by Malcolm Jolley
Bill Sweete and Christine Sismondo just want you to have a quiet drink. Sweete, who co-owns Negroni and Sidecar on College Street is as passionate about a proper libation as Sismondo, the author and journalist famous for her 2005 book Mondo Cocktail: A Shaken and Stirred History. They’ve teamed up to create the Toronto Temperance Society, a private club for people who are serious about their drinks.
The Toronto Temperance Society (or TTS) is modelled on the speakeasies of the Prohibition era. There will be no sign at the undisclosed location – Sweete will only say that it’s in downtown Toronto and easy enough to get to from the financial district. Modelled somewhat on London’s Milk and Honey, TTS will operate as a private club, opening its doors only to members and their guests “who are interested in enjoying first rate drinks,” explains Sismondo. While the restaurant veteran Sweete, who worked for Mark McEwen at North 44 and Bymark, acknowledges there will be a bar and holding area for members who drop by, the majority of the booth seating will be available by reservation. Sismondo and Sweete promise no line-ups, overcrowding, ear-splitting noise or any of the other mainstays of the bar scene that repel grown-ups. “We wanted a place where you could come and a have a few quiet drinks with some friends,” Sismondo says.
While TTS plans to serve cheeses, charcuterie and like fare, the focus will be on the cocktails. Sismondo proudly makes her own mixes, like Grenadine from fresh squeezed pomegranate. When I met her and Sweete, she poured me a glass of her homemade tonic water with a dash of club soda – it was delicious even without any gin. The cocktail aficionado had been trying to open a New York-style serious cocktail bar in Toronto for the better part of a year before she met Sweete. A chance trip to Sidecar, where she sampled Sweete’s mixology, convinced her that he was serious about drinks. At the same time, Sweete was looking for an opportunity to offer Torontonians a civilised cocktail experience and was developing the idea of a private club.
By asking members for an annual due of $285, Sweete explains, the pair hope to keep prices reasonable and most importantly they won’t overcrowd the space. “We won’t need to make all of our money from kids on Friday and Saturday night,” he says. Sismondo adds that serious cocktails take time to make, which makes serving them at a crowded bar impossible.
Sweete and Sismondo hope to open the doors of their secret location by the summer. Those interested in membership can apply at www.torontotemperancesociety.com.
Malcolm Jolley is the editor of Good Food Revolution