Meet Montreal's Official Cocktail

The Montreal bartending community banded together to create a custom cocktail for their beloved city.

The Montreal cocktail is open for interpretation. The Montreal Cocktail is open for interpretation.

Singapore Sling, Manhattan, Moscow Mule, Long Island Iced Tea ... eponymous cocktails make up many of the classics, but how exactly do you go about creating a new one? With Montreal's 375th anniversary around the corner, Kevin Demers, owner and operator of the Québécois bar Coldroom, decided to take matters into his own hands. At this year's Tales, amongst a mere 15,000 attendees, the Montreal Cocktail made its official debut. With equal parts gin, Canadian rye, aperitivo, and gentian liqueur, the brilliantly orange cocktail is served neat, with a grapefruit zest twist. We caught up with Demers to see just how one begins a campaign to give their beloved city a drink of its own.

How did the inspiration for a Montreal cocktail come about?

The inspiration came when I looked at everything going on in our industry all over the world. The community was what really stood out to me. I noticed many great cities with great bar concepts and amazing bartenders, and that's when I realized that our city had something to offer the international bartending community. I wanted us to come and work together to show that the Montreal bartending community had a voice and something to say, and the Montreal cocktail was born.

What's your personal connection to this?

My personal connection is like that of the 15 other bartenders involved. We love our city, we love what we do, and we want to be able to show that in our work. A project this big wouldn't have been possible if you can't work together. This project was a labor of love, and I really wanted to see the city come together and show that when a few people can come together, we can make some pretty decent cocktails.

Did you experiment with multiple recipes before choosing this one?

This was about a four-month process. Don't forget in a big group, you have a lot of egos to play with, you have different backgrounds, flavors, and attitudes to deal with. So we came up with a plan that we needed to stick to. We created a questionnaire that broke down all the information we needed to start our first round of tests, and then we broke off into two teams that brought something different from both sides. Then, we mixed the teams up again and gave each one a cocktail to re-work on. We finalized our last ingredients by asking what were the "key words" you got when you tasted the cocktail. Finally, we chose one.

How did a bunch of bartenders all agree on one recipe?

That wasn't easy! We had some really great creative minds. But with our plan that we designed, we based everything off of the majority. Our initial goal was, 'how can we represent Montreal properly?' With our city flag and our heritage, we had a direction that took us on a really cool road to the creation you have before you.

15 Montreal bartenders, 1 cocktail recipe. 15 Montreal bartenders, 1 cocktail recipe.

How are you spreading the news of the Montreal Cocktail, and what's next?

Well, the goal is to create a modern classic. It's a cocktail that can stand the test of time. The idea was to replicate this at any bar you go to around the world (hence the booze-forward cocktail). We had the privilege to present it at Tales of the Cocktail this year. But that's not all. We have created a website, Instagram, and Facebook.

Our goal and mission statement is to generate more cocktail enthusiasts for our great city and show that our cocktail is not to be overlooked. We're also hoping we get other cities following suit and showcasing what their own city has to offer. Some cities have been contacting me asking what our process was, and we are all more than happy to help.

The Montreal cocktail was created by Montreal for Montreal, but definitely can be enjoyed by everyone. And we are all so proud of it.

The "official recipe" lists equal parts gin, Canadian rye, aperitivo, and gentian liqueur, but it's open for interpretation?

The reason we kept the ingredients open for interpretation is because there's some products you can't get everywhere. But there is also the fun fact that you can just play with the combination that you like — some like it with Aperol, others with Campari. Every aperitivo has some uniqueness to it that will change your perspective of the cocktail. Just like our city. You walk down the street and you're in another cultural part of town.

Demers' favorite version is below:

Montreal Cocktail

  • 1 part Bombay Sapphire
  • 1 Part CC Rye
  • 1 Part Suze
  • 1 Part Meletti Bitter Apertivo
  • zest of Grapefruit

Directions: Stir all ingredients with ice. Strain into chilled coupe glass. Garnish with grapefruit zest twist.

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