Within a minute of walking into the Martini Club in the Distillery District, there is a lavender martini in my hand. I’m here for Belvedere Cocktails 101, and global brand ambassador and mixologist Ali Dedianko is clearly coming to Toronto with a bang, not a whisper.

After sampling a rosemary cocktail, another drink from the night’s specialty menu, it was time to get behind the bar. Everyone got to have a personalized educational happy hour! My friend and I were whisked over to learn how to make Zyphers from Ali, Winner of Belvedere’s 2011 Bartender Dream Job Competition. During the hands-on portion, we felt like a couple of Ali’s besties, just laughing, learning, spilling and splashing along. Hands started a little shaky but by the end, we felt like pro mixers, shaking it like a Polaroid picture. Here are a few tips we learned: 

Bartending Lessons:

  1. The thimble measuring thing is called a jigger
  2. You balance the jigger between the top your middle and pointer fingers
  3. When pouring, turn your hand over backwards, don’t just tilt it
  4. Hold the bottle from the very top of the neck, with a finger on the nozzle for optimum control
  5. Find your own martini-shaking swag!

If the night ended then and there, we would have been happy. But it didn’t. The well-dressed, well-oiled group of seventeen hightailed it over to Pure Spirit Oyster House and Grill for a five course meal, complete with Belvedere vodka drink pairings for each plate. Again, we were casually educated on food and liquor as the restaurant’s sous chef and a Martini Club mixologist introduced each course. After dining on oysters, winter beet salad, seafood mac and cheese, a choice of beef tenderloin or sea bream, and kaffir lime white chocolate mousse, we were pleasantly stuffed. The service was incredible, and pre-dessert? Time for an aperitif vodka shot! And after sipping on perfectly paired cocktails all night, we were also pleasantly buzzed, but the sheer amount of food and easy pace of the meal kept us calm enough.

The most impressive of the night’s beverages was the Belvedere vodka martini that was shaken with tomato water, red wine syrup, spice and garnished with a salted cherry tomato. Such skill, this one had to work double duty as it was paired with both the fish and beef options. People from both camps were all singing praises.

We finished the night off with a round of champagne and Hennessy on the rocks at Tappo, another Distillery District gem. Blind vodka taste tests were had and let’s just say, Belvedere was the trump.

To be your own master mixologist, here’s the recipe of our favourite cocktail of the night!

The Zephyr

45 ML Belvedere Vodka
25 ML Fresh Pink Grapefruit
15 ML Orgeat
15 ML Fresh Lemon Juice
Top Tonic Water

Shake first four ingredients and strain into highball over fresh ice. Top with tonic water and garnish with fresh pink grapefruit slice.