I guess I’ve been doing this a while because it takes a lot for me to be truly blown away by a drink. I had been to Pretty Ugly once before and I was more or less unmoved by the experience. My second visit, however, included a recommendation from Evelyn, one of the bar managers. Queen Barbarella is based on mezcal, which I’ve always found to be very, very dominant in a drink and as such I’ve always I preferred to drink it on its own with a bit of orange and sal de gusano. It therefore took a bit of convincing but after her description of how they prepare the strawberry-rhubarb liqueur in-house (two of my favourite flavours), I willingly obliged.
I’m assuming the cocktail’s name is a play on the Barberalla of comic-book fame. Apparently Jane Fonda played a pretty racy film version of the character in the sixties. The drink is a remarkable mix of the smokey agave spirit with the subtle floral notes of the homemade liqueur, and then lengthened by both white and dry vermouths. It’s served neat in a coupe, the only presentation worthy of such a great drink, at least in my mind. I don’t know proportions but I don’t think it matters because recreating the proprietary liqueur would be next to impossible. Anyway, long story short, get to Pretty Ugly in Parkdale before this masterpiece is pulled from the menu. It’s hands down the cocktail of the year in Toronto.