Winter isn’t on my top three list of seasons. There, I said it. Maybe it’s because I don’t know how to ski or snowboard. Maybe it’s because I spent five consecutive winters in Ottawa, followed by five consecutive winters in Winnipeg. Whatever the reason, something about fall’s ugly sibling makes me want to stay in my house and eat bacon until my brain explodes.
But of course, winter isn’t going anywhere. Which is why Jenny and I have decided to wrack our brains and scour our city to bring Communal Table readers our take on surviving winter, and maybe even enjoying it in the process. In our first installment, we visit one of our favorite places to hang out in Toronto, the Drake Hotel, to check out their Apres Ski Sky Yard.
While the Drake’s restaurant and lounge areas have developed a reputation for consistency with creative cocktails and locally inspired food, the rooftop space has been a bit of a chameleon, changing with the seasons. In the summer, it’s a tropical tiki hut, and in the spring the space becomes a sugar shack. While the Sky Yard was outfitted last winter in an Olympic motif, this year the hotel’s design team decided to go the ski chalet route.
An enclosed, weatherproofed indoor area houses a full bar and several tables. Vintage sleds and skis sit on the walls, and a shelf of vintage blankets are available for those who need a bit of extra warmth. Those who brave the elements and venture out to the rooftop patio will find an inviting space with art installations, a skidoo you can sit on for fun photo ops, and a campfire where you can sit and roast the Drake’s homemade marshmallows to eat alone or as a S’more sandwiched between graham crackers and chocolate. Jenny was shocked to find out that I’d never made a S’more myself prior to our Drake visit, so I made sure to take advantage of the chance to cross it off my to-do list while we were there.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the Drake without great food and drinks. The kitchen team has created a special Apres Ski menu of homemade gingerbread men and marshmallows, as well as cherry-flavoured candy sticks. Those looking for more sustenance can order from the restaurant’s full menu. We were able to sample everything from the Apres Ski menu, as well as a selection of great food from the regular menu. Here’s a look at some of the highlights:
The Drake’s always innovative bar team has come up with a menu of new cocktails designed for winter enjoyment. I love egg nog, and the hotel’s Drake Nog is no exception. It’s homemade, so it tastes much lighter than the store-bought stuff (though I’m sure it’s no better for you); the Drake mixes their nog with Sailor Jerry rum. Then there’s the Boozy Hot Chocolate (my favorite), which combines vanilla liqueur and brandy with hot chocolate, and is topped with homemade whipped cream. And the White Chocolate S’more – easily the best looking of the new winter cocktails – mixes Godiva white chocolate liqueur with homemade chocolate syrup, and is topped with a chocolate-covered graham cracker and a homemade marshmallow.
Great booze. Great food. The choice of hiding inside under a blanket or sitting by the campfire in the snow while roasting marshmallows. A ski-doo. What more could you possibly need to enjoy winter in Toronto? You can check out The Drake’s Apres Ski Sky Yard until March, at which point the space will be reincarnated as a sugar shack to mark the spring thaw and maple tree runoff.