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ROM On The Rocks—Shaken, Not Stirred

Who knew that a year ago, while surly construction workers were working away at completing the incredibly polarizing ROM Crystal, the ROM’s head honchos decided that the new building needed a signature drink to go with it? It may seem odd to picture the charmingly quiet-natured former Globe and Mail editor and current ROM Director and CEO William Thorsell pounding back different martinis with the ROM’s governors and trustees and arguing well into the night about how to meld different liquors together, but it was necessary work to try to create the ROMtini—the liquid embodiment of the new ROM.
“Every great city needs signatures,” said Thorsell about ROMtini. His idea was simple—the ROM is a museum of culture and the martini is one of the defining drinks of our culture, so why not make a drink that embodies not just the museum, but also the city itself?
After nearly a year of mixing up different drinks, and a number of foibles along the way, including some green olives with cranberries in the place of pimentos courtesy of ROM governor Rob Pierce and Pusateri’s, and mixing a martini with pureed spinach, the mixologists and hotshots at the museum came up with three final contenders. Last night, in the Art Nouveau-inspired lounge of C5, the ROM’s new restaurant, the heads of the ROM finally picked the winning ‘tini.
Using Grey Goose Vodka as a base (“It has a little bit of edge,” said the spectacled Thorsell), three finalists were all pretty satisfying drinks. While not a classic gin martini, they kept enough boldness to stay true to the martini’s roots and none were too sweet. Last week, diners at C5 were able to try all three martinis and submit a ballot with their comments. After taking these into consideration, it was up to a panel of four ROM governors and trustees to make the final decision and name the ROMtini.
The Architecture (Grey Goose, Hypnotique, and Scotch) was bold and smooth, but failed to pass itself off as as well-integrated as the other two finalists. The Crystal (Grey Goose and Galliano) had a strong menthol taste, but lacked much other flavour. Finally, the Grand (Grey Goose, Grand Marnier and Prosecco) was fizzy and just sweet enough, but overdid it on the Prosecco. Nonetheless, it was our pick for top tini.
The eventual winner was the Architecture, which will be served at C5—filled to the very top, according to Pierce—in a special short-stem glass that seems to combine the ROM Crystal with the base of the CN Tower. The Architecture is still going to be fiddled with—Thorsell himself thinks it could be a bit lighter, and passed around different versions of the drink throughout the night. Still, if the city has a martini, this is it. Be sure to give it a sip or two.

Photo by livinginacity from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.


  • Rachel Lissner

    Does Toronto have any signature foods? Montreal has poutine, Pittsburgh has pierogies, Philly has its cheese steak, but what about Toronto? Hotdogs from vendors? Peameal bacon?

  • kristinaequalsninja

    I asked that question on the toronto livejournal community awhile back, and I think most people agreed the streetmeat= toronto.

  • iamnotdynamite

    i always thought vendor hotdogs were considered an nyc thing? they’re certainly more ubiquitous there than here.

  • SpupEh

    Grey Goose, Hpnotiq and Scotch? With that combination, I’m not surprised that the drink isn’t “well-integrated”.
    A scotch “wash” (swirling a very small amount of scotch around the inside of the glass before straining the martini into the glass) is used to make the drink taste dryer (i.e. less sweet) and is better suited to, say, a dirty gin martini. Hpnotiq, on the other hand, is extremely sweet (and overpriced, IMO) so the two components are fighting with one another.
    If they wanted something bold and smooth, I would have mixed Grey Goose L’Orange with Cointreau and scotch. Cointreau is much dryer than Grand Marnier and its orange notes meld nicely with the smokiness of the scotch. Grey Goose has a very faint sweetness to it anyways, and that is true of their L’Orange as well.

  • davedave

    It’s truly appropriate that such a lame building have lame drink names.

  • Jaime Woo

    Wait… so the ROM has decided to take something classic and elegant, tried to make something cool and new out of it, failed, and now are scrambling to fix it (having not considered the weight of ice… I mean, er, the poor integration of flavours)? Hmm…

  • Damien Walder

    Toronto’s seasonal signature swill is the Saltini.
    It’s one measure snow run-off, 4 parts road salting compound, a fine wash of rust, brake pad dust, oil/antifreeze…Ice optional, but only for 3/5ths of the year.
    For all the institutional shills that clamour for our world-class status, we’re still screwing up the recipe for what would make a great city – not ignoring the health of the land, water and the lives that make it worthwhile.
    ‘Architecture’ is a stiff and cliché-prone word for what should be a fluid and inspiring apertif.

  • beth maher

    Pathetic choices. All of them. Can’t imagine swallowing them down and enjoying it.
    The grand does indeed sound the most appetizing, if still not exactly inspired.
    As much as I love this city these beverages do seem appropriate to a certain Torontonian demographic – pretentious, overpriced and undiscerning. You might as well call it the Yuppie, or the Condo.
    And why use Scotch when you could use Canadian rye and at least have one element that is somewhat homegrown? Or icewine or something?

  • beth maher

    Actually, come to think of it, I kind of like the idea of a saltini, how’s this on for size: Canadian rye, a splash of limoncello, a salt rim and a spoonfull of slush floating in the middle. Kinda like a Torontonian margarita. I’d drink it.