The New "Normal"

May 21, 2020

I've been thinking a lot lately about why I like to make cocktails.

At first, when I was getting started, it was the spectacle. The theatrics of the bar and the spirits. The guests at the wood were my audience. After a while, you get better, and you start to develop a craft, a distinct style; some form of artistic expression that leads to a new kind of excitement.

I am by no means an expert on anything to do with alcohol or mixology or restaurant-ing, so the thing I miss most about being at the bar is learning something new every day. However, I would say I am comfortable in my style and have also been researching new recipes and techniques for the classes and the blog, so my thirst for knowledge is being quenched.

So, in this global lockdown, I have all the time in the world to tinker and improve that style. I have access to spirits. In fact, I have better access to spirits than I would normally due to all the pop-up bottle shops! I have literally all the time in the world.

So what's missing?

Well, thanks to the Virtual Cocktail Class, not very much! Sure, we're not in a bar, but at least we're
"together", having a good time. Yeah, sure, you have to shake your own drinks, juice your own citrus, pour your own shots, but at least you're surrounded by friends, Hollywood Squares-style, and you have your trusty bartender to guide you through your experience.

The virtual class is similarly fulfilling for me. I hadn't thought about it until I overheard a barista on an Instagram Live coffee tutorial. He exclaimed how excited he was that someone was drinking a coffee that he made. Of course, he didn't physically make the coffee, but his expertise and guidance lead the Vlogger to pull the perfect espresso and steam the milk just right. I get this sensation every time I teach a class and the rewards of teaching someone a new skill, even something as simple as juicing a lime, has kept me motivated throughout this quarantine. I never thought I would teach the thirsty people of France, Norway, Mexico, etc., but now they're all sipping my drinks!

Despite my innate optimism for the present, I can't help but be a little more pessimistic about the immediate future of the restaurant industry. Most likely, when restaurants are finally given the go-ahead from governments, capacity will be capped at a certain percentage and slowly increased over time. Our servers, bartenders, managers, kitchen staff will surely be wearing more PPE like gloves and masks. Customers will pour their own water and pack up their own to-go boxes with leftover food. I'm not sure when restaurants will get back to a pre-COVID level of operation, but I don't think it will be achieved in 2020.

This staggered re-opening process is completely necessary and over time, I have no doubt that many wonderful epicurean experiences will be conceived of and executed because due to the insanity of 2020. Like Le Phénix rising from the ashes of Chantecler, Toronto, Ontario, Canada restaurant scene will one day thrive again because we have always sought out those who want to feed us. I have always maintained that Toronto has one of the top culinary scenes in the world, and one little pandemic isn't going to change that.

It doesn't make sense for us to just go on with our lives like none of this has happened. It's hard, and it's frustrating, but people are dying, and more and more will continue to do so if we don't keep reminding ourselves why we're staying home in the first place.

I don't know how much longer we're going to be inside. But as long as we are, I'll be here, teaching you what little I do know.