So you’ve decided to have Katrina Roberts make you a drink

Morris East’s wine and beverage director guides you through the dangerous and tricky process of deciding what to get tipsy with.

A rainbow of inebriation. - MELISSAA BUOTE
Melissaa Buote
A rainbow of inebriation.

“Start with fresh ingredients and quality spirits,” says Katrina Roberts as she mixes a simple syrup infused with fire-roasted plums into one of Morris East’s signature cocktails, the Nova Libre.

Roberts, wine and beverage director at Morris East, has built her reputation on the use of fresh and fragrant ingredients, like spry sprigs of rosemary or thyme from Riverview Herbs, and seasonal fruits or vegetables that have been given a smoky kiss from the restaurant’s woodfire oven.

The smoky cocktail is a quickly emerging cocktail trend, which is serendipity for a restaurant with a wood fire almost constantly burning. While a peaty scotch can do the trick, Roberts also likes to bring in local ingredients, and to pull flavours from her life, from her childhood, to make drinks that almost feel like comfort food. A syrup infused with smoked honeycrisp apples currently features on the the restaurant’s menu.

“You shouldn’t be afraid to try unusual ingredients,” says Roberts. “But taper them down with something classic.” She points to the Baja, which pairs a red chili- infused simple syrup and cantaloupe puree with the timeworn combination of tequila and lime. “Like Angostura and bourbon,” she says, “they always work.”

Her other booze basic: keep it balanced. “Don’t just put things that are salty or things that are sweet into a glass,” she says. “Balance it. Fill out the palate.”

Roberts' recipes

orange peel
1/2 oz simple syrup
2 oz bourbon
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Muddle orange peel with simple syrup in a tumbler. Add bourbon. Add bitters Add fresh ice. Stir. Garnish with orange slice and a cherry.

1/2 oz St. Germain elderflower liqueur
1 oz scotch
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
1 oz plum syrup
1/4 oz lemon juice

Half plums and place on a baking sheet, roast for 30 to 40 minutes. Add plus and juice run-off to a pot with one cup of water, one cup of sugar and whatever spices you like---cinnamon and cloves work well---bring to a boil and simmer until plums are falling apart and liquid has a syrup consistence. Strain. Cool.

Add all ingredients to a tumbler. Stir and top with fresh ice. Garnish with a slice of plum and lemon peel.

1/2 oz rosemary simple syrup
1/2 oz lemon juice
1 oz gin
1/2 oz St. Germain elderflower liqueur
sparkling wine

Infuse simple syrup with rosemary by adding fresh herb to syrup and letting sit for 20 to 30 minutes. Shake together gin, syrup, St. Germain and lemon juice. Pour into champagne flute or coupe. Top with sparkling wine. Garnish with a rosemary twig.

1/2 oz red chili-infused simple syrup
2 oz tequila
1 oz cantaloupe puree
1/2 oz lime juice
soda water

Infuse simple syrup with your favourite chili--- red thai chili, dried crushed chilis or jalapeno. Just add your desired amount of heat by slicing fresh chilis or throwing the dried ones into the syrup. Let sit for at least 20 minutes.

Add ingredients to a tumbler. Mix. Top with soda water and fresh ice. Garnish with a slice of lime or a fresh chili pepper. Or both!

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