Rave: Piola Aperitivo Italiano

The holidays, with their unending parties and gift-buying obligations, may be long gone but that doesn’t mean we want to sit at home twiddling our thumbs until spring arrives. With our wallets and stomachs on diets these days, our social activities tend to err on the lighter side. Thankfully, Piola has heard our prayers and launched their Aperitivo Italiano this month at their Toronto location.

Piola is the new kid on the Queen West block, having recently opened across the street from the Drake Hotel in early December. Their menu centres around light, homestyle Italian cooking with a strong emphasis on their signature thin crust pizzas. The Aperitivo Italiano is the latest tradition they’ve imported from Italy. From 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Friday, Piola treats guests to a delicious assortment of complimentary traditional finger foods while they enjoy drinks at the bar and unwind after a long day’s work. Piola’s Aperitivo Italiano features a variety of light and tasty nibbles, offered for free (!) to bar patrons.

Aperitivo Italiano is a common ritual in Italy, particularly in the northern region where Piola was founded. “Aperitivo” refers to the custom of enjoying drinks and snacks after work, allowing guests to open their palate, socialize and relax before dinner.

The base for the delicious Villa Hibiscus cocktail – a beautiful hibiscus blossom.

Nosh on Italian pinwheels, Caprese salad skewers, mini-calzones, brie polenta squares and Italian breadsticks with a variety of dips. Paired with a glass of antioxidant-filled red wine or a light cocktail (such as the Villa Hibiscus – Prosecco-infused with a hibiscus flower), the Aperitivo Italiano is the perfect place to meet a friend for a quick drink before heading to the gym (or staying for a pizza – we aren’t judging).


Piola is located at 1165 Queen St. W. Follow them on Twitter: @PiolaToronto

City Living: Mixology 101 at BYOB Cocktail Emporium

We love a good cocktail. We’re not talking Cosmopolitan’s either – we mean real, get-that-cranberry-juice-away-from-me cocktails. So when we heard that BYOB Cocktail Emporium (972 Queen St. W.) would be hosting a Mixology 101 class featuring the four standards – The Old Fashioned, The Manhattan, The Martini and The Daiquiri – we eagerly signed up.


Led by master mixologist Trevor Burnett, we learned the ins and outs of the cocktail, from its inception, to prohibition, to its many (often inferior) modern-day imitations (we’re looking at you, Appletini).


Mixology 101 is not the place to be shy. Burnett called on participants, awarding each helper with a piece of cocktail paraphernalia. You’d think putting a bunch of things in a glass and stirring would be easy, but there really is an art to the construction of a cocktail. Read on to learn how you can become your own favourite bartender.


Making a good Old Fashioned requires patience and orange Angostura bitters.

The Old Fashioned
  • Fill glass with ice.
  • Soak one sugar cube in 12 drops of orange bitters.
  • Muddle cube.
  • Squeeze orange zest (from the peel – not the white stuff) into the glass and let drop.
  • Add 1.5 oz. of bourbon.
  • Add 1.5 oz. of soda water.
  • Give the drink a slow stir. Don’t “bruise the spirits”.
  • Garnish with an orange slice and cherry.

The original Manhattan was made with bourbon, but was switched to rye during Prohibition when Canadian Club was smuggled into the US (seen Boardwalk Empire yet?).

The Manhattan
  • Chill glass until cold to the touch.
  • Fill a Yarai glass (or something similar) with ice.
  • Add a 1 oz. of both sweet and dry vermouth and stir.
  • Add 2 oz. of bourbon and stir.
  • Add cherry juice or liqueur and stir.
  • Strain into chilled glass and garnish with a cherry.

The secret to a perfect martini is in the stirring – don’t shake so hard! Be gentle. And if you like your martini dry, try coating your ice in vermouth and then straining before adding vodka or gin.



The Martini
  • Pack your shaker ¾ full with ice.
  • Pour dry vermouth into the ice and stir.
  • Drain vermouth and keep the ice in the shaker.
  • Add 2 oz. vodka and stir.
  • Strain into martini glass and add lemon zest or olive.



The daiquiri was a hit with the class, thanks to Burnett’s homemade strawberry syrup. We’ll never be satisfied with the slushy version again.

The Daiquiri
  • Fill shaker with ice.
  • Add 2 oz. white Rum.
  • Add ¾ oz. fresh lime juice.
  • Add ¼ oz. simple or flavoured syrup.
  • Shake and strain into glass.
Of course, it’s always important to use proper glassware when serving cocktails – presentation counts. BYOB has a great selection of curated vintage glassware along with everything you need to create these cocktails at home.



Owner Kristen Voisey said the next Mixology class will take place early in the new year with plans for some specialized classes as well (Tiki drinks, please!). Participants pay $45 and can expect to get hands-on training and samples of each drink.  For more information about BYOB (including hours) and updates on Mixology classes, check out their Facebook page

Happy gnome.

Bottoms up!