon Juice
1tsp Simple Syrup
Pour everything, but Champagne into an ice-filled shaker
Strain into a chilled Champagne Coupe
Top with Champagne
Garnish with a twist
Fresh mint leaves
1oz Simple Syrup
2cups crushed ice
Fresh mint sprig
Muddle mint leaves with Simple Syrup until dissolved
Pack cocktail glass with crushed ice
Top with Bourbon
Garnish with mint sprig
Hayley loves early-2000s emo music and making ‘To Do’ lists. When not writing for Glossi Mag, she can be found discussing the Kardashians with anyone who will listen.