“I could sit here and tell you that one thing is better than the other but the reality is, it’s never a popularity contest when it comes to cocktails; everyone is the cool kid here.”
When it comes to cocktails, the Moonroom is easily one of Ottawa’s longstanding hidden gems. Tucked away inside a minimalist, industrial-style exterior on Preston street, it’s easy to miss in the daytime but becomes a beacon at nighttime.
The interior is warm and intimate, enhanced by a unique playlist, vintage-looking exposed bulbs over the bar, and tealights at the tables. Although it can get pretty jam-packed in the evenings, the consistently strong (and I mean strong), beautifully crafted cocktails make it worth squeezing through the crowds for a seat. If you feel like a drink and a show, I recommend taking a seat at the bar to watch the meticulous preparation of tapas and cocktails by the ultra-friendly staff—I especially like when they whip out the mini blow torch.
The Sidecar is by far my favourite cocktail to order at the Moonroom, but the decision is always a tough one; frankly, it’s really hard to go wrong. As resident bartender Jillian Dagenais puts it: “I could sit here and tell you that one thing is better than the other but the reality is, it’s never a popularity contest when it comes to cocktails; everyone is the cool kid here. I think mood and weather play a big role in what people are drinking. For example, on a balmy summer evening it could be the refreshing Mint Cocktail (a Mojito meets a Mint Julep) or a crisp French ’75. In the cooler months it is a tried and true Old-Fashioned or a warming Manhattan.”
The first written recipe for a Sidecar finds its origins somewhere in the 1920s, just after World War I. Traditionally made with cognac, orange liqueur, and lemon juice, it is the perfect blend of strong and sweet.
The Moonroom version features the addition of orange flower water, along with a cloud-like layer of egg white and a mulled house cherry (I recommend letting the cherry steep in your drink until the last sip for an amazingly spicy, boozy burst of flavour). Although it may seem strange, egg white is often incorporated in cocktail recipes to provide creaminess and to create that pretty layer of white foam on top of the drink — and if that still weirds you out, think of it like the egg-based meringue topping a lemon pie. Mmm.
And to keep your cocktails the perfect temperature, the Moonroom takes special care with an often overlooked ingredient: the ice. The Moonroom was the first bar in the city to install a super-cool Kold Draft machine, a high-octane clear-filtered ice machine that produces perfect 1.5 inch clear ice cubes. Other drinks feature beautiful hand-cut and tripled-filtered monster cubes— a speciality of the Moonroom’s resident ice expert Tom— and some cubes come out so crystal clear that they turn invisible when submerged in a drink. Good ice means more than just a cold cocktail; it also ensures that the spirits remain undiluted and pure, and lends each drink a really beautiful, hand-crafted aesthetic. As their matchbook proudly proclaims: “Come for the ice, stay for the cocktails.”
A final must-try item at the Moonroom is called the Pintxos, a bite-sized crostini appetizer paired with a sample-size of beer. Although not technically a cocktail, this little appetizer is really so good that it seems a crime not to mention it. To me, the best thing about the Pintxos is the fact that the topping on the crostini is always super fresh, and always a surprise— it all depends on whatever local ingredients are currently in season and the whims of its creator. I’ve had everything from steak and blue cheese, to goat cheese and roasted tomatoes topped with fresh basil I watched the server pluck from the Moonroom’s very own organic garden in the back.
It is exactly this kind of unique and personal touch that makes an a visit the Moonroom so memorable, and keeps patrons coming back for the guarantee of a good cocktail and a good time.