That’s the Spirit!

I’m not a foodie, I’m an alcoolie :)

I recently passed my WSET Level 2 Certificate in Spirits exam, to augment my food & drink writing. I used to write about wine when I started my CocoHobo / CityandCharm blog. It all began through a fortuitous meeting with Angela Aiello when she was just starting iYellow Wine Club. And I do love the oenological libation, I do. But it is a bit too tied in with my past, and after my attempts at starting a beer website ( waned, I decided that spirits would be my future! Hence the WSET course.

What I learned most through my spirits education is that their history is so intertwined with that of their countries of origin. To order a rum-and-coke at a bar is actually to continue the legacy of rum from the sugarcane fields to the Royal Navy to Bacardi’s distillery in Cuba to your glass here in Toronto. It’s so interesting! And the course encourages students to not just drink spirits but to taste them.

Here’s my response to “Why do we taste spirits?”:

We taste spirits, as opposed to merely drinking them, for the same reasons we do not simply skim a literary tome or glance at a great work of art: analyzation allows for deeper appreciation, releases deeper meaning and evokes deeper reflection. We take the time to get to know the words on the page, the strokes on the canvas or the notes in the glass because someone took the time to put them there for us to discover. The unexamined life is, as Plato pointed out, not worth living; so, too, is the unsavoured spirit not worth drinking. Unless, I suppose, you are 21 and have a less civilized motivation! Fortunately, most of us will outgrow this consumption style and become more accustomed to tasting our spirits with a learned nose, a practiced tongue and an open mind.

I have to say, I totally agree with self. It’s funny, too, because when I was reading The Artist’s Way at Work the other day it was talking about when you go through a creative rediscovery transformation, often your volatile emotions come out first. And that’s what happens with distillation! Volatile elements come out first (the heads) before the dregs (tails) and hearts (good parts). It made me think about how the origin of spirit distillation itself was to get back to the pure, ethereal state– which is totally relevant for emotional distillation as well.

Also, I came up with another one of my catch phrases:

If wine is bottled poetry, then spirits are bottled philosophy.

That’s a homage to my birthday buddy, RL Stevenson, aka Robbie Lou. I haven’t come up with the “and beer is bottled ___” part yet. I kinda want to say sunshine but that doesn’t keep in theme with the poetry/philosophy connection. What would the third one be in the Days of Yore? Sport? Me no no.


The point is, spirits are très interessante! It is now my quest in life to visit their places of origin and write about their history and how we are using the spirits today. I think it is a good time for this drink down memory lane because if you look at the drinks scene in Toronto especially, bartenders are dressing all Prohibition-era and there’s un retour to classic cocktails. My favourites include the Bourbon Old Fashioned, Cuba Libre and methinks I shall go to Sidecar and order a Sidecar.

Oh and I’m absolutely obsessed with French brandy right now. As part of my quest in life I shall be going to Cognac and/or Armagnac regions ASAP!

Until then, pass the rum. My coke is thirsty.


Quotes: ‘Midnight In Paris’ (Woody Allen)

Hemingway: Have you ever made love to a truly great woman?

Gil: Actually my fiancée is pretty sexy.

Hemingway: And when you make love to her, you feel true and beautiful passion. And you, at least for that moment, lose your fear of death.

Gil: No. That doesn’t happen.

Hemingway: I believe that love that is true and real creates a respite from death. All cowardice comes from not loving or not loving well, which is the same thing. And when the man that is brave and true looks death squarely in the face like some rhino hunters I know, or Belmonte who is truly brave, it is because they love with sufficient passion to push death out of their minds. Until it returns as it does to all men. And then you must make really good love again. Think about it.

Coco: Papa don’t preach.


A calendar of cultural events in Toronto

Photo by c.p.grisold

Canadian Music Week
March 20 – 24, 2013
Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival
April 25 – May 5, 2013
National Youth Arts Week
May 1 – 7,

Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival
May 1 – 31, 2013
International Museum Day
May 18, 2013
Doors Open Toronto
May 25 – 26, 2013
Creative City Summit
May 29 – 31,

Banff World Media Festival
June 9 – 12, 2013
June 14 –
23, 2013

TD Toronto Jazz Festival
June 20 – 29, 2013
Toronto Fringe Festival
July 3 – 14,

Scotiabank BuskerFest
August 22 – 25,

Toronto International Film Festival
September 5 – 15, 2013
The Word on the Street
22, 2013

Culture Days
September 27 – 29,

Nuit Blanche
October 5, 2013
International Festival of Authors
October 24 – November 3,

Art Toronto

October 25 – 28, 2013

Get your culture on, Toronto.