Power and politics make up the lifeblood of Ottawa. The capital of Canada is where leaders of industry, social justice and our elected officials gather. It should come as no surprise that there are more than a few places to get a drink in the city. From the established watering holes to a brand new breed of cocktail lounges and wine bars. If you want to grab a drink in Ottawa you have choices and that is what I am looking to explore. Where else can you sip on an Old Fashioned while rubbing elbows with a Member of Parliament, a business lobbyist and a union rep? The Ottawa cocktail is one part power, one part politics and a whole lot of spirits. Let’s sample a few, shall we?
This is by no means an exhaustive list of where you can enjoy a fine beverage in Ottawa. I was able to visit six Ottawa cocktail bars during my stay and they are all fine places to enjoy a beverage or two. There are more, but this is a good list to start with.
The Ottawa cocktail scene is primarily centred around the seat of power in town, Parliament Hill. The first five I will share are all within a 10-minute walk from the seat of our government. The final cocktail bar is a bit farther out and closer to where people actually live in Ottawa. This is a trend I expect to see grow.
#1 Beckta Dining & Wine 150 Elgin St – A short walk from the War Memorial you will find one of the icons of the Ottawa restaurant scene Beckta Dining & Wine Bar. To enjoy dinner at the restaurant you may need to make reservations days in advance, but the locals know you can go to the back of the restored landmark building and there you will find the cocktail & wine bar. No reservation needed. A great wine list and a fine selection of classic cocktails. This is where I started my cocktail crawl with local foodie and friend Don Chow. He may have taken some time off from writing to have a baby but he still knows the city better than anyone I know.
#2 Metropolitan Brasserie 700 Sussex Dr – If you are a political staffer and not pulling in the big bucks chances are good you venture down the street to the Metropolitan Brasserie for Hill Hour. Monday to Friday from 4 to 7 pm there are drink and food specials perfect to get the tongue wagging and fill your belly. Private rooms at the back of the restaurant often play host to political gatherings and parties. You can enjoy a cocktail here and maybe spot your favourite politician while you are at it. Amazing location as it is also close to the Rideau Centre mall.
#3 The Albion Rooms Novotel Ottawa, 33 Nicholas St – Directly across from the Rideau Centre in the lobby of the Novotel Ottawa you will find The Albion Rooms. Very popular with hotel guests I think it may still be a secret from many of the locals. As I was staying upstairs I frequented the bar many times during my stay and quite enjoyed myself. The staff were friendly and the cocktails on point. A great place to unwind and relax after a day exploring the city. Oh, by the way the food menu is also very tasty.
#4 Copper Spirits & Sights Andaz Byward Market 325 Dalhousie St – If you want to enjoy your Ottawa cocktail with a view there is only one bar for you and that is the Copper Spirits & Sights rooftop lounge at the Andaz Byward Market hotel. This 16th-floor rooftop bar offers the best views of downtown Ottawa you will find. It’s a hot spot and they don’t take reservations so be prepared to wait or get there early. It’s a see and be seen kinda place. All the cool kids are going here.
#5 Fauna 425 Bank St – Branching out from the immediate radius of Parliament you start to enter the real neighbourhoods of Ottawa and Fauna is one of the places to visit along Bank Street. It has made the top 100 of Canada’s Restaurants list and offers an inventive cocktail list that changes up quite regularly. Don and I sat at the bar while our bartender whipped us up a couple of drinks. The below libation was a version of a cocktail that was about to be on the menu. I love being a mixologists Guinea pig.
#6 Riveria 62 Sparks St – I have saved my favourite for last. Sitting at the Chef’s Pass at the Riviera bar is quite possibly one of my favourite dining experiences of the past few months. The food was amazing, coming in another story, but we were also treated to a night of fantastic cocktails by their resident Mixologist and Bar Star Stephen Flood. Putting ourselves in his hands he kept the cocktails coming until we said stop. This restaurant and bar is THE reason to visit Sparks Street at night and I’m not the only one to think so. Make a reservation as this place just gets busier as its fame grows.
If you are adventurous try an Amaro tasting flight. Never had Amaro before? It is an Italian digestive liqueur perfect for ending a meal and settling your stomach.
There was as seventh Ottawa cocktail bar on my list to check out but I was unable to get in. I’ll just have to try it out on my next visit to Ottawa. It’s Canada’s 150th birthday so chances are good I’ll be squeezing in at least one more visit to our nations capital.
Happy Ottawa cocktail bar exploring!