by Sheila Swerling-Puritt
Not that long ago a "bar tender" was a husky red-faced man of Celtic extraction who sloshed spirits into your glass and listened attentively to your tale of woe. Nowadays, the person behind the bar is a "mixologist." The term refers to a man or woman working as a drinks chef creating a range of beautiful, delicious and innovative cocktails.
"Mixtress" Michelle Hunt is a glittering example of modern excellence behind the bar. Michelle arrived in Toronto in 1994 as a pre-med graduate and discovered that she couldn't find a good vodka Martini here. She shifted her curriculum to bartending, and graduated with a certificate in "responsible serving," now known as "Smartserve."
In 1996, Hunt and partner Laura Panter founded the Martini Club, a consultancy specializing in custom drink design, mixology training programs and specialty bar service. The Martini Club has become a one-stop shop for companies looking to make an impression in an increasingly savvy consumer market. The company now has 35 trained mixologists and all are foodies who love good food and wine. Twenty of the 35 are women who receive the same rate of pay as the men, but tend to get bigger tips!
Michelle Hunt was born to do business. A flavour specialist and new product guru, she has made a career of forecasting taste trends and developing exceptional flavour palettes. She creates flavours to entice the palate and, reflecting her early education, enhance healthy consumption and wellness.
Hunt attributes her discerning palate to her mother's predilection for stylish living, dining out as often as four times a week. Her personal tastes incline more to savoury than sweet, but she combines a wide range of tastes, using fresh herbs and spices in unexpected ways. "I need punched up flavour," Hunt says, "that's what I find exciting and sexy."
So what's hot these days? Well, vodka is still the number one spirit for mixing with a definite return to the classics (martinis, bourbon sours, and mojitos) but this time they are flavoured with blueberry and sage. Gin, rum, and tequila are gaining strength, and the kitchen comes to the bar with fresh ingredients like grapefruit juice, tarragon or perhaps fresh ginger.
The Kilt Lifter
- ¼ cup peeled and diced cucumber
- ½ oz. fresh lemon juice
- ½ oz. simple syrup
- ½ tsp. peeled chopped fresh ginger
- 2 oz. Hendrik's gin
- Add the first four ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Muddle well.
- Fill the shaker with ice and then add the gin.
- Shake sharply and fine strain into a cocktail glass.
- Garnish with a cucumber and pickled ginger skewer.
I substitute the Monen ginger syrup. Ask your favourite coffee shop where to buy it if you can't find it in your grocery store.
The Ginger Margarita
- 1 oz. 100% silver agave tequila
- 1 oz. fresh lime juice
- ½ oz. Cointreau
- ½ oz. ginger-honey syrup
- Add to a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
- Shake well and strain into a rocks glass over ice cubes.
- Garnish with a candied ginger slice.
For more information, you can contact Sheila at email@example.com.