Photos: Tyf Shum
Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors invites visitors to imagine what infinity looks like. The AGO Bistro’s bartender and mixologist Stephen Gaessler wants you to try and taste it. It’s why Gaessler has created a menu of Kusama-themed cocktails for art-goers looking to extend the experience.
Stephen has been making art-themed cocktails since the fall of 2016, and continues to amaze us with how he combines artistic influences, colours and styles – as well as cultural history – into his drinkable creations. A wonderful example of this, was his Mystical Landscapes inspired cocktails that we had the opportunity to photograph and experience HERE.
For Infinity Mirrors, Stephen took cues from the patterns and colours Kusama uses in her work, the era of 1960’s avant-garde New York in which she rose to fame, and of course, the flavours of her home country of Japan. Stephen says for inspiration he “Looks to the industry as a whole.” and that whenever he travels he seeks out inspiration “I hit a couple of the city’s best bars and I am always searching for articles, lists and industry news to stay on top of new trends.”
One drink Stephen created to celebrate Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors is inspired by the final artwork in the exhibition, The Obliteration Room, which gets increasingly covered in bright dot stickers as more and more visitors go through the show. To capture the whimsy of The Obliteration Room, Stephen uses raspberry and blue Curaçao flavour pearls in this cocktail, Obliteration Fizz.
Another cocktail on the menu, A Love Letter for Nixon, recalls a letter Kusama wrote to then-president Richard Nixon in 1968, protesting the Vietnam War. She wrote, “Let’s forget ourselves, dearest Richard, and become one with the Absolute, all together in the altogether. As we soar through the heavens, we’ll paint each other with polka dots, lose our egos in timeless eternity, and finally discover the naked truth: You can’t eradicate violence by using more violence.”
Inspired by the letter, Stephen’s concept for Love Letter is beautiful and layered. The cocktail is sweet with a bit of acidity, combining shochu, yuzu liqueur, lychee cactus pear juice. As a final touch, Stephen adds an edible flower for a romantic offering of peace.
We also tried the Saketini, which includes shochu, white vermouth, Izumi Genshu Junmai sake, wildflower honey syrup, and butterfly pea flower essence. As well as the New York Momo Sour, which has Maker’s Mark bourbon, Momo liqueur, red wine, lemon juice, and wildflower honey syrup. Also included on the menu is the Umeshu Gin & Tonic, with Victoria gin, red vermouth, Choya Umeshu liqueur, house-made tonic syrup, soda, shiso leaf, star anise
We also tried the Matcha Honey Cake which has yuzu salted caramel, and pink peppercorn crumble, as well as the Buttermilk Panna Cotta which is made with kumquat gelée, tonka bean whipped cream and caramelized crisp. Both desserts were soooooo yummy and light, and were the perfect combination for the drinks. I think out of the two, our favorite was the Panna Cotta, but let’s be honest, we’d eat anything on their menu multiple times.
For more information on the AGO Bistro’s menu, cocktails and dining events, please see: http://ago.ca/dine/ago-bistro