Whether celebrating happy hour, going on a date or indulging in a liquid lunch, Ottawa’s cocktail scene has plenty on tap. Gone are the days when the drink with the most alcohol and sugar was the tipple of the week (we’re looking at you, Long Island Iced Tea). Now cocktails are appreciated not only for their intoxicating abilities, but also for their flavour profiles.
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“Bartenders everywhere have moved towards more traditional, organic cocktail making,” said Emily Lenzi, owner of the farm-to-table gastropub Two Six {Ate} in Ottawa’s Little Italy neighborhood. “People are making their own bitters, infusing spirits, making syrups and cordials and using fresh, local ingredients. ”With twists on traditional beverages and unique creations, Two Six {Ate}’s list is expansive, and gives a nod to the surrounding Italian community with Campari, Aperol and Prosecco.

Among all the factors that make a great cocktail, “balance” is one word common among bartenders and mixologists. On Elgin Street, the Guest Room, on the top floor of Fresco Bistro, has a speakeasy vibe and is constantly mixing up something new and different. The bar creates its own flavours of alcohol, from tulip and rosemary-infused gin to tobacco-infused tequila. Staffers make their own syrups, like salted caramel, vanilla and even Guinness. Many drinks are smoked. The mixologists need a certain amount of swagger to serve the Rat Pack, a $40 cocktail featuring Jack Daniel’s Frank Sinatra Select whiskey and buttered Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky.