Simon Ho, resident mixologist on the Steven and Chris Show and bartender at the Drake Hotel sits down with Roots to discuss Drake One Fifty (The Drake’s expansion project into the Toronto downtown core), and his stress free way to prep for a holiday party!
You are the in-house Drake mixologist! What is that like?
Simon: I would like to think I am a member of a team. There are a lot of people here who contribute to what we do. When I can be inspired by the people around me, that is when my creativity peaks! There is a huge sense of community internally at The Drake, and in the city of Toronto with fellow drink-makers. I contribute to a team towards a common goal.
That is very Canadian of you!
S: I am not one to take all the credit – it can’t be given to me alone.
What can we expect form the team’s drinks this season?
S: We have tried to stay with updated classics – using the season’s flavours. Cinnamon, cloves, earthy spices, fall orchard fruit – apples, pears – and a lot of maple syrup – a lot!
How much maple syrup are we talking here?
S: You know that big maple syrup heist in Quebec…. that was me. [Laughs]
Tell us a little bit about Drake One Fifty.
S: Drake One Fifty is our first stand-alone restaurant, and we tried to transplant the culture of what we do here (Queen West), to downtown Toronto. We are not going to do a carbon-copy of what we have here – but we are going to build on the success. Our goal was to bring cocktails and “dining culture” to downtown. We felt it was missing in that neighbourhood.
What is your favourite drink on the menu?
S: A few years ago, myself and a fellow bartender Rudy Olsen worked on browning butter to fat wash bourbon with it. It is a really rich buttery drink; there is a little bit of vanilla and cigar tinctures. It is a delicious cocktail! It was fun to watch someone that I worked very closely with come up with something that is so brilliant. It is a perfect winter drink.
Holiday parties can be really stressful for a lot of people. What cocktail do you recommend making that is simple and easy?
S: I always make punch! The holidays are all about spending time with your family – so you don’t want to be slaving away bar tending or cooking the entire time. A punch is really easy! You make it once, set it down and everyone can drink at their own pace.
Simon’s recipe for his favourite Holiday Punch:
Spiced Bourbon Apple Cider
24 oz apple cider
4 oz fresh lemon juice
12 oz cinnamon cinnamon
2-4 cinnamon sticks
2 whole cloves
teaspoon all spice
12 oz of bourbon
fresh ginger (optional)
Bring apple cider to a boil. Bring the heat down and add the spices let simmer for 1-3 minutes.
Strain cider and transfer to a serving vessel and add bourbon.
To serve cold, follow the same steps as above and allow to cool (Note: the spice will not have as strong a flavour).