The Toronto Cocktail
The Toronto is essentially a Rye Old Fashioned with a bar spoon of Fernet Branca and an orange twist. I often refer to it as a gateway Fernet cocktail as it’s an easy way to introduce the Old Fashion aficionado to the bracingly bitter amaro. The drink has grown in popularity and it can be ordered at any bar worth its salt. A great drink for any home bartender to have in their roster, the Toronto is a valuable lesson in the versatility of the Old Fashion formula.
The Toronto’s history evolved throughout the early 1900’s and becomes a bit more storied with each incarnation. In 1916 Hugo Ensslins’ “Recipe for Mixed Drink” has a recipe for a ‘King Cole Cocktail’ with a bourbon base and a dash of Fernet, sugar, and an orange twist. In 1922 “Cocktails & How to Mix Them” has a ‘Fernet Cocktail’ calling for equal parts Fernet & rye (or a substitute of cognac) with a dash of Angostura and a lemon peel. The book goes on to state that the Fernet Cocktail “...is much appreciated by the Canadian of Toronto”. The drinks first appearance by name is in David Embury’s ‘The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks’ in 1948. Through the 1960’s and onward the drink would languish in obscurity until the turn of the millennium when Jamie Boudreau would help revive the classic cocktail.
THE TORONTO COCKTAIL
2 oz Rye Whiskey
¼ oz Fernet Branca
Bar Spoon Demerara Sugar (2:1)
Stir. Strain over a large rock. Express orange peel.
NOTES ON VARIATION
I’ve had some fun substituting in different whiskeys and some more well-aged rums. Currently workshopping a Jamaican Rum variation with a cold brew ice cube. Amaro Nardini, Braulio, or Cynar make for fun substitutes for Fernet. Go nuts.