Register Monday | June 25 | 2018

Mixed Emotions

The Right Cocktail For Your Summer-Afternoon Psychoses

"Summer afternoon-summer afternoon ... the two most beautiful words in the English language," according to Henry James. I cannot concur-there can be no magic in the long, breezeless, existential hell that is the summer afternoon. What to do with those sun-dappled hours that drag so hotly on, making you lust for death, brood behind dark glasses, scowl at trees and grip fishbowls full of cocktail, their contents tailored to the hour and the mood in which you find yourself swelteringly imprisoned ...

Margarita (languidly misanthropic)
Nothing cuts through languid misanthropy-an inevitable by-product of 3 PM-like tequila, the liquid heart of the agave plant. Ideally, you drink it straight, in a salt-rimmed shot glass, a fat wedge of lime sitting grenade-like in your fist, but to combat the heat, you'll need something with ice. Not to mention oomph. You'll need something with razor-sharp red nails and poofy sleeves, humming a skanky karaoke tune. You'll need, in other words, a margarita.

Margarita is actually the Spanish word for "daisy," a flower so named because it resembles the sun-the "day's eye." Its etymology lends itself beautifully to the primrose-coloured crotch of a summer afternoon. My love for this drink is a blind love; I have never known a margarita-be it shaken or frozen, tripled sec'd or gloved in Grand Marnier, with bar mix or with freshly pressed limes-to disappoint. But then, I have never known one that lived up to my icy, salty lime-laced dream of it either. I invite anyone to tell me where they've enjoyed a truly great version of this gimlet-in the meantime, here's the one I'd have right now if I could afford it, ripped from Ben Reed's Margaritas.

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2 oz Patron Anejo tequila
1-1/2 oz Citronage
Scant oz fresh lime juice
Salt (for the glass)

Add all the ingredients to a shaker filled with ice. Shake sharply and strain into a salt-rimmed frosted margarita coupette.

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Vodka (wearily horny)
Hunter S. Thompson wrote that he was never able to properly explain himself in the heat. I, for my part, have never been able to court. For the wearily horny, may I suggest vodka in its vilest form-a cocktail that serves as both a pick-up line and the means by which to bed said object of affection: The bullshit martini (vodka bludgeoned by a kitchen-sink mix of liqueurs, juice, soda, etc.) with its sexy names and high alcoholic content will do a large part of your "come hither" work for you. Use the "treat" at the bottom of the martini glass-usually a cherry, a Hershey's Kiss, or some other nugget of alcohol-steeped goodness-as bait.

Toronto-currently in a martini-bar craze-does this drink quite well. For the best of the genre, try Laide, a relatively new ultra-chic bar downtown. Bad porn plays on the dark walls, and there are little gauze-curtained coves in which you can recline and tell sexy lies to moderately attractive strangers. To drink, I suggest the Kinky Kitten, made with sourpuss raspberry, apricot brandy and juice "under a blue bed." Or, if feeling saucy and spend-thrifty, the rainbow-coloured "Threesome"-a three-layer surprise-is also mysteriously good. (Though I begged and begged, the bartender wouldn't tell me what was in it.)

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Kinky Kitten

Equal parts sourpuss raspberry and apricot brandy
1/2 oz Blue Curacao
1/4 oz Smirnoff Orange

Pour equal parts Sour Puss Raspberry liqueur and apricot brandy in shaker full of ice and mix. Strain into (chilled) martini glass, and top with 1/2 oz of Blue Curacao and a dash of Smirnoff Orange.

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Bourbon (hypothetically suicidal)
If you were sincere, you'd want a Long Island iced tea. When trapped in the shadowless July depths of superficial despondency, however, nothing does the trick like bourbon. Mint Juleps, for instance, with their southern-gothic connotations, are the arguably perfect drink for the half-hearted contemplation of death. If you are still feeling morose, consider the Suffering Bastard, a similar monster made with gin or rum.

For the best bourbon drink in Toronto, go to Southern Accent, a Cajun restaurant in the annex, for their bourbon sours. The food here is also quite good, but the drinks-ice cold, made with real lemon juice and wrought with that stiff bourbon burn-are a religious experience. To be sipped on their leaf-shaded terrace, grimly eyeing the setting sun.

Owners Robert Ketchesen and Frances Wood were kind enough to provide their
fabulous Bourbon Sour recipe:

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Bourbon Sour

1 1/2 oz Bourbon (Jim Beam) (45ml)
Ice
3 oz lemon mix, made up of:
3 parts simple syrup (half hot water and half sugar by volume, stir till sugar dissolves)
4 parts fresh squeezed lemon juice

Half fill a shaker with ice, add bourbon and lemon mix. Shake twenty-five to thirty times rigorously (up and down) and pour immediately into iced glasses. If you prefer it sweeter, add some simple syrup.

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Rum (fruitlessly wanderlusty)
To long for the quintessentially summery pleasures of ocean, sand and palm trees when you are unable-mentally and physically-to unstick your ass from your lawn chair is, you will agree, a sorry state of affairs. Consider rum as an alternative means of travelling to a place where steel-drums play and breezes blow, if only in the mind.

Daiquiris are mandatory summer drinking. My favourite recipe is a watermelon version from Nigella Lawson's Nigella Bites. It involves freezing cubes of the fruit in bags, but that's the only trial your patience will have to endure-and I must say it's well worth the trouble. This is an icy, ruby-coloured dream. Despite Nigella's astute claim that the drink is "ambrosia even for the good-taste gods," it is actually best enjoyed in makeshift shade while reading trash or eavesdropping on neighbours.

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Watermelon Daiquiri

1/3 cup (or to taste) light rum
Juice of one good-sized lime
1 heaping tablespoon confectioners' sugar
approx. 10 2-inch cubes of frozen watermelon

Put all the above ingredients in a blender and blitz to a pinkly foamy puree. Pour into two waiting margarita glasses and tip back, bangles jangling.

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Another rum-based option is the Mojito, my favourite cocktail. I first sampled its charms in a dark bar by the Pacific Ocean, in the crux of some vague, imagined despair. I never looked back. Last summer, this Cuban drink enjoyed (or was it endured?) a bit of a renaissance-everywhere I looked, shiny-shirted urbanites were drinking it by the pitcher. Frankly, it ruined my beloved for me a little. But a good drink is a good drink, and you simply can't go wrong with rum, mint leaves, lime juice, cane sugar and soda. A warning, however: this is a very easy beauty to botch. Trust the making of it only, as I did, to a spookily silent Cuban. Drink by a beach (or at the very least, an inflatable kiddie pool) and dream of a bluer, more merciful hour when those two most baleful words in the English language-summer afternoon-are replaced with the most magical: summer night...

Veronica Tartley (Mona Awad) has eaten, shamelessly or barely at all, in nearly every city in the world. She enjoys rain, hurling things against walls and walks on the beach. She lives beautifully in an undisclosed location at the edge of the known universe. There, she weeps her mascara tears, churns butter in the old style and listens to French accordion music.