Meet Nick Kosevich and Celebrate Int. Gin & Tonic Day

The past month has been bit busier than usual for us here at Novella, what with prepping for the JUNOs and various other projects and photoshoots, not to mention the daily refreshing of these very pages. So when we were given the opportunity to let loose a bit for happy hours this past Thursday with Bombay Sapphire East in celebration of International Gin and Tonic Day (today, April 9th), we realized how much we were in need of a nice little break with a botanical note, ready and, oh so shamelessly, eager. And to don us with his gracious and full-of-personality bartender skills and witticisms was Nick Kosevich of Milwaukee’s Bittercube Bitters (don’t let the imposing promotion photo fool you, in person he is just the kind of man you’d want next to you or behind the bar).

Nick walked in with two suitcases that opened to neatly packed set of what seemed to be the ingredients for a cocktail cornucopia; a dozen or so individually labeled tonics, glasses, stirring sticks, science-class reminiscent equipments, and lots and lots of Bombay Sapphire. Some of us began to visibly radiate happiness. He proceed to take the whole team through tasting and understanding various botanical essences that constitute a tonic and later helped us make our very own Novella Tonic — accented notes of grapefruit, ginger, and sassafras.

After we were all nice, relaxed, and giddy, we had a chance to ask him a few questions.


Novella: What would you say are the essential qualities of a good gin?

Nick: I think the combination in a good gin is uniqueness and versatility, which I think are two hard things to do at the same time. Bombay Sapphire East was made to be the perfect gin for a specific drink, yet it’s extremely versatile because of its use of black peppercorn and Thai lemongrass that harkens back to Asian cuisine; it opens up a door to another world where gin works really well. With gin, you are taking botanicals that grow all over the world and putting them together in one bottle, so each bottle tells a different story. But when I think about the home consumer specifically, they might only want one or two bottles of gin. And Bombay Sapphire East is a great choice for a number of reasons; it’s perfect for gin and tonics; it sits well with other classic gin cocktails; and it’s an approachable gin for people who are afraid of that pinewood gin-experience because it’s a very citrus forward and energetic gin.

Novella: And what are such qualities for a good tonic? 

Nick: What’s important in a tonic is that it uses natural flavors and ingredients and natural sugar. If you are using a tonic that uses artificial flavors and has high fructose corn syrup, then it’s just a conventional tonic.

Novella: What’s your favorite gin drink?

Nick: My favorite drink is whatever is in my hand [laughs]. But some other favorite gin drinks are Tom Collins with our cherry bark vanilla bitters; I also love a gin martini and, even better, a Gibson.

Novella: In your professional opinion, how early in the day would you say we can start drinking gin?

Nick: I make this joke all the time that since gin has botanicals in it, it’s technically a salad [laughs]. Therefore, of all of the spirits, we should be able to drink this one earliest. I don’t know if you’ve ever done good day drinking, but it’s a lot of fun.

Novella: Like you mentioned before, some people really dislike gin for its pinewood-like taste. Did you always like gin? Do you remember the first time you tried it? 

Nick: I do. This is real — it’s not really a story for promotions, but I remember not being 21, using my fake IDs… this is a long time ago, so I can tell this story, right? [laughs] You’re at a bar for the first time, you’re 21, and for some reason you think you should say, ‘I’ll have a Sapphire tonic,’ because it sounds mature. And when I’ve said that to people, everyone’s like ‘I did that too!’ You think, ‘What do I order what do I order?… A sapphire tonic.’ [laughs] So for years of my life, that was just the thing that rolled off the tongue. So my first gin experience was in my college years, ordering Sapphire tonics because I thought it was classy. And it is.

The awesome tonic kit experience is currently limited to finding full cocktail bars that use the wide range of tonics, which Toronto will have a dozen of starting next week. But Nick, who will returning to Toronto to participate in the Most Imaginative Bartender Competition as a judge, has bigger plans in the making wherein consumers will be able to receive tonic kits and make their own tonic syrups. For now, Shameful Tiki among others are the bars to go to to try drinks that use great tonics. 

Try Bombay Sapphire East for your next gin and tonic or other drinks, which should be right about this very Sunday afternoon to round out the week. Check out Bittercube Bitters website for more information on Nick’s bitters, recipes, and cocktail ideas. And continue following our arts & culture coverage on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Female Photographers You Should Probably be Following on Instagram

As social media grows, the art of the blemish-free curated life is perfected. Gaining followers and likes has been broken down to a science. Although we now have the power to represent ourselves in ways we want, more and more people opt for a social media feed that will give them a larger online presence. The aesthetics of popularity on Instagram follows the same values of mainstream media and conventional beauty. It’s made Instagram a pretty boring place, so we’ve put together a list of female photographers to follow to keep your feeds interesting.

Parker Day                   

Parker Day is a Los Angeles-based photographer who explores the tension between our real identities and the ones we create for ourselves. Through wild costumes, exaggerated expressions, makeup, and color, she creates a hyper-reality loaded with fantasy. She is particularly interested in how our constructed selves are tied to gender. Her images are the perfect place for the selfie generation to question who they really are.

Maisie Cousins         

Maisie Cousins has no interest in creating typically pretty pictures drowning in vapid conventional beauty. The photographer from London likes to create images that focus on the visceral and the grotesque. She uses pastels, nature, sticky substances, makeup, and other things you’d find lying around your home to highlight all the things society shames us for: female body hair, stretch marks, pimples, and other ‘imperfections.’ Her gross yet beautiful pictures give viewers easement with their own insecurities.

Shelby Sells                   

Shelby Sells is on a mission to end slut shaming and create an open and safe dialogue around sex. Her blog, Perv On The Go, is a platform she created to share her ideas, interviews, videos and photos which focus on love, sex, and relationships. She’s conducted interviews and photographed artists like Sita Abellán, Abra, Yunglita, Roman Future and Father. Due to the open discussion and safe space she has created with her blog, her subjects always come off as empowered although they are highly sexualized. The Los Angeles-based photographer is making the internet a more tolerant place.

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Novella’s March Reading Guide for the Avid and the Curious

Take a big breath. Listen, you can dive into your local — but most likely Indigo — bookstore and browse their many but not-diverse-in-any-way-that-matters and suspiciously vanilla sections of suggested — apparently we’re to take Heather’s word for it — readings for days and still not come up with a gem you’ll cherish for years to come for a couple of reasons: a) books organized with the organizational skills of a five-year-old with a corporate mindset aren’t conducive to a good search; b) if you do make it down to a smaller independent bookstore, you’re busy deciphering Joseph or Karen or some Edward’s handwriting in the staff-recommended section, which is, not to mention the efforts at trying to also decipher their personalities and to see whether the mildly indie sounding playlist also belongs to J., K., or E., distracting; c) I have a personal problem with the databaselessness of BMV and their knack for ugly stickers and surprisingly short list of books; and d) new and contemporary books are often pushed aside when the reader in search looks at and is tugged by the poised and attractive cover of a Penguin Classic. If you’re thinking, ‘That’s what online book lists for!’ first, yes, you’re right, but second, they usually peddle the same stuff over and over again. The best way, in my not so humble opinion, to find a book that you didn’t know you were looking for is to spend an hour or two at a used bookstore. But who has time for that these days?

This list of ten books for March is less ‘You have to read these’ and more ‘Consider these books and books that are like these ones in spirit.’ You can easily find excellent essays or stories written by these authors online — I’ve included some links below for you convenience. Read those first before hitting the bookstores. Once there, maybe go straight for the titles mentioned here, or venture with them in mind. Ignore my haughtiness and really try this. It usually works. A reading guide must be a “DIY: Axe” to the frozen sea within us.

Anything by Rebecca Solnit

By this time, you’ve probably been ‘told’ to read Solnit’s excellent Men Explain Things to Me (2014) and frighteningly prescient and necessary Hope in the Dark (2004). Which, if you haven’t, you should. And more to the point, if you have, do continue with Solnit’s essays on diverse subject matters ranging from urban planning and politics to the economy, environment, and the arts. A good place to start is The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness, a collection of her essays. Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlasthe latest in Sonlit’s series of atlases that reimagine American landscapes, is another excellent choice.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Perhaps this is my arrogance raised to a preternatural height speaking but I think the number of people who know George Saunders’s name are much higher than the number who have read and appreciate his works. Which is really a shame because Saunders truly tests our capacity for empathy and thereby extends, frustratingly and beautifully, its boundaries beyond what once seemed possible. Which, I must say risking being redundant, is really something we need today. If not convinced, turn to this. His debut novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, based on the story of Abraham Lincoln and the death of his child, Willie Lincoln, is told from multiple perspectives — including those of the ghost forms of Hans Vollman, a once stupendously well-endowed printer, and a once closeted and now multi-limbed Roger Bevins III. This stylistically unique and often hilarious novel is a good place to continue or start your relationship with Saunders’s works.

A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women by Siri Hustvedt

Siri Hustvedt’s new collection of essays is concerned with subjects ranging from art, the workings of the human mind, and writing to our capacity for and nature of imagination. One of the pleasures of reading Hustvedt, aside from her intellect, writing, and persistent curiosity, is the pleasure of reading someone who is incredibly well-read; her sources include Kierkargaard, Kant, Niels Bohr, and many more.

Autumn by Ali Smith

Dubbed ‘the first great Brexit novel’ by the New York Times, Ali Smith’s latest, Autumn, deals with loving and unusual friendship in tumultuous and uncertain times that was the political climate leading up to the Brexit vote and is still very much the case throughout the world. Daniel and Elisabeth, the central characters, meet when Elisabeth decides to take on the role of family for the dying, 101-year-old man. As an innovating novelist and a chronicler of our times, Smith depicts the two coexisting yet antithetical worlds of their friendship in the elder-care facility and the turmoil outside.

Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag

In Vivek Shanbhag’s novella, we meet a nouveau riche family in Bangalore, India, whose dynamic shifts and turns as its members adjust to a new life, a new perspective. The novella not only harkens back to the best of classic family novels — those of Edith Wharton and Tolstoy — but reaffirms the medium’s capacity to suck in and unsettle readers like a series of short, hard punches. Ghachar Ghochar is the first English language translation of the already acclaimed author’s works.

Why I am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto by Jessa Crispin

In a zeitgeist increasingly dominated by think pieces focused on ‘validating’ individual experiences and once again bringing to light the undertows of a TV show or a celebrity-instance, Jessa Crispin’s manifesto is refreshing and vital to not only thinking about feminism but making its principles and values into reality. The founder of Bookslut writes against a kind of social-media squabbling feminism that creates “not a more egalitarian world, but the same world, just with more women in it.” Crispin shows us a path to the radical space of feminism over the various obstacles and distractions generated by the mainstream.

Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama

Yoshinobu Mikami, a classic disgruntled investigator, and is wife’s search for their missing child, Ayumi is at the heart of Hideo Yokoyama’s international best seller, Six Four. But like the best of them, darkness or evil lies not solely on the circumstances surrounding the main case. In the process of unravelling the mystery, Mikami tugs at the undertows of the bureaucratic system and complicated and nuanced power relations that shape life, as it does elsewhere, in Japan. The crime is intriguing but the glimpses into the grid of unseen dynamics that flow underneath our daily lives is truly captivating.

Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh

Don’t read these stories before dinner. In fact, don’t read them before lunch or breakfast either. Try to find a sweet spot between meals where your mind is far from foods because Ottessa Moshfegh, to my and, soon, your, pleasure, writes often about throwing up — the physical act and the quiet, more frequent than one would like to admit, involuntary expulsion of our deepest, darkest, dirtiest thoughts and desires. The scenes come alive and it’d be a shame if you went without your food. But if you had to choose, choose to read this over a meal because stories like “Mr.Wu” and “The Beach Boys” will make you forget about everything outside of their worlds.

The Snows of Yesteryear by Gregor von Rezzori

The Snows of Yesteryear is the type of book one reads on a train going across the beautiful and sad landscapes of a romanticized Europe in between tea and cookies in the afternoon and champagne in the evening. Though the memoir often deals with hardly romantic or picturesque scenes of life, Rezzori’s beautiful writing conveys a feelings of comfort not unlike nostalgia for an imagined past. But behind the quiet misdirection of the narrator and beyond the windows overlooking a quaint town, treaties are signed, enemies are made, and wars rage on. Rezzori’s is a chronicle of the adventures and mishaps of innocence and growing up in times of warfare disguised as a memoir. Since the romanticized plains and mountains of the old countries are far, try it while on TTC. It’s definitely not the same but the writing is still very much excellent.

Citizen — An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

It’s hard to talk about Claudia Rankine’s book-length poem Citizen because it’s difficult — for many and different reasons for many and different people — to talk about race and what constitutes a person in America today. Short-listed for the National Book Award in 2014, Citizen is also an examination of the poetic form and its powers and limits in the world today. It rings true and beautiful and disabuses the reader of idyl perspectives. You can read an excerpt of it here.

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SplitScreen: Peggy Baker’s Dance Showcase

David Norsworthy and Sarah Fregeau in Split Screen Stereophonic. Photo by Tim Nguyen

During a phone conversation, choreographer Peggy Baker compared her latest work SplitScreen to a couple of google-windows opened side by side on the display. Even if they talk about the same thing, the information on each them are different. Hence, one has to focus on one or the other window to get the information.

The audience had to make decisions of a similar nature while watching SplitScreen at The Theatre Centre this Tuesday evening, because each the four dances in the program has two synchronous, but distinct, lines of action.

Working with four of the best dancers in the Toronto dance scene — Ric Brown, Sarah Fregeau, Kate Holden, and David Norsworthy —, as well as Montreal-based lighting designer Marc Parent and Philadelphia-based guitarist Tim Motzer, the 64-year-old choreographer’s latest features some utterly fascinating moments of contemporary dance.

Holden, in a pale dress, illuminates the stage in the opening solo from Locus Plot (2015). With sharp moves and convulsive breaths she contradicts three shadows (Fregeau, Brown, and Norsworthy) who, staying in a far corner, stroke the air with their arms and legs as if they were singing a lullaby with their bodies.

The mood changes completely when two men, Norsworthy and Brown, simultaneously perform their energetic solos. The oldest choreography Yang (1998) is the most gymnastic and fast-paced. The audience’s glances shift from one dancer to the other as they jump, somersault and run in turns, impressing with their virtuous dance techniques.

Split Screen Stereophonic (2013) is an imperturbable observation of the intimate lives of two couples. Again, the attention shifts between two duets — Fregeau and Norsworthy, and Holden and Brown — who change their body languages in relation to their partners and echo each other throughout the whole dance. Fregeau and Norsworthy’s performance is especially passionate and intense.

Peggy Baker in Epilogue. Photo by Tim Nguyen

“People who come to see my work, see very highly-structured choreography that creates room for extremely spontaneous and physical interpretation by the dancers,” says Baker.

The dancers are not the only characters in the contemporary fairytales. The presence of light and music is irrefutable. It’s felt particularly in Epilogue when Baker appears on the stage along with Motzer. Her solo is a silent monologue accompanied by two chairs, the symbols of dismantled relationship. Baker replaces the chairs, saturating each move with drama. Because the dance has many pauses and focus on the story-line rather than extraordinary movements, sometimes Motzer’s melody We Were stands out in place of the performance.

Light helps the dancers deliver their complex moves and emotions. It gives the performers dramatic looks by illuminating only one side of their faces, or, together with Larry Hahn’s setting for the stereophonic, it divides the scene into two different apartments with large windows.

This harmonic textures of light, space, and sound intensifies the sense of three-dimensional space and gives plenty of room for imagination.

SplitScreeen is at The Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen St. W., Feb. 21-26. Tickets: 416-538-0988 PURCHASE ONLINE

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Now that moody skies are an everyday thing, you just want to stay curled in up in the cocoon you made with your duvet more than usual; summer is long gone and no longer can you throw on a T-shirt and bike to wherever; you don’t want to think about how many layers you have to pile on to stay warm, and the last thing you want to do is trudge through dirty slush to get to work. Yes, seasonal depression is a thing. So, I’ve compiled a list of five things to help combat this lack of motivation and dreariness.

1. Stay Active

Yes, I know. Maybe not the first thing you wanted to hear, but now is not the time to lose your workout motivation. Although it may be horrid outside, it’s important to get out there, even if it’s just for a brisk walk. Half an hour outside will help provide a little bit of mood-boosting Vitamin D. If you want some motivation, there are plenty of motivational YouTube videos. But remember, nothing happens if you don’t actually get off your butt and do something.

Trying something new will also help boost your mood and fight total hibernation. Sign up for a workout class you’ve never tried or buy some new colourful leggings to help get through the dreary colour scheme of the next few months. After all, summer bodies are made in the winter.

2. Plan a Staycation

I can’t stand the cold but some of us don’t have the funds to run away to California to warm our toes for a week. That’s not to say you can’t still get a change in scenery staying where you are. Get away from the city and escape to a cozy cabin for a weekend, or go on a ski trip. Even a trip to the spa will boost your mood.

Or literally stay right where you are, at home. There’s no harm in taking a day off and wrapping yourself up in a blanket, tea in one hand and a book in the other. Just remember to relax. It’s not a day for running errands or catching up on work you didn’t finish. It doesn’t count when your staycation includes you deep-cleaning the house.


3. Eat Chocolate

Let me explain. People who go through Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or the winter blues, are more likely to crave a natural amino acid called trytophan, which helps produce the feel-good hormone serotonin. This is produced in our bodies when we’re exposed to sunshine, which, in the winter months, is obviously not as abundant. If you don’t produce enough serotonin, you naturally crave trytophan. The important thing is, it’s found in chocolate. So yes, chocolate can replace sunshine in this way. The amount of trytophan also depends on the amount of cocoa bean content and usually, the more expensive the chocolate, the more cocoa bean content. They also contain less sugar. This means they’re healthier right? So go ahead, indulge.

Just balance it with leafy greens, avocados, oats, eggs and anything rich in vitamins, B, C, and D that will also help boost your mood. 😉


4. Give

‘Tis the season after all, and what better way to spend it than giving to other people. It’s not just about monetary donations. Spending time at the local shelter helping prepare lunch and volunteering your time not only makes you feel satisfied but also really improves mental health.


5. It’s the Holidays. Embrace it

As much as you may want to hibernate all winter, don’t fight the holiday feels. Just give in. Put on an ugly Christmas sweater, make a gingerbread house, play Christmas music on loop and watch Home Alone at the same time. Do all the cliché Christmas things.

Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, there are plenty of things to do around this time you probably don’t get to do the rest of the year. Going out with friends and family will brighten your mood on the darkest of days, even if it’s just for a hot chocolate or a round of ice-skating at Nathan Philips Square.