Canada’s capital has so much to offer that one can easily find themselves with sore heels after spending a weekend away marching through the city’s stellar museums and galleries. Ottawa is of course known as a city of politicians and there’s no better way to wind down an exhausting day spent law-making than slurping a perfectly balanced libation.
I recently visited Ottawa to sip my way through some of the city’s most celebrated cocktail bars and was delighted to find a muddling of dressed up politicos, romantic couples on holiday, and friendly locals who were all too keen to share their love for the city’s evolving craft cocktail scene.
The capital region is home to two craft distilleries, many whose products are coveted by local mixologists. North of 7 is Ottawa’s first micro distillery, producing handcrafted spirits such as rum, vodka, gin, and an un-aged four grain whisky, while just outside the city limits in Perth, Top Shelf Distillers produces a fine gin, vodka, and line of flavoured moonshine bottles with profiles such as apple pie, citrus mint, and wild berry.
Next time you’re in Ottawa and find yourself thirsty at cocktail-o’clock be sure to add these five swanky spots to your hit list.
Best Cocktail Bars in Ottawa
Last year Riviera was crowned one of the country’s top new restaurants by Air Canada’s enRoute magazine, instantly throwing the restaurant in the national where-to-eat-now spotlight. Located just a short stroll from Parliament Hill, Riviera is where Canada’s law makers have a penchant for sipping into the wee hours of the night. The space was formerly a bank, then a store for stamp collectors, and its sky-high ceilings and 1920s Art Deco interior instantly command attention. The open stainless steel kitchen integrates effortlessly into a 70-foot long brass bar where some of the city’s top mixologists shake up lovely libations.
Lucky No 7 | dillon’s dry gin 7, dillon’s black walnut amaro, dillon’s vermouth, aromatic bitters
The Grapefruits of Wrath | tromba tequila blanco, campari, ipa, lemon, simple syrup, bittermen’s hopped grapefruit bitters
Jockey Full of Bourbon | buffalo trace bourbon, taylor fladgate port, ancho reyes liquer, scrappy’s chocolate bitters, peaty scotch rinse
Opened in 2016 by Dr. Hussain Rahal and Tony Garcia in a heritage mansion in Ottawa’s Somerset Village, Fairouz is an upscale-casual restaurant featuring modern Middle Eastern cuisine and craft cocktails. The intimate dining room is a fave for local foodies, with the Prime Minister himself often spotted here sipping on an Old Fashioned at the tables tucked behind the bar. It’s a perfect spot to enjoy a light sip and nibble as the menu offers plenty of savoury mezze which pair perfectly with cocktails spiked with Middle Eastern ingredients such as hibiscus, barberry, and tea.
Don’t Be a Sap | blue spruce gin, lemon, turmeric, egg white
Fil Fil Cabonato | black pepper mezcal, ancho reyes, cointreau, grenadine, barberry, lemon, soda, basil
Caob Me Home | bourbon, rum, calvados, spiced pear liqueur, carob
Fairmont Chateau Laurier
Skip into Zoe’s Lounge a the Fairmont Chateau Laurier and you’ll find a newly renovated bright space featuring splashes of white and grey. The hotel recently launched a new craft cocktail program and seeks to be the go-to spot for spirit fans to enjoy a tipple when visiting the capital. If you pop by in the mid-afternoon you’ll find the space transforms into an elegant High Tea Room. Loose leaf lovers sit back and relax while nibbling on crustless sandwiches and dainty desserts.
The Stateman | Canadian Club, single malt scotch, cedar smoke, lemon, bitters, maple syrup
Bitter Valley | tequila, Canadian sweet vermouth, Aperol, Cyner, grapefruit
The Beachcomber | coconut infused local vodka, pineapple, passion fruit syrup, lime, egg whites, and orange bitters
Fly into Fauna on Bank Street and you’ll enjoy Jon Svazas’s Nouveau Canadian concept which is such a hit that it claimed the 65th spot on Canada’s Top 100 Restaurants list. The former shoe shop was transformed into an open concept space, outfitted with mixed materials, from exposed brick walls, to wooden detailing, statement lighting, and a zinc topped bar. Fauna’s mixology program offers plenty of inspiration including a tomato-free kimchi caesar and egg white topped sour muddled with gin and local craft beer.
Father Knows Best | havana club 7 year, calvados brandy, lemon, ginger & apple syrup, ginger beer
Kimchi Caesar | absolut vodka, kimchi, sriracha, olive brine, black pepper, lime, worcestershire
Ceres Sour | tanqueray, st germaine, cucumber, agave, egg white, nicklebrook ceres, saline
Moscow Tea Room
Located a stones throw from Ottawa’s Parliament Buildings and sitting perched over Sussex Drive, Addis Mahmoud’s Moscow Tea Room is a swanky spot offering award winning teas, tapas, charcuterie, vodka, craft cocktails, champagne and caviar. The sumptuous interior features walls covered in feminine art while the soft glow of glittering crystal chandeliers dangle from above. Many of the mis-matched furniture items are custom-upholstered in British designer Paul Smith fabrics. The drinks list here offers a bit of something for everyone but it’s the vodka and champagne fans who will be left seriously swooning.
French 75 | champagne, gordon’s gin, lemon juice
Moscow vs Manhattan | bulleit bourbon, sweet vermouth, apple cinnamon syrup