Christmas calls for (many) cocktails. Keep it local this season with sensational spirits from creative Ontario distillers. Not only do they make for a better happy hour, they also make great gifts. But with dozens of options on store shelves, how does one even choose?
Well, we’re here — and happy to help. Here are our five favorite spirits to shake up your holiday:
Georgian Bay Gin
It starts with wild Georgian Bay juniper — hand picked by founder Timothy Keenleyside’s kids. Add to that water from Springwater Township — where, according to Canadian Geographic, the water is technically cleaner than five-thousand-year-old glacial water — and few more botanicals and you get this crisp, clear spirit that evokes the best things about the bay.
Single Malt Vodka, Still Waters Distillery
This award-winning vodka is handcrafted and triple-distilled in a small custom-made pot still. It’s smooth, subtle and has a creamy sweetness with a hint of vanilla.
Strawberry Gin, Dillon’s Distillery
A traditional dry gin infused with fresh local strawberries — picked on a July afternoon down the road in Jordan — and botanicals and then lightly sweetened. This gin lets you relive early summer afternoons anytime of year.
Limited release. Get it at the Distillery or through their online shop.
Loon Vodka, Rheault Distillery
A vodka with a crystalline lustre and velvety finish. Marcel Rheault and his wife Mireille Morin take grain they grow in Hearst Ontario and transform it into beautiful, award winning spirits with pride.
Evolution, Forty Creek Whisky
Evolution starts with fig, dates, anise, blackberry, black currants and bell peppers and then evolves into deep forest notes, cinnamon spice flares, cloves, nutmeg, chestnut and tobacco. There are wonderful hints of vanilla, sweet clover and butter, evolving milk chocolate, soft roasted oak, peach and apricot. If that’s not enough to sell you, we don’t know what will!
Limited release. Get it at the distillery.
And for the shakers in your life, try pairing local spirits with local bitters! Originally created as medicinal tonics, aromatic cocktail seasonings have become a common sight behind Ontario bars. Here are three locally made bitters we’re currently crushing on:
- Dillon’s Rhubarb Bitters
A sweet and sour bitter, made with local rhubarb. Great with anything strawberry or ginger, or in a French 75. Get it here.
- Bar 40 Umami Bitters
This is an ambitious mix and is also difficult to master, used sparingly it is good for balance, used excessively it can add many layers to an umami based cocktail. Think caesars!
- Coster’s Prescription Coffee & Smoke Bitters
A great pairing for whisky with these deep, cigar tobacco-smoked bitters, are the brainchild of Profile Wine Group’s Mark Coster. He lovingly describes them as “making out with Tom Waits at six in the morning.” Get them at Sanagan’s Meat Locker.