Meet Your Mixologist: Ryan Dzoic of SPiN Toronto

By Al Kratina

It’s all about fresh local ingredients, building flavours with bitters, fruits and syrup, as opposed to what I was used to — building drinks based on your liqueurs.

If National Lampoon movies are any indication, table tennis and booze only mix when someone’s getting alcohol poisoning from a game of beer pong. But not at SPiN Toronto. As with its sister locations in LA, Milwaukee and New York, SPiN Toronto is a “ping pong social club,” set up in a homey, nostalgia-inducing basement that looks like a frat house designed by Gordon Ramsay. Customers can book tables, enter tournaments, or just enjoy the elevated comfort food, wolfing down braised lamb Sloppy Joes as paddles crack and pop with the plastic sharpness of a G.I. Joe breaking all its bones.

And then, of course, there are the cocktails. Conceived to pair with executive chef Jon Lovett’s menu, the drink menu emphasizes inventive variations of traditional classics. Société Perrier spoke with SPiN Toronto mixologist Ryan Dzoic about his approach to the perfect cocktail.

How long have you been a mixologist?
I’ve been bartending for about 15 years, but I’d only consider myself a mixologist for the past year.

How would you describe the difference?
It’s really about knowing your ingredients, using fresh stuff, making your own bitters… They’re the same thing in the basic job description, but being a mixologist is a little more creative.

 

Is SPiN where you learned the art of mixology?
Yes. I learned more at that first month at SPiN than I had in the past 14 years… Take bitters, for example. Before, bitters was the odd little bottle with the yellow cap that sat in the corner of the bar that you basically made the new bartenders drink a shot of. Now, it’s a staple.

Tell me about SPiN’s approach to the cocktail.
It’s all about fresh local ingredients, building flavours with bitters, fruits and syrup, as opposed to what I was used to — building drinks based on your liqueurs.

And we work a lot with our executive chef. Right now, we’re using (homemade) cranberry preserve in our autumn sour. And there’s a blackberry and current [preserve] that goes into one of our punch bowls.

What makes a great cocktail?
It doesn’t have to be complex, it doesn’t have to be a lot of ingredients. It just needs a spirit, a bitter, sugar, and water. If it’s made properly and with care, any cocktail can be good.

What’s popular in Toronto cocktail culture these days?
The whole pre-Prohibition thing is really big right now. It’s those really boozy, hard-alcohol tasting drinks, but they finish smooth, like a Manhattan. Drinking any of those ingredients on their own would be a hard shot, but building those (flavours), and then just serving them chilled, is amazing. It’s a sipping thing. You’re not going to the bar and just pounding drinks. Like with any good cocktail, you’re (nursing) them all night.

SPiN Toronto is located at 461 King Street West. 

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