This is Christine Sismondo, from Toronto.
Christine is 50 years old and is originally from Moncton New-Brunswick. She spent most of her childhood in Ottawa and moved to Toronto when she was 18 years old. She has a daughter and a cat.
Christine is a historian and writer. She did her Masters in Literature and her PhD in History. She has always been writing and also taught literature and writing at University for a while. Once she completed her PhD, she focused exclusively on writing. She is the author of three books and a writer for the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail and Quench. Christine is a very strong source of knowledge for our industry. She writes about a lot of things, including cocktails, spirits, wines, bars and cultural history, and shines the light on Prohibition like no one does.
She started to write about cocktails before they were even a thing in Toronto. Some twenty years ago, people drank beer, cheap wine, single malts and mixed drinks. One day, Christine went for a drink and was served a bourbon sour made with egg white and fresh lemon juice. She thought it was so tasty, fluffy and beautiful that she started to wonder why this one was about 20 times better than any other bourbon sour served in the city. She started doing some research about cocktails and ingredients. Christine was working at a bar back then, so her and the bar owner started to try classic cocktails on Friday nights and they would serve them to their regulars. Her curiosity was sparked.
One day, she was in Mexico and found herself writing about the best Bloody Caesar she ever had. Her writing turned into this kind of essay and she realized that she actually had a lot of fun doing it. She thought why not do the same with the Daiquiri, and so on. This led her to publish her first book, Mondo Cocktails, in 2005. She’s been writing on the subject, and obviously more, ever since.
Today, Christine’s focus is more oriented towards odd spirits that no one knows about. Furthermore, she’s worried about the world right now and wants to be working on more political issues. Through history, she tries to inform people in terms of the horrible past we all lived through of which most of us are unaware of. The history of Toronto’s gay bar scene in the 60’s being an example. Overall, Christine has been shining the light on our industry for a long time now, and was one of the first one to do so. She was profiling bartenders and showcasing their cocktails, helping people put a face on a name and learn about what other spots were doing in the city to help the community grow. She still advocates for restaurants and bars in the current context and tries to bring attention to what everyone is doing to survive the current crisis. We feel very privileged that she took the time to tell us her story and truly hope it will inspire others. It sure had that effect on us.
If you haven’t read her books yet, check them out!
-America Walks into a Bar: a Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops (2011)
-Canadian Spirits: The Essential Cross-Country Guide to Distilleries, Their Spirits, and Where to Imbibe Them (2019)
-Podcast series on Prohibition for Wondery’s American History Tellers (2018).
For her Sangrita recipe (don't miss it!), click here.
A little bit more about Christine...
The three words that describe her best: eccentric – funny – good host
The most magical place she’s ever been to: The Sacred Valley in Peru.
Something she did in her life that she’s really proud of: She saved her cat’s life with black market drugs.
Her favorite spirits: Agave based and pisco.
An advice she offers to people that are interested in the history side of things: There is nothing like going through the history books yourself instead of reading what other people think. If you can get a copy of the original book and read it, it’s so much more fun and there’s so much stuff that you might find fascinating that other people who wrote about it didn’t focus on.