The White Rye Daiquiri

Spring in Toronto generally means stepping into our small outdoor spaces, sweeping away remnants of the previous summer’s container gardens, and scouring the blanket of grit accumulated over the last six months. Cold, damp April showers blending the old dirt with new growth and fresh topsoil is where we looked to for our inspiration in this spring cocktail shoot. Only problem is that our balconies aren’t really strewn with decaying flora right now. All we have are uncharacteristically organized stacks of empty planters and patio furniture.

Spring Cocktail

The rule of thumb for planting In Ontario is to wait until the May 2-4 weekend when we’re at last safe from overnight frosts and other plant-killing weather, so new buds aren’t exactly popping their heads up on our balconies just yet. Thankfully, Jen has a green thumb and has started many of her tomatoes, peppers and herbs from seed inside. A quick trip to Young Jong Fruit & Flower Market, along the popular strip of Avenue and Davenport florists, also helps to fill in the gaps for new and dried spring flowers. The added assistance of my cocktail-loving, and skilled set-designer friend Justine helped to put the finishing touches (and rain drops) on the scene.

2014-04-24 16.07.29-2

I wanted to make something refreshing and clear to mimic the spring rain pouring down on us and I really wanted to come up with something using white whisky because it’s a clear spirit that’s enjoyed in its infancy. We may be waiting a month or so before we see spring mature into summer but at least we don’t have to wait years for it to happen like whisky-makers do for their product. White whisky, also known as white dog and perhaps even more unflatteringly, moonshine, doesn’t contain any of the aged-characteristics that whisky-drinkers love. It doesn’t actually taste much like whisky, and depending on the brand, it could more closely resemble the flavour profile of tequila.

Spring Cocktail

Where I would normally never want a lime near my whisky, the rules change for its un-aged counterpart. Though I hate to do it when we’re suffering through a lime crisis, I think this spirit needs the sourness of lime. An old-fashioned daiquiri, subbing out the white rum for white whisky makes great use of a spirit better known for being distilled into bathtubs in the backwoods of Tennessee. This cocktail tastes of spring and would do well with the addition of some herbal flourishes like thyme, lemon verbena, lavender, or mint. The herbal notes will have to wait for summer though, giving time for the plants to grow sturdy and robust before I cut them down for happy hour.

Spring Cocktail

The White Rye Daiquiri

makes 1 cocktail

3/4 oz lime juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 oz simple syrup
1/4 oz Cointreau
3 oz white rye whisky
1 small egg white (optional)

In a cocktail shaker combine the lime juice, simple syrup, Cointreau, white whisky, and egg white. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds to ensure the egg white is fully incorporated, then fill the shaker with ice and shake again for 20 seconds or until the outside of the shaker feels very cold. Strain and serve in a chilled cocktail glass with additional ice.

Spring Cocktail

Robbie Burns Day: The Morning After

Into our second miserable cold snap of January, we’re in need of some seasonal eating that goes beyond soup. It’s part of the Crustcrumbs mandate to address eating traditions, so we weren’t about to let Robbie Burns Day pass us by and with it, the only chance to eat haggis for the year. There aren’t many other foods that have such pomp and circumstance follow them out to the table before they are formally addressed.

Minced Haggis Fry

Address to a Haggis

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’a grace
As lang’s my arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o’need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An’ cut you up wi’ ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin’, rich!
Then, horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Bethankit! hums.
Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad make her spew
Wi’ perfect sconner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as wither’d rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
His nieve a nit;
Thro’ bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll mak it whissle;
An’ legs an’ arms, an’ heads will sned,
Like taps o’ thrissle.
Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer
Gie her a haggis!

Even in the address it’s noted that haggis is not exactly something we tend to fawn over compared to other dishes but that, I think, is what makes it special. I hope it’s also what makes it okay to say that we skipped over the traditional ceremony and went straight for the leftovers.

Minced Haggis Fry

This is haggis for the morning after. A haggis is ideal to make a breakfast mince fry up because it’s dense with oats, liver and aromatic black pepper. I’d go through with the whole haggis ceremony actually, if only to have these leftovers the next day. Though pretty damned tasty on it’s own, I also can’t resist a bit of brunchery tinkering, adding a golden breaded and fried soft-boiled duck egg to top off this glorious mound so that the yolk can ooze its way through the mince adding to its gravied texture. Boiled potatoes are mandatory just as tatties were the night before.

Scotch Caesar

A Scottish-Canadian beverage seems only too appropriate for a haggis breakfast. Enter in the Scotch Caesar. This is especially tasty if you happened to have any remnants of single malt scotch at the bottom of a formerly beloved bottle from the previous night. Since that’s an unlikely case though, I’d suggest trying a blended scotch for this cocktail, such as Compass Box Great King Street Artist’s Blend Scotch. It’s excellent in cocktails and if you wanted to get fancy, you could infuse it with shiitake mushrooms, though it would be a far cry from being Scottish.

So lets toss in a Scottish prayer and get to the food.

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.

Minced Haggis Fry

Minced Haggis Fry

Enough for 4

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small (approximately 150g) yellow onion, finely diced
1 leek, sliced into thin half moons
1 large carrot, diced finely
4 cloves garlic, minced
1lb cooked haggis, casing removed
100ml red wine
4 whole tomatoes from a can, crushed with your hands
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 large white potatoes, scrubbed and sliced thickly
salt to taste

Slick a large heavy-bottomed frying pan with olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add in the onion, leek, carrot, garlic, and a pinch of salt and sweat for 5-10 minutes until the carrots just begin to soften. Slice the haggis into large rounds and add to the pan with the vegetables, breaking it up as it softens. Add the wine, tomatoes and Worcestershire sauce and cook for 5 minutes more until everything holds together in a cohesive mix. Adjust the salt to taste.

In a medium saucepan filled with cold water, add the potatoes and bring to the boil. Add a generous amount of salt to the water and simmer gently until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife.

To serve, mound the the mince on a plate with the boiled potatoes tucked up alongside.

Breaded and Fried Soft-Boiled Duck Eggs with Haggis

Breaded and Fried Soft-Boiled Duck Eggs

Makes 6

6 duck eggs, at room temperature
946ml sunflower oil
50g all-purpose unbleached flour
1 large chicken egg, beaten
65g panko or other fresh coarse breadcrumbs
salt to taste

Lower each duck egg carefully into a medium saucepan of gently simmering water and cook for approximately 6 minutes depending on the size of your eggs. Immediately plunge the eggs into cold water and leave to cool completely before peeling. Be very gentle when peeling the eggs as the whites will be just set and will break if handled roughly.

Begin slowly heating the oil in a medium saucepan until the oil reaches 375°F.

While the oil is heating, roll each egg separately in the flour, then dip into the chicken egg, then coat in the panko. Deep fry the eggs in the oil for approximately 20 seconds until the coating is a light golden brown. Drain on a plate lined with a paper towel and serve warm.

Scotch Caesar

Scotch Caesar

Makes 1 cocktail

2 oz scotch
1/2 oz bottled clam juice
4 oz tomato juice
4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
4 dashes tabasco
pinch of fine sea salt
pinch of celery salt
grating of fresh horseradish
grating of black pepper
fennel fronds, for garnish

In a tall glass filled with ice add everything except the horseradish and black pepper. Stir thoroughly to combine, garnish with a grating of horseradish and black pepper, then the fennel fronds.

Behind-the-Scenes: Christmas Cocktail Party

Merry Christmas!  As the Santa Claus of Crustcrumbs (oh wait, no, that’s John), I’m here to bring you the greatest gift of all: behind-the-scenes pictures from our Mad Men themed office cocktail photoshoot.


The worst part about doing a big photoshoot like the one we did for our Christmas cocktail series is that I can’t post all of the images from the shoot.

Whether it’s Sara Hennessey getting weird with a nutcracker…

Sara Hennessey

Crustcrumbs Behind-the-Scenes

… or creating a cheesy conga line solely because John said “NO CHEESY CONGA LINES”, and he should probably learn by now that I’m going to think everything on his forbidden shot list is a good idea…

Crustcrumbs Conga Line

Crustcrumbs Behind-the-Scenes

… or just general “pretending to be drunk” shenanigans…

Crustcrumbs Behind-the-Scenes

Crustcrumbs Behind-the-Scenes

… we obviously had a lot of fun doing this shoot.  It was also sometimes difficult to remember that it was supposed to be about the drinks.

Crustcrumbs Behind-the-Scenes

Because I was having so much fun, I forgot to take a behind-the-scenes photo of my lighting setup.  Luckily I’m also clumsy, and I took this picture by accident:

Crustcrumbs Behind-the-Scenes

Shooting in an office is difficult.  First of all, when you’re dealing with multiple light sources, it can be a pain to balance the colour between the window light (blue) and gross fluorescent office lighting (orange).  Since I knew I wanted to desaturate the images and give them a bit of a “vintage” look, I didn’t worry too much about colour balancing.

Secondly, there is stuff everywhere.  Stuff casts a shadow.  Since I didn’t want to spend all day setting up multiple lights everywhere, I set up just one as seen in the photo above – an ABR800 ring flash in a moon unit pointed down at the girls over the cubicle wall camera right.  For a secondary light source, to fill some of the shadows and make them less harsh, I used a shoe mount flash (speedlite) attached to my camera and pointed it at the ceiling.  You can read more about bounce lighting here.

The end result:

The Ladies of Crustcrumbs

A big thank you to all five of our models and to Eagle for letting us use their office on a Sunday afternoon!

Christmas Cocktail Roundup

I was out of town last week, so I missed getting drunk with all our Crustcrumbs readers during our 5 Days of Cocktails.  Allow me to reminisce with you all by rounding up all five of our Christmas cocktails.

5 Days of Cocktails

The first beverage in our week-long Mad Men themed office Christmas party was a County Nog.  The County Nog was modeled by Lynn, who later passed out under her desk.

County Nog

Next, we have Sarah drinking a Black Manhattan, garnished with bourbon-soaked cherries.

Black Manhattan

Sara joined us to drink a Widow’s Kiss, John’s twist on an old classic.

Widow's Kiss

A flashy Bourbon Sour was fourth, topped with a snowy froth and a swirl of bitters.  The Bourbon Sour was modeled by the lovely Mika.

Bourbon Sour

And last but not least is Michelle drinking a classy and elegant Bijou.


That’s it!  We hope you enjoyed our office Christmas cocktail shenanigans.  Maybe drink a few glasses of water on your way out.

5 Days of Cocktails


5 Days of Cocktails – Day 2: Black Manhattan

The Black Manhattan is the Megan Draper of cocktails. It’s the younger, darker-haired variation of its predecessor and wholly enchanting to someone a bit old-fashioned and fixated on all things whisky. It feels both familiar and a little exotic, best suited for those seeking something new and chic that can play the part situated high atop the city in a penthouse suite, hanging above the social turmoil and counterculture happening on the busy streets below.

Black Manhattan

This is really a great cocktail for those just getting into serious cocktails. It’s dead simple to put together as it’s basically just two types of alcohol and unlike a regular Manhattan, you don’t have to worry about finding a quality sweet vermouth, which is a near impossible task in Ontario. Amaro Averna is what’s typically called for in this cocktail. It’s thick, sweet and herbal, lending a deliciously complex flavour to the drink. If you have trouble finding it, you could substitute in another type of sweet amaro. I’ve become fond of variation that uses Vecchio Amaro del Cappo though it’s lighter in colour, creating a cocktail that looks more like a traditional Manhattan.

Black Manhattan

Black Manhattan

Makes 1 cocktail

2 oz bourbon
1 oz Amaro Averna
1 dash Angostura
1 dash Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6
2 bourbon-soaked cherries, for garnish

In a mixing glass filled with ice add the bourbon, Amaro Averna, and bitters. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with the bourbon-soaked cherries.

Bourbon-Soaked Cherries

50g granulated sugar
50ml cold water
125ml bourbon
100g good quality dried cherries

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the bourbon and cherries. Cover and leave to plump for approximately 30 minutes. Once plumped, pack the cherries into a resealable jar and refrigerate until ready to use.

Mad Men Office Party