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Toronto Cocktail


This historic cocktail finds a delicious balance between two bold ingredients.

In the canon of cocktails named after cities (as our resident historian, Wayne Curtis, recently explored), provenance is not always straightforward. Consider the Toronto Cocktail, constructed of rye whiskey, fernet, simple syrup, and bitters. An early iteration, albeit with drastically different proportions, is found in Robert Vermeire’s 1922 book Cocktails: How to Mix Them and is simply called the Fernet Cocktail. Vermeire notes, seemingly apropos of nothing, that the drink is “much appreciated by the Canadians of Toronto.”

The cocktail surfaced again midcentury in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks by David Embury, this time sporting its Canadian moniker. But it wasn’t until Jamie Boudreau, owner of Seattle bar Canon and a Canadian native, rediscovered the drink in the early aughts that it gained any substantial recognition. “I was reflecting how the U.S. has great cocktails named after its cities, architecture, etc. (e.g. Manhattan) while Canada did not really have anything of note, so I began combing through my library,” explains Boudreau. “The Toronto was especially intriguing, as one doesn’t often see fernet called for in recipes.”

While the natural assumption would be to mix the drink using Canadian rye whisky, Boudreau notes that it’s more important to use a robust rye that can stand up to the fernet. (And to explore the spectrum of complex flavors that can be found within the category, check out our round-up of American-made fernets).

“Fernet is a beast!” says Boudreau. “The use of a quality rye can tame this monster and bring out the nice menthol notes, with its intense bitterness balanced by the orange oil and simple syrup. Lengthened like this, one can appreciate fernet’s complexity, instead of being beaten to the death with its aggression.”


  • 2 oz. rye whiskey (100 proof preferred)
  • ¼ oz. Fernet Branca
  • ¼ oz. rich simple syrup (2:1)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Tools:mixing glass, barspoon, strainer
  • Glass:coupe or cocktail
  • Garnish:orange peel


Combine ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and a swath of orange peel. Stir well and strain into a chilled glass. Twist a fresh orange peel over the drink and use as garnish.

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