It’s the height of summer, and the farmers’ markets are packed with flavour and colour.  When I heard about Laneway Distillers, a new Canadian craft distillery that takes pride in infusing their spirits with the flavours of the Canadian terroir, I knew I had to make cocktails from the heaving abundance of fruit and herbs at the market and use “locavore” as my mixing inspiration.

Laneway Distillers is the creation of two Toronto women who spent much of the pandemic lockdown in their laneway discussing, and sipping, luxury spirits.  Out of this was born their series of award-winning gins and vodka, made from ingredients foraged in the Canadian north and flavours inspired by the forests along the Canadian Shield: juniper, pine, lush wild berries and sweet maple.

In the spirit of blending local terroir with sweetness and spice, I took to my local market for ideas.  Peaches and plums are in season right this very minute, and these recipes are excellent for ripe fruit bursting with flavour.  The citrus, sugar and vinegar in these recipes amps up the flavour even more, as well has helping to preserve the mixtures.  If you have ripe fruit that has to be used up right now, make a batch of cordial or shrub, and make the cocktails when you’re ready.  The plum cordials are a treat for the eyes as well as the taste buds.  They positively glow.  Cordials and shrubs can be used to make delicious non-alcoholic drinks, too.  Just mix 2 oz of cordial with 4 oz of soda water and serve on ice.

Peach & Basil Shrub Cocktail

Shrubs, from the Arabic sharab, are drinking vinegars.  Dating back to 17th-century England, where the practice of preserving fruit in vinegar had been imported from the Middle East, shrubs were a way to make the summer harvest last.  I am the person who drinks the pickle juice from the pickle jar, and I love all kinds of vinegar.  If this is not you, don’t worry.  In this cocktail, the vinegar is present but not overpowering.  If you like vinegar, use apple cider vinegar; if not, try a white balsamic vinegar, which is more mild.  Laneway No. 11 Vodka is made with maple sap water, and its slight sweetness pairs perfectly with the aromatic basil, sweet peach and tart vinegar.

Combine in a shaker with ice:

  • 2 oz Laneway No. 12 Vodka
  • 2 oz peach basil shrub
  • 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
  • soda water (optional)
  • Shake until very well chilled.  Strain into a coupe strait up or an old fashioned over ice, or lengthen the drink and serve it in a collins glass filled with ice and topped with soda water.

To make the shrub:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple cider or white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup diced ripe peach
  • handful basil leaves

In a saucepan, combine sugar and vinegar.  Heat and stir until sugar is dissolved.  Let cool.  In a blender, combine vinegar and sugar syrup with peach and basil and puree until smooth.  Strain through cheese cloth or a coffee filter (or just a sieve if you don’t mind a thicker mixture) and put into a sterilized jar or bottle.  The shrub will keep for two weeks.


Damson & Gin 

Damson plums are small and tart and, if you have the patience to wait two months, can be used to make damson gin.  This cocktail will be ready in much less time.  The addition of chili and ground coriander adds incredible dimension to the fruit and booze, and the drink has a pleasant spicy hum with a huge visual impact.  I used Laneway No. 11 Gin for this, and its citrus notes work really well with the bright spicy plum.

Combine in a shaker with ice:

  • 2 oz Laneway No. 11 Gin
  • 2 oz Damson gin cordial
  • 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice

Shake until very well chilled.  Strain into a coupe or a Nick & Nora.

To make Damson Gin cordial:

  • 2 cups ripe damson plums
  • 1 red chili, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 cup sugar
  • zest & juice of one lime

Combine plums, chili and coriander in a small saucepan, enough to make one layer at the bottom of the pan, and just cover with water (about 1 cup).  Bring to a boil, and simmer until the skins split and fall off the fruit and the liquid turns deep red (about 10 minutes).  Use a potato masher to mash the plums.  Add one cup of sugar and stir until dissolved.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.  Add juice and zest of lime and strain into a sterilized jar or bottle.  Keep refrigerated for up to two weeks.  Makes about 1 1/2 cups of cordial.


Vampire Plum Vodka Cooler

Vampire plums take their name from their deep red flesh, and whereas the damson plum cordial gets its colour from the plum skins, the bright bright red of this drink is all plum flesh.  The cardamom adds a depth of flavour to the fruit, and this would work equally well with gin or vodka.

Combine in a shaker with ice:

  • 2 oz Laneway No. 12 Vodka
  • 2 oz vampire plum cordial
  • 1/2 oz lemon juice
  • 2 dashes DSB bitters
  • slice of lemon

Shake until very well chilled.  Strain into a collins glass over ice and top with soda water.  Garnish with lemon slice.

To make vampire plum cordial:

  • 2 cups of ripe plums, pitted (about 10-12 plums)
  • juice & zest of 1 lime
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1 cup sugar

Put all ingredients into a blender and blend for 30 seconds.  Strain into a sterilized jar or bottle.  Keep refrigerated for up to two weeks.  Makes about 2 cups of cordial.


Laneway No. 33 Gin Green Gimlet

Laneway Distillers No 33 Gin Green Gimlet

Recipe and Image Credit: Reagan Soucie

Laneway No. 33 Gin is crafted from 33+ botanicals, a marriage of exotic spice and Canadian botanicals.  It is herbaceous, spicy and woodsy.  It opens true to the juniper-forward London Dry style gin, but on the palate it’s much more faceted.

I set out to make my own cocktail recipes for this post, but in the interest of thorough preparation, I also made some of the Laneway team’s own recipes.  This Green Gimlet is going into my permanent rotation.  I tried it, I fell hard for it, and I cannot improve on it.  This is a stupendously fresh cocktail with a kick, and it has wowed everyone I’ve made it for.

Combine in a cocktail shaker with ice:

  • 1 1/2 oz Laneway No. 33 Gin
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz agave syrup
  • 1 fresh mint & 1 fresh cilantro sprig
  • 1 slice fresh jalapeno pepper
  • pinch of Maldon salt

Shake until well chilled and strain into a lowball glass on the rocks.


Check out the Laneway Distillers website for many, many more recipe ideas!