Dave Mitton - Global Brand Ambassador, Canadian WhiskyDuring lockdown we wanted to reconnect with Dave Mitton. Mr. Mitton is an old friend of GOTSTYLE who has an extensive background and knowledge of whiskey and cocktails. Travelling around the world and working with some of Toronto's best chefs we decided to reconnect with the expert of all things Canadian Whiskey. So pour yourself a glass of whatever you like, and get to know why this Whiskey expert is more of a bubbly sparkling rosé.
How has lockdown affected your job?
As you can imagine, my role has transformed into a virtual world of education, with online classes, seminars, talks, and cocktail creation. Where I was traveling outside of Canada forty plus weeks a year, it quickly turned into early mornings and late evenings in front of my phone or computer. I could be in cities such as London, Paris, and Berlin in the morning, head to San Francisco and Vancouver in the afternoon and finish my evening in Melbourne. It has become extremely efficient but truthfully it’s not the same, it’ missing that human connection of being in a room with an audience you can see and interact with.
Have you been creating new cocktails?
I’m always playing around with new drink ideas and flavour combinations when I have time, I’m sure I always will, it’s a big part of who I am. Over the last few years, I’ve not had as much time to do so and this allows me to work with bartenders from here at home and around the world, which is amazing since they bring their own unique style of cocktail creation and fresh approach with our style of whiskies.
If you were a drink what would you be, and why?
In my twenty-four years in this industry, I think that’s the first time anyone has ever asked me this.
If I was to stay on brand, I would probably want to be an Old Fashioned; a classic that has stood the test of time, a strong drink, not to be messed with but has a softer, sweeter side to it as well. But, in reality I’m probably an easy drinking, soft and bubbly bottle of sparkling rosé.
How important is it to serve a drink in the right glass? Are there any stores you recommend for people to purchase them?
Believe it or not, pairing cocktails with a specific glass can make all the difference. The shape of the glass can affect how the aroma hits your nose, a larger glass makes more sense when serving your drinks over ice, stemmed glassware for drinks that are served hot. And of course, tradition must be considered sometimes, such as serving a Manhattan or Martini in a coupe.
You're an expert in Canadian whisky. For people who don't know what is Canadian whisky and how it differs from other whiskies?
Canadian whisky has a remarkable history going back to the early 1800’s. The very spot where Got Style sits in the Distillery district was home to Gooderham & Worts Distillery that started in 1832 and became the worlds largest distillery by the year 1877. Gooderham & Worts were instrumental in the early days of Canada and their impact on the building of Toronto was endless.
What makes Canadian whisky so unique compared to other categories of whisky around the world, would be our capacity to be so innovative. We keep our grains separate throughout the entire process; from the time they arrive at our distillery until it comes time to blending them together. It involves keeping track of hundreds of distillates of spirits, of different ages, distillation types, barrel types, and grains, and ultimately knowing precisely how and when to combine them together. Given the traditions of blending and relatively liberal laws, Canadian Master Blenders have a remarkable degree of creative freedom. With no restrictions on the type of wood, distillation process, or proportions of different grains, the world of Canadian whisky is almost as vast and diverse as our country itself. To be a Canadian whisky, cereal mash production must take place in Canada, along with distillation and aging process.
Bartenders are usually seen from the waist up. Do you feel that helped you when dressing up for online video calls?
When making cocktails for people online, my rules of style basically remained the same, at least from the waist up. If I’m hosting a group of out of their kitchens on a Friday night or conducting a class with bartenders, you’ll find me a bit more casual, in a denim shirt with the sleeves rolled up and most likely a leather apron over top of it. But if it’s with a client that’s looking for the look and feel of a choicer experience for their guests, I spruce it up with a shirt, tie, and vest or jacket combo.
What are things that make a good whisky?
There are many factors that go into making great whisky, many say terroir has a lot to do with it, the grain, the water, the climate the whisky is aging in. Some believe its time in a barrel many feel it’s the quality of the wood the barrel is made from. I’ve come to realize that the time and care all the men and women at our distillery put into making our iconic brands makes all the difference in the world. They oversee each truckload of grain delivered by local farmers, to each of the 1.6 million barrels of whisky we have aging, and every individual bottle that goes into the 5 million cases of alcohol we produce annually. Without their love and dedication to the craft, I wouldn’t be able to showcase our amazing expressions of whisky around the globe.
What are some ingredients people should incorporate or look out for during summer?
Creating delicious cocktails has the same theory as creating delectable food dishes, the higher quality elements to your creation and fresher ingredients, makes a far more superior drink. In today’s day and age everything is accessible to us 365 days a year but there is something exciting and appealing about using seasonal fruits and vegetables when they are readily available locally. Early summer is a great time to experiment with rhubarb and cherries, and berry season will be here before you know it, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries all work beautifully in cocktails. And even though we don’t want to think about the end of summer quite yet, it’s a great time to incorporate fresh fruits like peaches and watermelon in your drinks.
Your favourite places in Toronto to get a drink?
I’m very fortunate to be able to spend time in many of the world’s “best bars” with my role. Toronto has many places to enjoy, and I’m always so thrilled to get back home, to see the friendly faces behind the bars that I love and know for a fact are some of the best in the world. Quickly off the top of my head by neighborhood, Bar Koukla on Ossington, Bar Vendetta and Bar Mordecai on Dundas, Bar Raval on College, Café Cancan on Harbord Street, Civil Liberties on Bloor, Clockwork at the Royal York, and Maple Leaf Tavern on Gerrard Street. I also feel the need to mention the bar opening I’m anticipating the most would be Vela on King Street.
Have you seen an increase of interest for people making cocktails or more expensive drinks since being at home for practically a year?
I’ve noticed some drink trends come about over the last year with people being stuck at home and nowhere to go. People have been hosting virtual gatherings with work colleagues, family and friends over the last year. It’s become more excisable with at home cocktail kits and bottled cocktails delivered right to your door, and with incredible companies such as Dolly Trolley and Salty Paloma, to name a couple, it’s never been easier.
We'd like to thank Dave Mitton for his time and contribution to educate us. To see more of Mitton and his future projects follow him on social media!