If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a million times: 2020 was rough. From the health and safety concerns that arose out of the pandemic to natural disasters and often-violent clashes between social and political movements worldwide, newspapers and online platforms are teeming with grim news and conflicting opinions.
With all of this top of mind, it’s easy to see how hope might get lost among the riffraff, but rest assured that, much like the message of a certain popular British Christmas film from the early 2000s, love is all around us. Whether it’s in the actions of the frontline workers toiling tirelessly to keep us all safe, or in the eyes of our loved ones whom we continue to meet over video chat until we can hug once more, we must hold on to the little signs of love to balance out the unpleasantness.
So, as we barrel into the new year (get it?), let’s make 2021 about love: love for ourselves, love for each other and a love of well-deserved good beverages!
Why love, you ask? Why, because as it is wont to about a month and a half into each new year, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Yes, that’s right, that good ol’ mushy, gushy holiday is rearing its rose-covered head once more, only this time it’s here to raise our spirits. Literally.
As famous couples through time could easily tell you, drink often plays and interesting part in a couples’ life together. From fictional couples like Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, whose lives began at a party and ended with a potion, to real-life partners such as literary duo F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, who became known for spending their rent on booze each month and showing each other off at all manner of festivities, finding your perfect match — in life as in liquid — is highly sought after. And while many of us might have a favourite spirit we like to age in our barrels and consume in our spare time, it is also crucial that we know the right couplings for the cocktails we create.
Just like the aforementioned star-crossed lovers and Old Hollywood couple Richard Burton and Liz Taylor, who were also notorious for their shared love of alcohol, the perfect cocktail requires the perfect pairings. Whether in a Margarita, a Caesar, or a creamy digestif like such as a White Russian, the combination of flavours, textures and taste modalities (that salty, sweet, savoury, sour or bitter -ness) can make or break a drink.
To that end, as everyone’s favourite scientist, Bill Nye, might say: “Consider the following.”
The sensory system responsible for taste is activated when food or beverage is consumed and interacts chemically with taste receptors, many of which are located on the tongue. These receptors are in charge of sending a message to a nerve in the brain that discerns things like texture, pain and temperature. Along with your sense of smell, this nerve then registers a sensation; one we identify largely as the “taste type” of something. And as anyone who has ever taken a field trip on a particular cartoon bus can tell you, each of these “taste types,” or, modalities, is registered in a different area on the tongue. Essentially, a well-balanced beverage will coat the tongue with flavour, tapping into many different modalities in one sip both seamlessly and with complexity. In laymen’s terms, this balance of flavours is the reason the salty/sour Margarita, the sweet/sour Lemon Drop and savoury/spicy Caesar are so well loved — they make us want more.
This Valentine’s Day we encourage you and your love, romantic or otherwise (and over the legal drinking age, of course), to play around with mixing your own cocktails. Get creative, make mistakes, enjoy the final product, because at the end of the day, when it comes to love and beverage, there is nothing more than a good match.
* And for those of you who need a bit of guidance, check out our exclusive Urban Barrel Valentine’s cocktail recipe below.
Barrel-Aged Sweet Sorrow
- 30 oz. Forty Creek Single Barrel Select (or 100-proof rye)
- 3 oz. Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy
- 1 oz. Amaro Averna
- ¼ oz. of Aperol
- 1 bar spoon cinnamon syrup (recipe below)
- Garnish: Orange twist
When preparing your cocktail, smoke your tumbler with oak shavings or oak sticks, then pour 2 oz. in a mixing glass with ice and stir for 10 to 20 seconds until chilled. Strain over a giant ice cube in an Old Fashioned tumbler. Garnish with an orange twist.
How to Smoke a Glass
To give your tumbler the lightest smoke flavour, first, rinse your glass with water. Then, chill your glass in the freezer. Prepare the cocktail, and right before you pour, take oak shaving or oak sticks and set it on fire, preferably with a blowtorch. Take your glass and place it over the flame to suffocate the fire.
- 4 cups of sugar
- 1⅔ cups water
- 4 cinnamon sticks
Combine all ingredients in a pot over high heat. Heat until sugar is dissolved, then reduce heat and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and strain out cinnamon sticks. Keep refrigerated in a sealed container for up to six weeks.