Brayden (left) and Dustin Jones of Blood Brothers Brewing started out as home brewers.
Since some of Ontario's most exciting new micro-breweries (Left Field, Rainhard and Blood Brothers come to mind) are projects spearheaded by former home brewers, we fully support the innovation and variety that this incredibly popular hobby brings to the local beer scene.
Session beers and low-alcohol cocktails
Finally, flavour is no longer analogous to alcohol content. Last summer was stacked with quality session beers from IPAs to APAs to saisons and sours, and we're hoping it only gets better in 2016. Bartenders, please continue pouring out the vermouth and sherry, and keep concocting excellent (low-alcohol) suppressors. Our livers solute you.
Healthier drinks and fermented delights
We dig how fermented non-alcoholic beverages like kombucha, shrubs and ginger beer are enjoying a prolonged moment. Increasingly popular as zingy and gut-friendly non-alc alternatives, they've also become staple ingredients on cocktail menus. Along with cold-pressed juices and low-octane cocktails, they're leading to a more health-conscious and sustainable drinking culture.
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Locally made spirits such as Dillon's absinthe and funky ciders like the ones from Spirit Tree are trends we hope continue to grow in 2016.
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We've been rallying for more independent Ontario distilleries for a while and have a hunch that this might be the year that some new blood joins the ranks of Stillwaters, Dillon's and Toronto Distillery Co. While anticipating the opening of T.O.'s tiny Yongehurst Distillery, we'll keep our fingers crossed that the international spotlight on Canadian whisky helps encourage more fresh-faced local distillers.
Local cider stepped out from behind beer's shadow last year, impressing us with a host of heritage apple varieties, wine-barrel aging, fruit and flower infusions and super-funky and puckering experiments with Brett and wild yeast. Great things have been coming from Ontario's orchards, and we're looking forward to tasting more this year.
The old-fashioned cocktail has a strong history, but we're tired of the bourbon fixation.
Unnecessarily complicated drinks
We're immediately skeptical of any cocktail pushing 10 ingredients, especially when over half those things are bitters or "house made" stuffs. Generally, the more shit thrown into a glass the likelier it is that the drink will drown, becoming less cocktail than swamp water. We're not arguing against creativity, but for simplicity. The same goes for beer. Do we want a chili-maple-walnut-blueberry-cruller stout? Nope.
Mediocre pale ale
Despite the dizzying deluge of craft breweries launched in the past few years, Toronto still has one foot stuck in pale ale purgatory. While they do tap into Ontario's British-influenced brewing heritage, we're straight-up sick of the army of insipid malty tallboys taking up too much space in bar fridges. Too much meh is not a good thing.
We will forever appreciate bourbon as a righteous gateway to more nuanced whiskey styles. And the old-fashioned is cocktail royalty. But lately, over-hyped American majority-corn whiskey is totally killing our buzz. Yes, it's a sweet, stiff treat with a cool history (okay, not that cool), but it's pretty damned one-dimensional - decidedly not worth the obscene scramble for inflated bottles of precious Pappy. Besides, cooling our bourbon intake will buy Kentucky's dwindling stocks some time to replenish. How about rye in that Manhattan?
While we're happy that pride and professionalism have re-installed themselves in service jobs that were considered "transitory" for too long, bartenders, somms and baristas need to snuff their egos and embrace the simple loaded truth: getting over yourself will only make you better at your job. As Toronto becomes more saturated with good places to eat, drink and be merry, competition will stiffen. Inhospitality and snobbery in service just won't fly.
Tired, crappy liquor marketing
This is not a Toronto-centric issue, but it irks us nonetheless. If we're to believe the redundant ploys corporate liquor overlords try to cram down our throats, whisky almost always springs from the spirited toil of some rugged forefather, low-calorie vodka and ready-to-pour sugar-free cocktails are a girl's best friend and every brand of beverage alcohol launched in the past few years is either "craft," "small batch" or both - and the list goes on until we yawn ourselves sober. Cut the tired crap and come up with some fresh material, marketers. We know you have the dollars to do it.