With the autumn well under way and beauty all around us, I am left switching my mentality to more indoor activities and entertainment. I love to spend as much time outdoors exploring the city I love, and I would always recommend you do the same. As the colder weather begins to creep over Canadian cities from coast to coast, I am of course drawn to the idea of getting on a plane with Julio and going away. I got to thinking where in the world I would take him and the answer became evident. London is my favourite city in the world and I have seen the globe twice over. From the culture to the class found in every corner.. It’s hard to explain but it just feels like the city I am supposed to end up in.
So when Shangri-La Hotel Toronto contacted me to speak of a visit from award winning mixologist Luca Cinalli of The Nighthjar in London, I was intrigued to say the least. His visit coincides with the launch of a brand new cocktail list at one of my favourite places to escape the cold in Toronto. Be it for a stay in the hotel or a delicious meal at bosk, the fact remains that the following four cocktails are the best in Toronto. THAT is a bold statement, but once you read about them and Luca’s masterful art, I have no doubt you’ll be heading to Shangri-La Hotel Toronto to try them all for yourself.
For those of you who remember, I also recently spoke to the cocktail making skills of the staff at Shangri-La Hotel Toronto during The Toronto International Film Festival. It seems as though their passion for a well executed cocktail and staying ahead of the trends in the Food & Beverage world knows no bounds. It is this passion, enthusiasm and beauty that has me in love with Shangri-La Hotel Toronto and will have me returning time and time again in the years to come.
So why Luca you ask?
Well, to mention just a few reasons why this master of his craft & I met recently to discuss his inspiration and cocktails: “Since the age of 12 he has been working in Hospitality both in back of the house (kitchen), and front of the house (restaurant) positions. He has also trained and lectured bartenders around the world in places like: Bali, Jakarta, Singapore, Moscow, Taiwan, Kuala Lumpur,Manila, Italy, Greece, Belgium, Czech Republic and many more.”
So what are the four creations that those of us in Toronto can enjoy from the one and only Luca Cinalli?
In no particular order, let’s talk about the brand new Luca’s Featured cocktails and why you will agree that they are the best cocktails in Toronto with #DoTheDaniel.
Haute de Provence
I’ve always been a sucker for a champagne flute cocktail. The elegance of the glass is in most cases a good indication of the elegance in the glass. Luca’s Haute de Provence combines Cognac, Provençale Champagne reduction, lemon juice and is garnished with a Chocolate Truffle straw and Calamus dust.
Now, that all sounds like a lot of things happening at once, and to be honest it is. Without being over complicated, these beautiful flavours combine to create a crowd pleaser cocktail that ladies night out joiners to the hotel and friends over brunch can all enjoy. Made with copper pots behind the bar, the finesse of the cocktail being made is just as impressive as the final product itself. When I asked Luca about the difficulty in producing fine tuned cocktails such as this he noted that the most important thing behind a well executed cocktail is “Efficiency & speediness with a good set-up.” We’ve all ordered an elaborate cocktail and had to wait far too long for it to arrive. THIS will not happen with the well thought out and executed Haute de Provence.
And for those of you needing any further reason to give this cocktail a sip, the Chocolate Truffle Straw is the best one of all. Chocolate bitters & truffle oil are dropped down the straw immediately before being presented so that the first sip is decadence embodied. Sweet to start and moving mildly into more citrus acidity as you sip, I dare one of you to not fall in love with this cocktail.
Combining Gin, Artichoke milk, Mushroom milk, Prekase syrup, mustard foam, chocolate charcoal and pop corn dust… now THAT sounds like an interesting concoction does it not? I have no better way to describe this cocktail other than saying it’s beautiful. Not only are the flavours completely unique, I have also never been more intensely sipping a cocktail and trying to examine the flavours I was enjoying.
Soft on the palette, the mushroom and artichoke might sound too intense for a cocktail. In fact they add an earthiness to ground the powerful flavours of Gin which can sometimes be too dominant. The playful presentation also immediately seduces you into that first sip. They say that we eat more with our eyes than we do with our mouths and the same can be said for sipping a well executed cocktail. The name couldn’t be more apropos for the ingredients and layers of flavour that Luca has combined. A potent elixir to say the least that left me smiling and intrigued all at the same time. It simply is a #MustTry Must-try.
The more “desserty” of the cocktails I was lucky enough to sample with Luca, the presentation on this cocktail is what immediately caught my attention. Combining Canadian whisky, lemon juice, sorn silk smoke and an Aloe Vera tart. As Catherine & I learnt, you are meant to gently push the “Cake Cork” into the glass before enjoying the cocktail itself. The cake is meant to absorb the flavours and playfulness of the cocktail and once you are finished sipping you get a special treat to enjoy with a side spoon served alongside the cocktail itself.
I was immediately brought back to my childhood and plunking Oreo cookies into my milk (I preferred to let them soak as opposed to the classic dipping) and then enjoying the cookie last. Elegant and definitely on the sweeter side of the spectrum, to me this cocktail is the perfect culmination after a delicious meal or with afternoon tea in the hotel’s Lobby Lounge.
Omega 6 fashion
This is the one cocktail of the four that keeps coming to mind when I think London meets Toronto infused into a cocktail. Served in a tea cup and saucer, this cocktail combines Bourbon, Hops Amaro, Salted pecan syrup, oolong milk tea, figs & is garnished with a quail egg.
I was pleasantly surprised to sip and have the cocktail be served cold. Immediately the palette is played with because of the tannins in the tea and the lemon zest garnished within the cup. My favourite part of this cocktail is to take a bite of the quails egg which has been poached in tea & coffee and then sip once more. You’ll come to notice the smokiness and sweetness of the whisky which has been heated prior to making the cocktail is hightened and takes the cocktail to a whole new level. I simply love the presentation from the burnt garnish on the saucer to the print of the tea cup.
Why Omega 6 you ask? Because Pecans are the highest source of Omega 6 and are a part of the cocktail in the salted pecan syrup. See? Even Holistic Nutritionists like Catherine have a reason to love this cocktail!
I think that the complexity, intensity and elegance of Luca’s signature cocktails at Shangri-La Hotel Toronto are what have stolen my heart and you get to see them first here on DoTheDaniel.com
When I asked Luca what inspired him in his line of work, he put it in the most beautiful way. He said that “we can express ourselves in a different way” in similar ways to how a chef creates a menu with delicious ingredients. The sign of a good man with a beautiful perspective on life.
I know that these cocktail have not only made me appreciate the masterful art of Luca Cinalli but have also rekindled my true love of London. I think a visit with Julio is long overdue and I know that when I do visit, I will have to stay at Shangri-La Hotel as The Shard London to share in my love for this iconic hotel family. Obviously I would come and pay a visit to Luca & The Nightjar for more of his incredible creations while there!
For more cocktail, hotel & all around daily inspiration make sure to follow @ShangriLaTO on Instagram & Twitter. Tag @DoTheDaniel on your next visit so that we can all hear your opinions and adoration for the best cocktails in the city I call home.
For more behind the scenes of this and other amazing brands I am working with, make sure to follow along with the #DoTheDaniel Instagram account!
Please remember to enjoy responsibly and never drink and drive
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