Patricia Noonan checks out Toronto’s newest cocktail bar…

Despite the current state of affairs in the world, one thing is sure. The cocktail hour, however socially distanced it may become, is not gone. In the words of  Bernard de Voto, a midcentury ode to the cocktail hour: “his is the violet hour, the hour of hush and wonder, when the affections glow again and valor is reborn, when the shadows deepen magically…”

Marked is a new establishment in the entertainment district that comprises four distinct areas to eat or imbibe (or is that the other way round)? Corsair is the cocktail lounge, a salute to days gone by; dark, brooding and sophisticated, with a list of classic cocktails with a modern twist, which most importantly lean to what I call ‘the show’.

These days, the show consists of meticulously laid out mise en place of all the freshest juices, garnishes, bitters, and the tools of the trade. At Corsair, there is a lot of emphasis on the flashy magic of using nitrogen and I like it! Fresh ingredients stay fresh and cocktails become elevated by twists of the recipe and the ingredients.

I had a chance to have a socially distanced taste of several classics in the lounge; I started with a Hemingway Daiquiri. Actually, it’s a Basil Hemingway and this consisted of the ‘nitro’ show. I asked the bartender, Nicholas Elliot, exactly what was happening with the drink. His boss, head bartender Dylan Turner, got back to me later with more specific facts. “Our Nitro-Muddled cocktails use liquid nitrogen to freeze fresh herbs such as mint or basil. This preserves the herbs in a pristine state so that when we muddle them moments later, we are not bruising them – which can lead to very bitter flavours. Instead, what you’re left with is a very fresh & vibrant taste. We froze the basil for your Basil Hemingway this way.”

As for the ‘Built From Scratch’ cocktails, Corsair bar staff use a mortar and pestle to crush botanicals like dry herbs & spices, then add a base spirit with a clean flavour profile, such as vodka. The vodka absorbs all of the flavours very quickly then we make a cocktail using our new infused vodka. 

I also had their version of the famed modern classic, London Calling, using the new deep purple Empress Gin, which gave the cocktail a dramatic violet look, making me think of that famous quote by writer, Bernard de Voto. 

As Dylan Turner mentioned about the bar techniques they’re using, “We cannot take the credit for creating these techniques, however there is no place in Toronto (to my knowledge) that is using all of these techniques. Or perhaps Canada? Maybe worth exploring further.” And with that, I say cheers, to the violet hour.

See all of Patrica Noonan’s cocktail and spirits coverage at GFR here.