Pat Blythe – Gin, Phantom Atlantic …and Music!

I love gin. That’s no secret. Years and years ago my dad introduced me to his special recipe for the old fashioned G&T and it has been my favourite tipple ever since. Ice, tonic water, slice of lemon (the yellow one, not the green one) and a sprig of fresh mint. Absolutely delightful and oh so refreshing. Now my dad’s secret ingredient was small amount of Canada Dry’s Bitter Lemon. It still has a few niche markets in the U.S. but hasn’t been for sale in Canada for many years and there are now rumours Canada Dry is discontinuing production of this pop. However, I don’t miss it. It’s the “Bombay flavour” and fresh mint that really pull the drink together. Perfect!

Need I say more…….

Gin has become the de rigueur beverage in England.  From “Mother’s Ruin” to the most competitive and fashionable drink in town, gin and tonic is all the rage. There is pink gin, colour changing gins (the colour, based on the botanicals used in the distilling of the gin, changes when the tonic water is added), flavoured gins, gin tastings and gin festivals from one end of the Great Britain to the other. Various herbs are also added for flavour and decoration to the finished drink….thyme, rosemary, basil, rose petals and of course… I’ve just subscribed to a newsletter call The Gin To My Tonic.

I find the evolution of this libation fascinating and amusing and yep, you’re in for a little history lesson here……

So historians are up in the air about the name “gin”. It’s either derived from the Dutch genever or the French genièvre but either way, gin MUST contain juniper berries… juniper, no gin! Going waaaaaay back to 15th century, gin’s medieval precursor was made by a Dutch merchant using 10 quarts of wine, along with the juniper berries and ¹“ludicrously expensive spices, which included 12 nutmegs, ginger, galangal (a root that looks a lot like ginger but not as spicy with hints of lemon and cardamom), grains of paradise (another member of the ginger family), clove, cinnamon and cardamom.” In the 17th century a variation was fed to Dutch soldiers during the Dutch Independence War and became known as Dutch Courage. We have William of Orange to thank for introducing gin to England in 1688. However, it was so expensive due to import taxes the masses began distilling their own version. Unfortunately it was cut with turpentine and sulfuric acid to provide the warm “afterglow”. So began the Gin Craze, lasting about 70 years.

Mother’s Ruin

In 1751, when the Gin Act came into effect, it was known as ‘Mother’s Ruin’ based on an etching by painter William Hogarth. This infamous portrayal of Gin Lane depicting incompetent, poverty-stricken gin drinkers, the central figure being a drunk mother dropping her baby, was used in support of the act. Then we have the “sister” picture of Beer Street illustrating British beer being consumed by convivial, hard-working male labourers. Hmmmm….. Mother’s Ruin did its job for the ensuing 300+ years as gin couldn’t seem shake its deeply ingrained and rather sordid reputation in many quarters until very recently. Its negative names remain in our lexicon to this day….gin joints or gin mills (disreputable bars), gin-soaked (referring to drunks), ²bathtub gin (referring to rather foul tasting gin), panty remover (no explanation required) and of course mother’s ruin which is still a common nickname for gin.

Beer Street

Gin was also used for medicinal purposes. The list of ailments the humble juniper berry has addressed include indigestion, flatulence, jaundice (ancient Egyptians), kidney and bladder diseases, colic (Ancient Greeks), convulsions, as a diuretic and even as a flea repellent. Handy little berry. The wood of the juniper bush is said to contain antibacterial properties just by taking a deep breath of its fragrance. I have two tiny handcrafted juniper boxes as well as two juniper coasters. Their bouquet is divine, particularly when warmed.

The popularity and “chic-ness” of gin is due to one brand, launched in 1987…..Bombay Sapphire. The famous blue bottle with the delicate etchings of the botanicals used to flavour this smooth, light but intoxicating liquid revived the popularity of gin. Today, many dining establishments are promoting local artisan gins and making their own flavoured tonic waters. The gin industry has risen from its disreputable ashes and boutique gin distilleries are thriving. So much so, according to the Business Times, gin is included in Britain’s “basket of goods” used to measure inflation. Thank you Betty for sharing that one!

Yes, gin has had its ups and downs and there has been the ever popular gin martini that has retained its class, one in particular….The Vesper.  Ordered by none other than the man himself, James Bond, The Vesper, named after the original Bond girl Vesper Lynd, contains three measures of Gordon’s gin, one of vodka and half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake well until ice cold and add a large thin slice of lemon peel…..and I just happen to have all three ingredients at my disposal….. Thanks to Bombay Sapphire, gin is now the second most popular spirit sold in Great Britain and number five worldwide. Number one is vodka.


A classic martini has a ratio of five-to-one. Five parts gin (2½oz) and one part (½oz) dry vermouth. Ironically, a “dry” martini contains less dry vermouth, a “wet” martini means more vermouth, a “dirty” martini uses olive brine or olive juice for an additional kick and is usually garnished with an olive or two…..and the perfect martini is made with equal parts dry and sweet vermouth.

Oh, and one more thing. London Dry gin is actually a quality designation. It does not mean the gin is made or distilled in London, England. However, the base spirit must be distilled to a completely neutral spirit of 96% ABV (alcohol by volume), all the flavours must be added through distillation and are of natural plant material (botanicals). Nothing further can be added after the  distillation except for water and a very tiny, almost microscopic spot of sugar. This by the way, is the EU standard. Five of the world’s eight top-selling gins are made in England.

My favs…….

Okay, so my two favourites are Bombay Sapphire and Purple Ram. Now the latter you can’t purchase, for love nor money, here in Canada unless you have very, very deep pockets. When I checked with the LCBO they advised me I could a order case of 12 for roughly $263/bottle. Not in my snack bracket. I paid £37 for a bottle in England which translates to roughly CDN$65. The obvious question here is, where the hell does the additional $200 come from (or go to)??? I am making my bottle of this Yorkshire elixir last as long as possible. Here in Canada the much more attainable Bombay Sapphire is my cocktail of choice.

The Ram family …

This handcrafted gin is made in small, signed and numbered batches by husband-and-wife team Tony and Sarah Brotherton. The Yorkshire Dales Distillery – Home of the Ram, is located in Tunstall, Richmondshire, just outside Catterick Garrison. I discovered this gem during my last jaunt overseas and after reading the label (and the fact that it’s made in Yorkshire) I decided to purchase a bottle (happy birthday to me). Purple also happens to be my favourite colour. A match made in gin heaven. If anyone happens to be heading over anytime soon…..? (hint hint)

Tarquin’s Dry Gin with Fifteen’s homemade tonic, thyme and grapefruit. Yes, it was Divine!

Gin….you most definitely have come a long way baby…..


Suzi Kory

I’ve written about Suzi Kory a few times and she continues to impress. A radical shift in her musical direction has brought about two brand new releases, the latest….Pretty Little Things.  Once again back in sunny, California (I can’t blame her) the song was recorded in Burbank with producer Brent Woods. The accompanying video was filmed at the Santa Monica Pier and Pacific Palisades. Released just a few days ago, Kory’s latest offering is what I would term country/pop. It’s fun, light-hearted, definitely danceable and I love the way tune just carries you along. This could be a perfect summer song. With a definite nod to her rock roots in the video, Kory may be sauntering down country lane but the rock ‘n’ roll baby still hides mischievously beneath that lovely, innocent smile.

Kory found her voice in country music and her departure from rock was a choice embraced. Extremely focused, her progression hasn’t been without a lot of hard work. So far, so good.

Pretty Little Things – Suzi Kory

Phantom Atlantic

A personal invitation for a single release show arrived via email and December 7 found me at the “new” Adelaide Hall….RADIO. Ryan Stam, lead guitarist for Phantom Atlantic is apparently a fan of my writing and that was really nice to read. I appreciate the personal touch….it’s sooooo rare. With three bands on the bill it looked to be a very enjoyable evening. Guest bands were The Human Drive and Man Crush and the place was packed! Happy people, photogs everywhere and three bands that had way too much fun on stage.

As I’ve been plodding along reorganizing my photos I’ve discovered I have actually photographed Phantom Atlantic three times in 2018. The first time I heard them was at Baby G’s in support of Hot Lips. Second time was during Indie Week at The Hideout. This band takes themselves very seriously and it shows in their professionalism, an amazing, well choreographed opening number and their invitation to all the performers to join them on stage for a Christmas sing along finale. The latter was both considerate and very impressive.

Ken Grisé

l-r – Ryan Stam and Kyle Brunet

These guys are relatively new to the Toronto music scene. This Toronto-based band includes Ryan Stam/lead guitar/keyboards & vocals, Kyle Brunet lead vocals/guitar, Jeff Burling bass and another mad drummer, Ken Grisé, also on vocals. Brought together by their passion for music in late 2015 they hit the club scene in 2017 and have since supported Wang Chung, The Coronas and Cutting Crew. Great harmonies,  super high-energy and the music was actually… I like creativity, something a bit different but also melody, harmony……..something I can sing or hum to. Get a good earworm going and people won’t soon forget you. I found myself humming one of their songs on the way home. I’ll be damned if I know which one but something stuck. Thank you Ryan for the invite. I totally enjoyed the show. Now……which one of you was studying neuroscience?

Dual guitars

l-r – Ryan Stam, Kyle Brunet, Jeff Burling

Phantom Atlantic, Man Crush & The Human Drive wishing everyone a Merry Christmas

Beneath Your Moment – Phantom Atlantic

Lessons – Phantom Atlantic

The Human Drive

These guys were new faces for me. A quick scan of my photo files revealed nothing so unlike Phantom Atlantic, this was the first time seeing this band. These guys are a hard-driving rock band blending the old and new with pounding drums and at times, a very dirty bass. My two favourite instruments. Beginning eight years ago as a two-piece (Nick Blue on bass and Josh Wareham on drums), after a lengthy search guitarist Adam Fini was discovered through Kijiji (the 21st century Melody Maker). They remained a three-piece until guitarist John Burkholder joined the band a year later. What’s really intriguing about Burkholder is his 7-string guitar which produces a mind-blowing low end and this girl loves a good low end! I’ll be keeping my eye out for these guys on the club scene.

l – r – The Human Drive’s Josh Wareham, John Burkolder 

l – r – The Human Drive’s Adam Fini, Josh Wareham, John Burkolder

….and finally, drummer Nick Blue from The Human Drive

Ability – The Human Drive

…..and now some ‘other’ music….

The Easybeats

Whatever happened to the Easybeats

Other People – LP


Abraham, Martin and John – Dion 

(a little late for Martin Luther King day but this one’s for him)

Blue Hotel – Chris Isaak

Love Inc. – Broken Bones

Cool Cat – Queen

…..and I’m still plowing through the photographs…..


All photographs ©2018 A Girl With A Camera “The Picture Taker”


Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Please scroll down and leave a comment. Thank you.

dbawis-button7“Music and photography….my heart, my passions.” After an extended absence —  33 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry — Pat has turned her focus back to the music scene. Immersing herself in the local club circuit, attending the many diverse music festivals, listening to some great music, photographing and writing once again, she is eager to spread the word about this great Music City of ours…..Toronto. Together for 34 years, Pat little-red-headed-dancing-girlalso worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who, beginning in the early 70s, photographed much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, BB Gabor, the first Police Picnic, Buzzsaw, Hellfield, Shooter, The Segarini Band….) as well as national and international acts. Pat is currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, 20 of which are a photographic history of the local GTA music scene beginning in 1974. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance! 

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