With Toronto slowly reemerging from a long lockdown, a return to indoor dining is causing many mixed feelings. But as my sleepy eyes adjust to Bar Koukla’s airy, sun-soaked interior — I know I’m ready to dive back in. Wrapped in windows and adorned with natural textiles, it’s the first summer I’ve ever craved a seat inside over one on the patio.
Amongst a menu of small plates and natural wines, the cocktails here are one of the biggest draws to their terrazzo bar top.
“The ancient Greeks literally had gods of wine and partying,” says head bartender Stuart Knapman, who was drawn to Bar Koukla’s Greek flavours and technique-heavy approach to cocktails. “It’s often a country that’s overlooked compared to other Mediterranean countries. It’s exciting to build recognition for Greek spirits and cocktails.”
Knapman gets his inspiration from Greek mythology, as well as Greece’s rich history of winemaking, often utilizing the biodynamic wine list for interesting bases. However, his approach to cocktail making shifted to sustainability after a tumultuous year.
“People are opening and closing and having to throw out fridges full of food. It’s hard to stay zero waste in these circumstances,” says Knapman, who has been finding innovative ways to use leftover ingredients in his cocktails. A box of unused blood oranges — intended for a crudo — was transformed into a bright, citrusy liqueur for his paper plane riff, the Makeshift Wings.
After the year we’ve had, a cocktail here feels like celebrating on a cloud-tipped Mount Olympus, inside or out.