5 Local Products to Add to Your Bar Cart
The bitters, bottled cocktails and micro-batch gins to help you drink local.
photograph by jared sych
The only Calgary-made bitters on the block, Black Cloud has been making its way into liquor cabinets and cocktail bars since 2015. These handmade flavour boosters come in a variety of intriguing flavours, including charred cedar, prairie rose, saffron mango and more.
While it’s the G in G ’n’ T that most people fuss over, choosing the right tonic can add real flair to this classic cocktail. That’s where Calgary company Porter’s Tonic shines. Owner Nicole Fewell makes every batch herself, and has come up with a number of flavours, from hibiscus to cardamom orange, that will make your tonic-infused cocktails the talk of the town. Porter’s has also teamed up with Ontario-based distillery Muskoka Brewery to make a canned gin and tonic using Fewell’s original recipe.
Not everyone has the time to figure out fancy recipes or compile the necessary ingredients for their preferred cocktails, so the folks at Eau Claire went ahead and created ready-made sips. Their canned gin and tonic — the first Alberta craft cocktail in a can — combines Eau Claire’s award-winning Parlour Gin with its house-made tonic water. For more of a kick, try the Equineox Mule, a bottled cocktail that combines the distiller’s Equineox spirit with ginger beer from Calgary’s Annex Ale Project for a unique, local take on a Moscow Mule.
Last Best Brewing and Distilling’s master distiller Bryce Parsons is a funny guy. When he saw how many craft gins were coming into the market, he wondered how anyone could keep track of it all. “As a self-dare, a joke, I thought, ‘You know what? I’m going to confuse things even more and make 52 gins in one year,’” says Parsons. He certainly had the chops to pull it off, having written his thesis on gin flavour profiling and mapping during his studies at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland. Thus, Gin Craze YYC was born.
Parsons is producing 35 bottles of micro-batch gin each week throughout 2018. Each batch is numbered with the week it came out and named for its unique personality. Flavours have ranged from week 13’s kaffir-lime to week five’s cryohopped dry gin with cardamom. (Cryohopping is when hop cones are frozen to a temperature where the lupulin — the powdery, pollen-like substance that holds the aromas and acids that give hops their unique characteristics — separates from the vegetal material.) Each week’s flavour is written up on Gin Craze YYC’s Instagram feed. Those lucky enough to snag a bottle can enjoy at will; for everyone else, a selection of past bottles is behind the bar at the restaurant for in-house consumption.
In 2017, Park Distillery in Banff was the first craft distillery in Canada to release signature barrel-aged bottled cocktails: a Negroni and a Martinez using its Alpine Dry gin and a Manhattan using its Glacier Rye. The drinks are aged six months in new charred-oak casks, allowing the spirits to mellow, with bitters added to round out the flavour once each 110-litre cask is opened. The initial run sold out quickly and Park’s latest batch came out this past June. The distillery is already aging another batch of casks made in collaboration with Proof bar manager Makina Labrecque and the Craft Spirit Collective.
What is Craft Spirit Collective?
Established earlier this year, the Craft Spirit Collective (CSC) aims to increase awareness of Canadian craft spirits, though it’s mostly focusing on Alberta for now. The CSC holds cocktail competitions and other events, keeps members informed through insider newsletters about the craft-distilling industry and offers paying members discounts at all member distilleries. If you’re looking to stay on the cutting edge of the craft spirits scene, this is the collective for you.