The Sortilege

There is a bar a few blocks down from our apartment in The Plateau, which is Montreal's Park Slope or maybe Cobble Hill, that embodies everything this city doesn't get about the art of drinking. For starters, its name is Bar Scoop. I like to call it Bar Le Scoop because it's funnier, but my point is: Who wants to drink at a place called Scoop? This isn't an ice cream parlor or a T-shirt neckline or, like, some little whippersnapper-squirt-neighbor-kid. ("Heya, Scoop!" It is a problem if your bar's name makes me want to toot out a "Heya!")

Scoop looks like a big, black hole of social awkwardness, literally. The walls are painted black, the tables and chairs are black and, well, that's kinda all there is inside Le Scoop. Every time I walk by the patronage entails a thin gaggle of poorly dressed guys standing in an amoebic coagulation. Bar Scoop depresses me and makes me want to stay home and drink, which usually just depresses me even more.

When I am talking about places like Scoop I don't mean Montreal's restaurants, which are alluringly chic even after the kitchen closes, or its small but superior representation of microbreweries, brewpubs, wine bars, etc. I'm talking about bars that are just bars, that serve the beer/wine/liquor trifecta but not food and usually open at 5 p.m. (known here as 17h; why give yourself extra math to do over the course of your day?). For some reason(s?), this city's cultural pulse syncopates with the rhythms and rituals of dining out but clashes with those that set the beat for a night out drinking.

Except, I'm so glad to say, at Le LAB, which has fast become our home away from home. When we went there last week (the second time, I mean), we did so expressly in the name of revving up our cocktail-blogging mojo and promised ourselves we'd only stay for one. But of course we stayed for three, which included a cocktail we'd ordered there on a previous visit, the Sortilege.

Sortilege is a liqueur made in Quebec from Canadian whisky (no e!) and Canadian maple syrup. As you might surmise, this is a sweet cocktail, though I wouldn't call it a dessert one at all. It is a cocktail not meant to be drank at dessert or as an aperitif of any of that stuff, because at Le LAB we drink for the pleasure of drinking in and of itself. And that's the scoop.

The Sortilege

(Adapted from Le LAB)

1 1/2 ounces Canadian Club Whisky

1 1/2 ounces Sortilege

3/4 ounce fresh orange juice

3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice

Splash or so of pure Canadian maple syrup

Orange peel, to garnish

Combine all liquid ingredients, including the syrup, in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a flambe orange peel.

Tasting Notes:

Maple syrup is sold in cans here, rendering the task of quantifying a "splash" of the viscous stuff even more difficult than if you were just able to use an Aunt Jemima squeeze-top bottle. I simply dipped a teaspoon into the can of syrup (quickly) and then let is drizzle into the shaker.

If you can't find any sort of maple liqueur (I don't know of any others besides Sortilege, off the top of my head), I'd just use Canadian Club whisky and a particularly healthy splash of maple syrup. Or maybe even not -- pure maple syrup is crazy pungent and this is a cocktail that may err on the side of too-sweet for your palate anyways.

How to flambe an orange peel: Erm, don't ask me? Sean and I both find it tricky. You basically pinch your peel while hovering it over your flame. The goal is to ignite a waft of the peel's essential oils. Gabrielle at Le LAB does it perfectly every time.

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