Toronto’s Bay Street is a corporate gauntlet, full of fleets of suits, chain steak restaurants and stock market tickers. But duck into the unassuming stone facade of a 1920s-era bank and weave through the lobby, and suddenly you’re in a disco oasis.
Welcome to Supernova Ballroom. Here, Gloria Gaynor fills speakers as drinkers slip into velvet-covered chairs. Swirling high-contrast illustrations by Chicago artist Kisira Hill fill the walls and decorate the menus, and disco records line the backbar.
For any attendee of a Trash Tiki pop-up, the lighthearted air of the space should feel par for the course. Kelsey Ramage and Iain Griffiths have made their name over the last five years hosting globe-trotting, sweat-fueled parties that shine a spotlight on sustainability.
The Trash Tiki of 2019 is a little more refined. The soaring 13-meter ceilings and ecclesiastical vaulted stonework of the space make it feel as if you’ve entered a church, one in which Donna Summer is the patron saint. Rainbows of sumptuous velvets drape down from the columns, and drinks, many shimmering from edible glitter, rest on coasters made from vinyl singles. Ramage promises that the future will hold late-night disco dance parties.
Trash Tiki’s mantra has always been “you can drink while having fun and still leave the planet and its people in a better place,” and that mentality feels ever-present at Supernova Ballroom. The bar’s menu, what Ramage dubs #fizzyandfabulous, is divided between Toppers (slight bubbles), French Seventy Fives, House Bubbles and Wild Airs (fermented offerings)—three of each. (There are also wines by the glass, cider and beer.)
Each section proffers flavorful, locally focused spins on drinks sparkling, spritzed and anything in between. Everything—everything—is carbonated in some sense, from standard-fare sparklers like Highballs and Bellinis to nerdier bottle ferments.
Menu items showcase that sustainability can be executed in a way that lets deliciousness reign. “We needed a way of showing the craft cocktail industry that those would-be waste ingredients could still be used for flavor in an open-forum community that was non-preachy and could be a lot of fun,” says Ramage.
For those who want the classics, they are present. There’s the Ruthless Tea, a low-ABV Manhattan variant that calls on house-made Ontario red plum liqueur, genmaicha kombucha, Amaro Nonino and whiskey by historic Toronto distillery Gooderham & Worts. It’s served up with a lemon rind in the shape of a lightning bolt as garnish.
A G&T riff pulls in white peach syrup, Fords gin and little thief seaweed, foraged from Canada’s East Coast. “It’s a strange plant,” says Ramage. “It’s called little thief, as it sticks to rocks and oysters, and when it dies, it floats away with whatever it sticks to, stealing it into the ocean.” The resulting cocktail has a lingering brine that ever-so-slightly flirts with ocean flavors.
Globetrotting has been the duo’s identity for years now, but at Supernova Ballroom, local is the language. Ingredients like little thief, cedar leaves, kelps and saskatoon berries (a nutty fruit akin to blueberry) are sourced via forager Forbes Wild Foods and remaining produce from local food distributor 100km Foods. Green strawberries, tarter than the usual ruby red fruit and common in the Niagara region, are highlighted in a highball with Iris blanc vermouth. Bee pollen comes from a low-intervention bee farm at Rosehall Run Vineyards and is then used in an Aperol Spritz with Ungava gin.
Sourcing in-province is easy in the summer months, but winter in Canada’s colder climate has Ramage and Griffiths planning. “We order a lot. It was late summer when we opened, so we stocked up on summer fruit so we can store it for the end of summer and fall,” says Ramage. “For our Bellini, we use a house-made peach wine, but we have the peach pulp sitting on our shelves for when we’ve gone through the wine.”
While Ramage and Griffiths were behind the opening menu, the future of Supernova Ballroom lies with the staff. “We want to do our menus Dandelyan style,” says Ramage, referencing the London bar where the duo first met and where Trash Tiki started as an online database for minimal-waste recipes. “We want to mentor the staff to get creative and develop drinks on their own, just with our guidance.”