These days, regardless of where you live in Canada, you’re likely to come across a local producer of spirits like rum, gin or vodka. Here are 10 small-batch Canadian spirits that are just as remarkably different from each other as the various landscapes that surround them.
Bluenose Rum from Ironworks (Lunenburg, NS)
Saying that this East Coast rum is dark — named after the speedy schooner that graces our Canadian dime — is an understatement. It’s almost black as night. A large amount of molasses used during the distilling process leads to a liquor that is potent but well-rounded, with notes of spices like clove. It taste great in eggnog, but the holidays are far behind us, so for now, let’s just sip it slowly over ice.
Check out Ironworks
Cucumber Gin from Long Table Distillery (Vancouver, BC)
Anyone out there who loves Hendrink’s Gin will absolutely love this micro-distilled spirit from Vancouver. The innate freshness of cucumber shines through with a subtle spicy aftertaste. Don’t even think about dirtying up this gin in a martini — keep it dry for maximum appreciation.
Check out Long Table Distillery
Last Mountain Distillery - Dill Pickle Vodka (Lumsden, SK)
Any self-respecting Caesar connoisseur knows that basic vodka isn’t the only spirit that belongs in the classic Canadian cocktail. Naturally infused vodka, from Saskatchewan’s original distillery, Last Mountain, is born to be used in a Caesar (or bloody Mary, for that matter). It doesn’t lend itself well to sweet drinks for obvious reasons, but makes one heck of a dirty martini.
Check out Last Mountain Distillery
Haskap Gin from Steinhart Distillery (Arisaig, NS)
Much like the sea buckthorn, the Haskap is a relatively unknown berry to the average Canadian. Primarily found in the Okanagan, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, these little gems (akin to a slightly tarter blueberry) are used at Steinhart as one of the aromatics in their gin. The result is a beautiful ruby red spirit that pairs nicely with bubbly club soda and lemon juice, poured into an ice-filled glass for your sipping pleasure.
Check out Steinhart Distillery
Horlika from Lucky Bastard Distillers (Saskatoon, SK)
Vodka infused with Saskatchewan honey and Mexican chiles, this unique liquor packs a one-two punch of heat and sweetness. If you’ve ever been to a Ukrainian wedding, Christmas or any gathering really, you’ve likely knocked back a shooter or two of something similar. This version is slightly elevated in terms of flavour, but still a good choice to for a toast or two.
Check out Lucky Bastard Distillers
Sea Buckthorn Liqueur from Okanagan Spirits (Kelowna, BC)
Though small in size, the bright orange berry used in this speciality liqueur at the Okanagan’s premier distillery packs a big acidic punch. Use this as an after-dinner sipper, or sparingly in sparkling cocktails like mimosas.
Check out Okanagan Spirits
Spiced Rum from Chic Choc (Cowansville, QC)
Leave the sailors and the captains on the shelf the next time you’re at the liquor store, and opt for this small-batch rum produced in Québec. Infused with foraged aromatics like green alder, wild angelica and lovage root, the robust spiciness of this rum is far more unique and memorable than most of its mass-produced counterparts.
Check out Chic Choc
White Rye from Dillon’s Distillers (Beamsville, ON)
Definitely an uncommon spirit in this country, Dillon’s is one of only two distillers in Canada that makes this particular clear spirit. At its simplest, “white” rye is essentially a rye that sits in a barrel for a short amount of time or in a different vessel altogether. More time (generally years) in the barrel means more colour, hence the golden hues it can exude, and depth of flavour. This trend is fairly polarizing, with some drink experts seeking out the nuances in the young spirit, while some think otherwise.
Check out Dillon’s Distillers
Spring Equinox from Eau Claire Distillery (Turner Valley, AB)
This is the only Canadian liquor that’s made with prickly pear cacti. Spring Equinox, which is probably best classified as flavour-infused vodka, manages to embody that light spring feel. A swig of this with some soda over ice will lead your mind to melting snow and leaves budding on the bare tree. Spring’s arrival has never tasted so good.
Check out Eau Claire Distillery
Sweet Vermouth from Odd Society Spirits (Vancouver, BC)
Locally made vermouth isn’t something you come upon any day of the week, but you certainly can if you live in British Columbia or Alberta. Odd Society has a great lineup of interesting spirits from crème de cassis to barrel-aged gin. But this vermouth, made with a long list of botanicals, B.C. wine and fortified with malt spirit stands out from the pack.
Check out Odd Society Spirits
Dan Clapson is a food writer and culinary instructor based out of Calgary. He is constantly creating new recipes and striving to expand his culinary horizons. He thinks yam fries are overrated.