The Toronto Cocktail is another delightful way to exploit your bottle of Fernet-Branca, this time with whiskey.

It would please me if the drink were actually invented in Toronto, but I’ve found no evidence for that. The earliest recipe I’ve found is my 1958 edition of David Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks (I’m told it’s also in the 1948 edition.)

The Toronto Cocktail, photo ©2010 Douglas M. Ford. All rights reserved.
The Toronto Cocktail

The Toronto is basically a tarted-up Whiskey Old-Fashioned, and is structurally reminiscent of the Sazarac.

The Toronto Cocktail

  • 2 oz rye whiskey (Sazarac, Wild Turkey 101)
  • ¼–½ oz demerara syrup
  • ¼ oz Fernet Branca
  • 2–3 dashes Angostura bitters

Stir all ingredients with ice until very cold; strain into a chilled cocktail glass or Old-Fashioned glass. Optionally, express and garnish with orange.

In the spirit of the drink’s name, I would think that a first-rate full-bodied Canadian whisky would work well in this drink, perhaps Wiser’s or Forty Creek. But having no first rate Canadians at hand, I went with straight rye. Embury’s ratio is 3 parts whiskey to one part Fernet-Branca, unusual for his normally whiskey-heavy stylings, and quite out of balance to my taste. The modern rendering is the 8:1 ratio, which tastes like it still has whiskey in it.

Fernet-Branca and the Toronto Cocktail (detail)The orange garnish is often omitted, but it helps meld the flavors of the whiskey and Fernet. Be really careful not to overdo the sugar if you garnish—as with all Old-Fashioned variants, the border between Just Right and Cloyingly Sweet is vanishingly thin, and the orange can push this one over the edge.

Following the lead of the Old-Fashioned and the Sazarac, it amuses me to serve this drink in an Old-Fashioned glass. (Embury suggests that it would have been done either way in the ’50s.) And I might add perhaps one largish piece of ice, yes, that would be just the thing…