Sophisticated bars for a craft cocktail in Ottawa

Martinis are old news in Ottawa – unless they’re made with herb-infused vodka from an artisanal distillery. These days, craft cocktails are all the rage at the capital’s trendy restaurants. Whether it’s shaken, stirred or garnished with a sprig of rosemary, a drink from one of these inventive establishments will quench your thirst in a whole new way.

Mark Silverman

502-1081 Carling Ave, Ottawa, ON K1Y 4G2

With its high-backed leather armchairs, deeply tufted banquettes and sparkling chandeliers, Salt is the sort of place a modern-day Don Draper would take his coolest advertising clients. Small plates such as chili-glazed octopus and mains like dry-aged strip loin are the perfect foils for the boozy craft cocktails on offer. Try a refreshing cucumber collins or a sazerac made with Absinthe and Woodford Reserve bourbon. You’ll also find a small but good selection of local craft beers on tap.

Alice Restaurant Inc

40 Adeline St, Ottawa, ON K1S 3L3

Who says a vegan, gluten-free restaurant has to be earnest and dull? Certainly not the folks at Café My House, where the dark décor has a slightly Gothic vibe, and the menu – which changes every month or two – is built on local organic ingredients. Chef Briana Kim devises a solid selection of surprising dishes such as jackfruit meatball tacos. On the drinks menu, try the Lebowski (it may well be the only cocktail you’ll ever encounter featuring pumpkin spice cashew milk) or, in summer, the pear, fennel and ginger sangria.

Hintonburg Public House

1020 Wellington St W, Ottawa, ON K1Y 2X9

It might look like any garden-variety pub from the outside – all scuffed floors and nondescript wooden tables – but don’t let that artful shabbiness fool you. The Hintonburg fits right in with its hip namesake neighbourhood. The constantly changing menu offers clever takes on pub standards such as corn dogs, beer nuts, and fish and chips, while the craft cocktails selection – which is refreshed monthly – may include the HPH’s unexpected take on a margarita, complete with mint syrup and cider.

The Belmont Restaurant

1169 Bank St, Ottawa, ON K1S 3X7

The Belmont is a bit of an anomaly in this pub-filled family neighbourhood: a somewhat edgy spot with a seasonal menu that veers about as far from burgers and nachos as it’s possible to get – whey-poached turnips or sweet-and-sour deep-fried quail, anyone? Check the chalkboard for the night’s featured cocktails, which are as distinctive as the food. We can guarantee you wont see anything like the Tipperary Cocktail (Jameson, red vermouth and green chartreuse) next time you’re in Ireland.

Union Local 613

315 Somerset St W, Ottawa, ON K2P 0J8

Union Local 613 has serious street cred, with bar taps crafted from kitchen utensils, bookshelves made of old pipes and a second bar called Speakeasy hidden in the basement. Good late-night eats can be hard to find in Centretown, but here the Deep South-inspired evening menu includes cast-iron cornbread drizzled with bourbon brown butter. House-made infusions, juices and syrups enliven the boozy drinks. Order the El Gringo, a tamarind-jalapeno-tequila concoction, if you like your cocktails with a little kick. The drinks roster changes regularly, so you’ll always find something new to please your palate.

ACE Mercado

121 Clarence St, Ottawa, ON K1N 5P5

Mexican restaurants rarely spring to mind when you’re looking for craft cocktails with a quirky twist, but Ace Mercado isn’t your standard burrito bar. Sure, there’s sangria blanco on the menu, but here it’s made with elderflower liqueur and ginger beer. For something that’s a little off the wall, try the Quebexicano, a French-Canadian inspired blend of vodka, green apple, maple syrup, lemon, bitters and sparkling wine. Menu items range from scallop ceviche accented with hibiscus and passion fruit to a flaming tortilla soup with liquid nitrogen popcorn.


337 Richmond Rd, Ottawa, ON K2A 0E7

It’s hard to remember that this sleek space – all blonde wood and pendant lights – was once a humble bank branch. Celeb restaurateur Stephen Beckta and chef Michael Moffat have created a lively vibe and an eclectic menu (think gnocchi with pickled eggplant) that reflect the restaurant’s name, which means “convivial” in Dutch. Known for its wine list, Gezellig also has a small but worthy drinks menu, which includes the gincident, made with gin, Montenegro amaro, lemon and Earl Grey.

Hooch Bourbon House

180 Rideau St, Ottawa, ON K1N 5X6

Given the name, it’s not surprising that this Southern-themed ByWard Market spot keeps about two-dozen types of bourbon behind the bar. But the cocktail options range far beyond bourbon to include drinks such as the blood and sand (Scotch, brandy, sweet vermouth and orange) and a savoury Caesar accented with beet-infused horseradish. Noshes on the ever-changing menu may include anything from chicken and waffles to ostrich carpaccio. If you’re feeding a crowd, you can call a day ahead to order a roast suckling pig.

Fresco Bistro Italiano

354 Elgin St, Ottawa, ON K2P 1M8

Tucked away above Fresco Bistro Italiano, The Guest Room is one of the more sophisticated watering holes on hectic Elgin Street, where the vibe at most bars leans heavily toward sports (they don’t call it Sens Mile for nothing). It is still Elgin Street, though, so don’t be surprised to find yourself surrounded by a large, lively group as you sip a cocktail laced with house-made syrups and infusions. We suggest the delicately floral Princess Margriet, made with Galliano, bitters, and gin infused with tulips and rosemary.

Frothy bubbles, elegant flutes, that one-of-a-kind tingle – nothing says “special occasion” quite like a glass of champagne or sparkling wine. Whether you’re looking to celebrate an engagement, an anniversary, a promotion or simply the weekend, here are some excellent places to clink your glasses.
If there were a hall of fame for comforting aromas, the scent of fresh-baked bread would surely make the cut. And when it comes to tastes, buttercream icing can transport you right back to Grandma’s kitchen. Having a stressful day? A few delectable treats from these Ottawa bakeries will help cheer you right up.
Why settle for a candy bar from the office vending machine when you can revel in chocolate fondue, hand-made truffles or chocolate-covered pretzels? If cocoa is your pick-me-up of choice, pay a visit to one of these chocolatiers or cafés and treat yourself to something truly special.
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