Cointreau (750 ml/$39.95, LCBO 6502) sweetens and strengthens, a charming combination. At 40 per cent abv, this French liqueur gives an elegant orange kiss to cocktails like the Sidecar.
Use this bitter, brilliant Italian aperitivo (750 ml/$25.95, LCBO 277954) to mix Negronis and Americanos (equal parts Campari and sweet vermouth). Add soda and a slice of orange for a refreshing pre-dinner quaff or sub sparkling wine for a spritz.
3. Herbsaint or absinthe
Keep absinthe or its American cousin, Herbsaint (750 ml/$49.95, Vintages 281022), handy for Sazeracs and Corpse Reviver #2s. If you want to get fancy, score an absinthe fountain and take the belle époque approach.
Traditionally the digestive drink of old Italian men, amaro is hot right now. Drink it on its own or use it to accent cocktails. Amaro Montenegro (750 ml/$25.30, Vintages 601484) and Nonino (700 ml/$41.95, Vintages 933796) are both excellent.
5. Sweet vermouth
Think of sweet (aka Italian or red) vermouth like Cinzano (1000 ml/$12.75, LCBO 215251) as a wine-based liqueur. Flavoured with caramel and botanicals, vermouth tempers spirits and provides a low-alcohol option for the modest drinker.
6. Dry vermouth
Although Martini & Rossi (1 litre/$12.95, LCBO 253914) is Italian, dry vermouth is sometimes referred to as French. It's an essential ingredient in the classic Martini (try 5:1 gin to vermouth).
7. Angostura bitters
Trinidad's Angostura bitters, used for aroma and flavour, have been around since 1824. Bitters lend balance and character to cocktails and spice up boring non-alcoholic bevies. If you're looking to expand your bitters collection, grab Peychaud's, and check out flavours from Bittered Sling, Bittermens and Bar40 at BYOB (972 Queen West, 416-858-2932, byobto.com).
All photos by David Hawe