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Stolen Goods cocktail bar. Photo: Artyom Zalutskiy.

Stolen Goods cocktail bar

By Artyom Zalutskiy on July 8, 2022

A great cocktail bar makes you feel cool. It’s meant to transport you into another world with its dim lighting, chic décor, hip music, fancy drinks in dainty stemmed glasses made with obscure liquors that are impossible to pronounce, and a delicious food menu of small bites that often includes words like “foraged,” “sustainable,” and “deconstructed.”

Making all of these aspects work together can be a delicate balance. A cocktail bar can quickly become tacky and pretentious if any of the notes aren’t struck perfectly. The standards are high when a bar attempts to be an upscale cocktail bar. A customer could go from watching the bartender work with a sense of wonder to rolling their eyes instantly. A great cocktail bar not only nails the quality of food and drink while establishing a fun atmosphere, but it also puts its own unique spin on it, and Sparks Street’s newest spot, Stolen Goods, appears to be on its way to being a great cocktail bar.

The bar at Stolen Goods. Photo: Artyom Zalutskiy.

Nestled between office buildings, Stolen Goods is easy to miss; I was only able to identify it by the small neon sign in the window. Once I entered, I was immediately taken in by the bar’s atmosphere. The bar is very small (there are only about four tables and eight spots at the bar), yet it felt busy. It was loud, cozy, and buzzing with excitement.

The menu at Stolen Goods. Photo: Artyom Zalutskiy.

The highlight of Stolen Goods is the cocktails. The menu includes nearly a dozen drinks, featuring entirely new creations and spins on classic cocktails. The drinks are very much on the expensive side, but while sitting at the bar and watching the bartenders make them, it becomes clear why they’re so pricey: they are wildly creative and incredibly complicated. The Negroni includes rhubarb, clarified strawberry, and Campari gummies. The rum and coke includes a “cola caviar.” The Ramos gin fizz, inspired by the flavours of chamomile tea, features a chamomile and rose foam, Amaro Nonino, and honey.

“Three Brothers” shawarma-inspired cocktail at Stolen Goods. Photo: Artyom Zalutskiy.

The biggest standout from the menu is the gimlet inspired by Ottawa’s favourite food, shawarma. That’s right, there’s a shawarma-flavoured cocktail, and it’s incredible. The menu does not list the ingredients for this drink, no doubt increasing its allure even more. It masterfully blends the classic sweet and sour flavours of a gimlet with the subtle taste and smell of garlic sauce. It sounds like a terrible pairing, yet somehow it works perfectly.

The food menu focuses on small plates, including oysters, scallops, beef tartare, burrata with asparagus, smoked roe, radicchio with turnips, and a cheesecake for dessert. Much like the drinks, there is a focus on creating a distinctive spin on classics with a wide variety of complex flavour combinations. I tried the cheesecake; it might be one of the most unique desserts I’ve ever had. It looks unlike any cheesecake I’ve seen; the filling is swirled onto the plate with walnuts and rhubarb surrounding it. The filling was outstanding, and the rhubarb and walnuts were a remarkable pairing. However, the cake lacked a crust, and it was sorely missed.

Cheesecake dessert at Stolen Goods. Photo: Artyom Zalutskiy.

Sparks Street has long been one of the most disappointing parts of Ottawa. When I moved to the city and heard that there was a massive walking street right beside Parliament, it was one of the first places I visited. I expected a beautiful street full of shops and restaurants, life and excitement. Instead, I was greeted by a street with only a couple of businesses (albeit some very good ones) that was largely deserted and occupied primarily by office buildings and “for rent” signs in many of the windows. Stolen Goods is a sign that Sparks Street is finally starting to live up to its potential. The bar is already a must-visit destination; its atmosphere, drinks, and food are phenomenal, and I can’t wait to go back and try more of the menu.

Stolen Goods is located at 106 Sparks Street. They’re open 6pm–2am Tuesday through Saturday. Visit their website or Instagram for more info.