All hail the mighty Caesar

The creative talents in the Canadian artisanal drink scene are making some exceptional products. Here are some of our favourites.

by Christine Sismondo


All Hail, Walter

Although the Caesar is over a half-century old, the drink was reborn nearly a decade ago, when a west coast company launched the world’s first all-natural, premium craft Caesar mix — Walter. Now, these visionaries have done it again, with a canned craft version of the national drink of Canada, mixed, seasoned, spiced and ready-to-drink. Just bring your own celery. $3.75 • LCBO 19103

We’ll Take Manhattans

Sure, you could buy all the ingredients and tools to make your own spirit-forward classic cocktails. Or you could just buy bottled cocktails from Dillon’s, a distillery in Beamsville that was one of Canada’s first small-batch spirit producers. A couple of years back, they launched a Negroni and, this year, that’s been joined by a barrel-aged Manhattan made with Dillon’s own whisky, vermouth and bitters. Best of all, it tastes every bit as delicious as any cocktail you could make for yourself. $24.95/4-pack • Store.Dillons.ca

Cider House Rules

Canadian cider is having a moment, thanks largely to creative cider houses such as Guelph’s Revel Cider, which is always pushing boundaries and playing with new ingredients. This year, the emphasis is on nectarines, which are used to make the gently-sweet and lively Mithras cider — exactly what you want to drink at every backyard barbecue party. $4.75/355 mL • RevelCider.ca

Liquid Gold

When the distillers at Prince Edward County’s Kinsip House of Fine Spirits found out one of their new neighbours was planting 50,000 crocus bulbs to start a saffron farm, they knew right away they wanted to try to make a liquor from it. They did and the final product is fresh, herbal and lightly sweet. Serve on the rocks after dinner instead of dessert. $34.95 • kinsip.ca

Gin-apalooza

It seems like every time we turn around, someone’s launching a new and exciting gin in Quebec and, this summer, it’s Royalmount Gin that’s generating all the buzz. Made in Montreal, this crisp and citrussy gin has a hint of fresh cucumber, making it a great mixer for cocktails and, of course, just a classic G&T. $49.95 • LCBO 19305

Brunch Beer, Finally

Who knew that what the world needed now was a pale amber ale that’s highly reminiscent of the Mimosa, that classic brunch staple? Muskoka Brewery, apparently, which is redefining day-drinking with a bold and zesty beer with a hint of tropical fruit. $3.65/473 mL • LCBO 19682

Clearly Canadian

Thanks to ample world-class grain and plenty of pristine water, some of the best vodka on the planet is made right here in Canada. A new release worth checking out is Northern Keep, made in Alberta with just enough rye grain to give this crisp vodka a nice combo of spice and fruit. $30.95 • LCBO 15012

Birroteca Bionda

Suddenly, Italian Pilsners are on everyone’s lips, probably because we’ve all finally woken up to the fact that this light and refreshing beer makes for an ideal partner for light picnic lunches on hot days. One of the best examples of this style is Bionda, a light, citrussy and aromatic pils made at Eataly’s Birroteca by Indie Ale House. $3.25/355mL • shoptoronto.eataly,ca

Hopped Up

Two of the hottest trends in beer, sours and “dry-hopping” (adding hops at the end of the fermentation to enhance aromatics), are finally available in the same can, Left Field Brewery’s Bang Bang Dry-Hopped Cider. It’s got sweet tart vibes, but a refreshing and citrussy finish. $3.95/355mL • LCBO 10869

Canadian Pink

French rosé may be what put pink wine on the map, but Canadian winemakers have begun to master this style of light, dry and refreshing wine. Case in point: Hidden Bench’s Locust Lane Rosé, a good candidate for one of Niagara’s best rosés. The 2020 expression is a first-rate balance of subtle strawberries and light herbs. $24.95 • LCBO 68833

Yo Quiero Taco Wine

Taco Bell sold out of Jalapeño Noir, its first-ever wine, about an hour-and-a-half after it launched in Ontario last summer. In case you missed it, you can at least get an idea of why it was so popular by trying some of Queenston Mile’s gorgeous 2017 Pinot Noir, since it’s pretty similar to the juice it custom-made for the fast-food chain. Obviously, it goes well with tacos but, in addition, everything from barbecue poultry to grilled veggies. $40 • LCBO 10138; also available at the winery QueenstonMileVineyard.com

Italian-Canadian

Love Prosecco but want to buy local whenever you can? We’ve got the perfect solution to this dilemma, namely, Che Bello Sparkling VQA, an off-dry bubbly made at Malivoire, a vegan-friendly, sustainable winery in Niagara. With its lovely crisp green apple flavour, this prosecco-ish sparkler is practically born to be served with cheese and charcuterie. $17.95 • LCBO 16858

Summer whisky

A lot of whiskies don’t come out until it’s sweater weather. Georgian Bay’s new Canadian whisky, on the other hand, is light, delicate and fruity enough to be a real season pusher.  Drink neat or mixed with a spicy ginger beer — any time of year. $34.95 • LCBO 13909

Christine Sismondo is the author of America Walks into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops and Mondo Cocktail: A Shaken and Stirred History, with a PhD dissertation on Toronto bar history. ChristineSismondo.com