Mixologist Steve Benson shares his recipe for the perfect Ottawa cocktail

Steve Benson's Ottawa cocktails

Steve Benson has 11 years in the hospitality industry, and has filled almost every role behind the bar. A passionate mixologist, he has also been an instructor at Algonquin College in Ottawa for over seven years.  He was previously a competitive flair bartender, with over 20 competitions to his credit.  Steve also co-created and maintains the seasonal cocktail menu at Play Food and Wine, and has been a regular guest on /A| News, Rogers and CTV. 

Ottawa mixologist Steve Benson

It is an exciting time to be a mixologist in Ottawa. 

This scene is in its infancy but there is a small group of bartenders sharing their skills with the city and a good number of people out there searching for the best cocktails.  I have traveled to different cities in Canada in search of great libations and well-made classics and I can say this: Ottawa is on track to become the next cocktail hotspot in this country. 

In these travels I have learned that the cocktail scene in all of these cities was surprisingly similar to ours at some point which is great news for all of us who are pushing this scene forward. 

Local Tourist Ottawa recently asked me on Twitter what I’d put in an Ottawa Cocktail, a tweet that quickly turned into a great conversation with a bunch of local tweeps. 

My first thought was a maple bacon concoction.  This was in the winter, and one user said that to truly represent Ottawa the maple was the way to go – but use lots and lots of ice – and I couldn’t agree more.  I have been playing around with some fun infusions and my most recent is a maple bacon Canadian whisky.  So what I’m thinking is a cocktail made from this infused whisky, Bailey’s and a little touch of hot coffee (preferably Bridgehead or Planet Coffee to keep it Ottawa).   I think this would be a great winter cocktail after a sled or a skate on the canal.

But being Ottawa we should also make one for those summer months when whisky and Bailey’s wont quite cut it. 

With Ottawa’s amazing local produce throughout those months there has to be a cocktail that highlights this part of our great city.    Fresh summer strawberries have to be part of our Ottawa Summer Cocktail and one of my favourites is one that can be found at Play Food and Wine.  It’s called the Triple B, which stands berries, basil, and balsamic vinegar. 

 So without further adieu here are some recipes to reproduce and celebrate our great city of Ottawa:

Steve Benson's Winter Ottawa Cocktail

Winter Ottawa Cocktail

  • 1oz maple bacon infused Canadian whisky
  • 1oz Bailey’s
  • 3oz local coffee (Bridgehead or Planet Coffee)
  • Add all ingredients in a mug and garnish with some maple Kahlua whipped cream.

Maple Bacon Canadian Whisky

Render maple bacon on low for 10 min.  Boil a mason jar to kill any bacteria.  Place the bacon and any fat into the jar and add your favourite Canadian whisky (I prefer Canadian Club).  Seal and place in a dark cupboard.  Shake every few days for three weeks.

Maple Kahlua whipped cream

Add a half liter of whipping cream to a bowl and add 2oz Kahlua and 2oz maple syrup and whisk until firm.

Steve Benson's Summer Ottawa Cocktail

Summer Ottawa Cocktail

  • 1oz gin
  • .5oz Chambord
  • .5oz grand Marnier
  • .5oz balsamic vinegar
  • 5 leaves of basil
  • 3oz cranberry juice
  • 2 large strawberries

Muddle the strawberries and basil in a shaker glass.  Add all ingredients in the shaker glass and fill with ice.  Shake it vigorously for 30 seconds and strain into a tall glass.  Garnish with two leaves of basil and a strawberry. 

Depending on what consistency you are looking for there are a few options.  If you want all the strawberry pieces and basil just pour the contents into the glass.  For a few pieces of everything use a hawthorn strainer.  For a perfectly clear drink use a hawthorn strainer and a fine mesh strainer together and strain over fresh ice.

Wow. Steve: you are AWESOME! Thank you so much for sharing – we will be trying these right away!

So Ottawa, what would you put in an Ottawa cocktail?