It’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it.
Sussex Drive’s Social Restaurant + Lounge is releasing its fall/winter cocktail menu this week and offered Apartment613 a sneak peek.
So I decided to take one for the team and allowed bar manager and cocktail connoisseur Veronique Savoie to ply me with her poisons last Wednesday night.
While V, as she prefers to be called, admits Social is not one of Ottawa’s top cocktail bars – like Ace Mercado or Union 613 – it has long offered its customers a rotating slate of palate-pleasing concoctions invented in-house and designed to appeal, albeit to “elevate,” the masses just “a bit.”
To that end, Social’s fall/winter menu will feature about 14 different cocktails, half of which are brand new. I had a chance to try five of them. Here’s what I thought:
This is the bar’s feature October cocktail – a martini – designed to mark both Breast Cancer Awareness Month and #support613, Apartment613’s annual celebration of all things Ottawa.
A dollar from each feature martini sold will go to a local breast cancer charity. The drink is made with apple chai syrup from Ottawa’s Lowertown Canning Company. It also contains Calvados apple brandy, pomegranate liquor, triple sec, apple cider and fresh-squeezed lemon juice.
It borrows its name from Bona Dea, the Roman goddess of virginity, healing and fertility and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s “kiss for a cure” slogan.
“We wanted to do something very pro woman,” V says, adding Social will also donate a dollar from each sale of this month’s feature red and white wines.
Also the bar’s sommelier, V had woman power in mind when she chose Argentinian winemaker Susana Balbo’s Crios Malbec and Torrontes for the promotion. Balbo is well known for having been the first woman to climb to the top of the male dominated industry in Argentina.
Though hard to detect the chai, Bona’s Kiss was one of my favorites – fruity but not too sweet thanks to a pinch of salt. It’s also garnished with a yummy green apple round.
Cocktail #2: The Brooklyn
It’s made with a “potent” Knob Creek Bourbon Whiskey, Taylor Fladgate First Estate Port, maple syrup, chocolate bitters and garnished with a bourbon macerated sour cherry made in house.
While a “staff favourite” according to V, who tests all her concoctions on her bar mates before offering them to the public, I found this one a little too sweet and a little too strong.
“I needed something that was big and bold enough to withstand the maple syrup and the port,” she says. “Otherwise, I think that some of the other bourbons could get lost. With this one you still get a lot of that oakiness, richness and smokiness.”
She recommends ordering it neat and believes this one will appeal to men as well as the 20 to 40-year-old women who typically order cocktails.
Cocktail #3: The Ellie
This delightfully different cocktail is made with sea buckthorn juice. Yup, I’ve never heard of it before either but it seems to be one of these new superfoods packed with antioxidants and vitamins. Tiny orange berries native to Europe and Asia, sea buckthorn is more bitter than sweet.
For this particular cocktail, V has let the juice soak with rosemary. It’s served in a champagne flute with St-Germain elderflower liqueur and sparkling wine which makes it bubble like a glass of chocolate milk when paired with a straw and a cheeky five-year-old. It’s garnished with a sprig of rosemary.
“It’s very crisp and clean. It’s almost winter-like,” V says. “It just reminds me of the freshness of what winter could be.”
This cocktail is certainly lovely to look at and offers floral and herbal notes. It’s also not too sweet. When mixed with the sparkling wine, the sea buckthorn does leave some sediment which may be a turn-off for some.
Cocktail #4: Sweet Angelo
Inspired by the peanut butter and jelly shooter, this dessert-like martini contains espresso, Chambord, Frangelico and Pinnacle Whipped Vodka. It’s garnished with a dollop of whip cream and crumbled chocolate covered espresso beans.
It’s as good as it sounds. It’s a perfect pick-me-up on a Friday evening that will surely be a Christmas party favourite if it’s still on the menu come December. It’s creamy and just sweet enough and the chocolate covered coffee beans show this bar is not afraid to splurge on a little something extra special.
“If somebody wants a liquid dessert they can go for this,” V says.
Cocktail #5: The Foreign Affair
Another Christmassy cocktail sure to warm your belly as the days grow colder is this gin, port and lemon juice-based beverage seasoned with a cinnamon and cardamom simple syrup and a pinch of salt. It’s served in a high ball glass and garnished with an orange wedge and a handful of floating cranberries.
“With the cool weather I try to do things that have more of a spice or more of a weight and warming,” V says. “This season I definitely wanted to do something with port.”
Looking at this drink is deceiving. You expect to taste cranberry but besides the pretty floating balls, there isn’t even a hint of the tart Thanksgiving favourite. This strong, spicy drink is definitely more of a sipper than a thirst quencher despite its appearance.
Note: All of Social’s cocktails cost $11.50 and contain between 1.5 to 2 ounces of alcohol, depending on the quality of spirits used. The feature Torrontes is selling for $9 a glass or $40 a bottle, while the feature Malbec is selling for $10 a glass or $45 a bottle.
Social Restaurant + Lounge is located at 537 Sussex Drive. They are open Mon – Fri from 11:30 am and Sat – Sun from 3pm. To view their menu or make a reservation, click here.