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Hospitality and Tourism

Calgary’s Cocktail Scene: A Deep Dive

Last Updated on January 28, 2024

Introduction

Dive into Calgary’s vibrant cocktail scene, where mixology meets innovation and local flavors take center stage.

Uncover the secrets of Calgary’s top-notch bars and their signature concoctions.

Join us on a journey through the city’s thriving nightlife, exploring the craft and creativity behind each carefully crafted cocktail.

Discover the mixologists shaping Calgary’s drink culture and the trends that define this dynamic landscape.

Whether you’re a cocktail enthusiast or a casual sipper, this blog post promises to unveil the essence of Calgary’s spirited social scene.

Get ready to immerse yourself in the tantalizing world of Calgary’s cocktails – where every glass tells a unique story.

As we venture into the heart of this spirited city, prepare to be captivated by the artistry, flavors, and experiences that define Calgary’s cocktail renaissance.

Join us on this intoxicating exploration, where the journey is as delightful as the destination.

Calgary’s cocktail scene awaits – are you ready for a deep dive into the shaken, stirred, and stirred-up concoctions that make this city’s nightlife truly exceptional?

Brief Overview of Calgary’s Cocktail Scene

The Growing Popularity of Craft Cocktails in Calgary

  1. Calgary’s cocktail scene has experienced a surge in popularity in recent years.

  2. Craft cocktails, made with high-quality ingredients and innovative techniques, have become a trend.

  3. The city’s mixologists are constantly pushing boundaries and creating unique flavor combinations.

  4. Calgary’s residents have developed a taste for sophisticated and well-crafted cocktails.

  5. The growing interest in craft cocktails has also led to an increase in cocktail bars and lounges in the city.

  6. Visitors and locals alike seek out these establishments to indulge in Calgary’s vibrant cocktail culture.

The Emergence of Local Distilleries and Their Impact

  1. Alongside the rise of craft cocktails, Calgary has witnessed the emergence of local distilleries.

  2. These distilleries produce a wide range of spirits, including gin, vodka, rum, and whiskey.

  3. The use of locally sourced ingredients adds a unique and distinctive flavor to these spirits.

  4. Calgary’s distilleries have become an integral part of the city’s cocktail scene.

  5. Mixologists often incorporate these local spirits into their innovative and creative cocktail recipes.

  6. The partnership between local distilleries and cocktail bars has created a sense of community and collaboration.

  7. The spotlight on these local distilleries has also helped put Calgary on the map as a destination for spirits enthusiasts.

Accolades and Recognition for Calgary’s Cocktail Scene

  1. Calgary’s cocktail scene has received accolades and recognition on a national and international level.

  2. The city has been recognized for its dedication to the craft of mixology.

  3. Calgary’s bartenders have won numerous awards and competitions, showcasing their talent and skill.

  4. The city has also been featured in various publications and travel guides for its cocktail offerings.

  5. Calgary’s cocktail scene attracts visitors from all over the world who seek out its renowned cocktail bars.

  6. The city’s reputation for quality cocktails and exceptional bartenders is well-deserved.

In fact, Calgary’s cocktail scene has undergone a transformation, gaining popularity and recognition for its craft cocktails, local distilleries, and award-winning mixologists.

The growing interest in craft cocktails has led to the emergence of numerous cocktail bars and lounges in the city.

Calgary’s local distilleries have played a vital role in shaping the cocktail scene, producing spirits that add a unique flavor to the city’s cocktails.

The accolades and recognition received by Calgary’s cocktail scene further solidify its status as a top destination for cocktail enthusiasts.

Whether you are a visitor or a resident, exploring Calgary’s cocktail offerings is a must-do experience.

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The Best Cocktail Bars in Calgary

A curated list of the top cocktail bars in the city

Proof

  • Proof is a sophisticated cocktail bar located in downtown Calgary. It offers a cozy and intimate atmosphere, perfect for an evening of drinks with friends or a romantic date night. Their specialty is classic cocktails with a modern twist.

  • Notable signature cocktails at Proof include the “Proof Old Fashioned” made with bourbon, orange zest, and Angostura bitters, and the “Hibiscus Mule” made with vodka, hibiscus syrup, lime juice, and ginger beer.

  • The bartenders at Proof are highly skilled and known for their attention to detail and creative mixology techniques.

Cannibale

  • Cannibale is a unique cocktail bar that combines the concept of a barbershop with a speakeasy. The barbershop in the front serves as a front for the hidden cocktail bar in the back. This hidden gem is known for its vintage vibes and exceptional cocktails.

  • One notable signature cocktail at Cannibale is the “Barbershop Sour” made with bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, and egg white. It is a refreshing and tangy drink that perfectly complements the bar’s atmosphere and overall aesthetic.

  • The bartenders at Cannibale pride themselves on their extensive knowledge of classic cocktails and their ability to craft bespoke creations based on customers’ preferences.

Milk Tiger Lounge

  • Milk Tiger Lounge is a popular cocktail bar that exudes a vibrant and energetic atmosphere. Located in the Beltline district, it offers an extensive cocktail menu with options to suit every taste. The bar has a retro ambiance reminiscent of old Hollywood glamour.

  • One notable signature cocktail at Milk Tiger Lounge is the “Smokin’ Aces” made with rye whiskey, Laphroaig 10-year-old Scotch, maple syrup, lemon juice, and Angostura bitters. It is a smoky and complex cocktail that is sure to impress whiskey enthusiasts.

  • The bartenders at Milk Tiger Lounge are known for their flair bartending skills and their ability to entertain guests while expertly crafting their chosen libations.

Shelter

  • Shelter is a hidden gem nestled in the heart of bustling 17th Avenue. This cozy cocktail bar offers a relaxed and laid-back atmosphere, perfect for winding down after a long day. The bar specializes in creative and unique cocktails with a focus on locally sourced ingredients.

  • One notable signature cocktail at Shelter is the “Garden Margarita” made with tequila, lime juice, agave syrup, and muddled cucumber and basil. It is a refreshing and herbaceous twist on the classic margarita that showcases the bar’s commitment to using fresh and seasonal ingredients.

  • The bartenders at Shelter take pride in their extensive knowledge of mixology techniques and their passion for showcasing the flavors of Calgary through their cocktails.

In short, Calgary boasts a vibrant and diverse cocktail scene, with numerous bars offering unique and exceptional libations.

Whether you’re in the mood for a classic cocktail with a modern twist or a bespoke creation tailored to your preferences, the city has something to offer for every discerning palate.

So, next time you find yourself in Calgary, be sure to visit one of these top cocktail bars and indulge in a truly memorable drinking experience.

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Cocktail Culture and Trends in Calgary

Preferences and Drinking Habits of Calgarians

  1. Calgarians have a diverse palate, enjoying a wide range of cocktails tailored to their tastes.

  2. Whiskey-based drinks, such as the classic Old Fashioned, are particularly popular among the city’s residents.

  3. Calgary’s cocktail scene embraces creativity and experimentation, with mixologists constantly pushing boundaries to create unique flavors.

  4. Craft cocktails that showcase local ingredients and flavors are highly sought after by Calgarians.

  5. The city’s residents appreciate the art of mixology and are willing to discover new flavors and techniques.

  6. Calgarians often prefer cocktails that are refreshing and well-balanced rather than overly sweet or heavy.

  7. There is a growing interest in low-alcohol or non-alcoholic cocktails as more people seek healthier drink options.

  8. The popularity of cocktails is not limited to just evenings; brunch and lunch cocktails are also gaining traction in Calgary.

  9. Calgarians enjoy cocktails as a social experience and often gather at bars and lounges to unwind and connect with friends.

  10. Seasonality plays a significant role in the drinking habits of Calgarians, with refreshing cocktails favored in summer and cozy, warming drinks in winter.

Current Trends and Innovations in the Cocktail Scene

  1. Cocktail pairings are becoming more prevalent, with bars offering curated drink lists specifically designed to complement meals.

  2. Bartenders are increasingly incorporating unique and unconventional ingredients into their cocktails, adding unexpected flavors and textures.

  3. Barrel-aged cocktails, where drinks are aged in barrels to enhance their flavor profiles, are gaining popularity among cocktail enthusiasts.

  4. Cocktail tasting menus and cocktail-focused events are on the rise in Calgary, offering patrons an immersive drink experience.

  5. Interactive cocktail experiences, such as personalized mixology classes and DIY cocktail kits, are becoming more popular.

  6. Cross-cultural fusion is being embraced in Calgary’s cocktail scene, with mixologists blending ingredients and techniques from different regions.

  7. Bartenders are giving extra attention to artistic presentation and garnishes, transforming cocktails into visually stunning works of art.
  8. Organizers are hosting cocktail competitions and challenges, offering bartenders a platform to demonstrate their skills and creativity.

  9. Many bars and cocktail lounges are adopting sustainable practices, including the use of biodegradable straws and waste reduction.

  10. Collaborations between local breweries, distilleries, and bars are fostering a sense of community and promoting unique craft cocktails.

Calgary’s Commitment to Sustainable and Locally Sourced Ingredients

  1. Calgary’s cocktail scene has a strong emphasis on utilizing sustainable and locally sourced ingredients.

  2. Many bars and restaurants in the city prioritize partnerships with local farmers, artisans, and distilleries.

  3. Calgarians appreciate the quality and freshness that comes with using local ingredients in their cocktails.

  4. Seasonal cocktails are a common feature, allowing bartenders to showcase the best flavors available at different times of the year.

  5. By supporting local producers, the city’s cocktail culture contributes to the sustainability of the regional economy.

  6. The commitment to locally sourced ingredients extends beyond garnishes and spirits to include homemade syrups, bitters, and infusions made in-house.

  7. Bars and venues often highlight the origins of their ingredients, allowing Calgarians to connect with the local producers behind their favorite cocktails.

  8. Calgary’s cocktail scene takes pride in promoting a farm-to-glass philosophy, emphasizing the importance of conscious and responsible consumption.

  9. The city’s commitment to sustainability aligns with its overall ethos of embracing local businesses and supporting the community.

  10. Calgary’s cocktail culture showcases a harmonious blend of creativity, innovation, and sustainability, making it a thriving scene for cocktail enthusiasts.

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Calgary's Cocktail Scene: A Deep Dive

Local Distilleries and Alberta Spirits

Introduce the concept of local distilleries in Calgary

Calgary’s cocktail scene is not just about the bars and mixologists, but also the local distilleries that provide the base spirits for many of these drinks.

Profile some of the prominent distilleries in the area and their specialties

  1. Raw Distillery: Located in Canmore, Raw Distillery specializes in small-batch, handcrafted spirits. They are known for their vodka and gin, which are made from locally sourced ingredients.

  2. Wildlife Distillery: Wildlife Distillery, based in Canmore, takes inspiration from the natural surroundings and incorporates native botanicals into their spirits. Their vodka and gin have a distinct Alberta flavor.

  3. Highwood Distillers: Operating for over 40 years, Highwood Distillers is one of the largest distilleries in Western Canada. They produce a wide range of spirits, including vodka, whisky, and liqueurs.

  4. Black Diamond Distillery: Located in Calgary, Black Diamond Distillery is known for its unique moonshine offerings. They use traditional distillation methods to produce high-quality spirits.

The use of Alberta spirits in cocktails and their unique flavors

Alberta spirits have gained popularity in Calgary’s cocktail scene due to their distinct flavors that reflect the local terroir.

Local distillers often use locally sourced ingredients and botanicals, giving their spirits a unique taste and character.

Alberta’s cold climate also plays a role in shaping the flavors of these spirits, resulting in some truly exceptional products.

Cocktail enthusiasts can experience the essence of Alberta by trying cocktails that feature these local spirits.

For example, a classic gin and tonic made with a local Alberta gin will have a different flavor profile compared to one made with a generic gin.

Similarly, a vodka martini made with Alberta vodka will have its own distinct character, elevating the cocktail experience.

With the increasing popularity of local distilleries, bartenders and mixologists in Calgary are incorporating Alberta spirits into their menus.

They are showcasing the unique flavors of these spirits and creating innovative cocktails that highlight the local distilleries’ specialties.

This vibrant relationship between local distilleries and the cocktail scene has created a rich tapestry of flavors and experiences in Calgary.

Visiting these distilleries for a tour and tasting is not only a delightful experience but also a way to support the local craft spirits industry.

Whether you’re a cocktail aficionado or simply curious about the local flavors, exploring Calgary’s local distilleries and their Alberta spirits is a must.

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Notable Events and Festivals

Annual Cocktail Events and Festivals

  1. Calgary International Cocktail Festival: This highly anticipated festival showcases the city’s vibrant cocktail scene.

  2. Alberta Beer and Cocktail Festival: A celebration of both craft beers and expertly crafted cocktails in Calgary.

  3. Cocktailpalooza: A week-long event featuring a wide range of cocktail offerings from local bars and mixologists.

  4. Calgary Spirits Show: A must-attend event where attendees can sample a variety of spirits and innovative cocktails.

Renowned Mixologists and Guest Appearances

  1. Christina Mah, Head Mixologist at Raw Bar: Known for her innovative cocktail creations and attention to detail.

  2. Justin Taylor, Founder of Proof: A highly regarded mixologist with a passion for crafting unique flavor combinations.

  3. Micah Dew, Winner of Calgary’s Best Mixologist: Dew’s expertise has earned him recognition in the cocktail community.

How to Attend or Participate in These Events

  1. Check the event websites: Stay updated on upcoming events by regularly visiting the official websites of the festivals.

  2. Purchase event tickets: Once the dates are announced, ensure to secure your tickets early to avoid missing out.

  3. Follow social media pages: Stay connected with the events and festivals by following their social media accounts.

  4. Participate in cocktail workshops: Many festivals offer workshops where attendees can learn cocktail-making techniques from experts.

  5. Volunteer opportunities: Some events allow individuals to volunteer and be part of the behind-the-scenes action.

Attending these events and festivals is a great way to immerse yourself in Calgary’s cocktail scene.

Whether you are a cocktail enthusiast or a professional mixologist, these gatherings provide an opportunity to explore new flavors, learn from industry experts, and connect with like-minded individuals.

Passionate about cocktails and eager to broaden your knowledge? Highly recommend attending workshops and masterclasses during these events.

These sessions often delve into the art of mixology, showcasing techniques and trends that you can incorporate into your own creations.

To make the most of your experience, plan ahead by checking the event schedules and deciding which events you want to attend.

Some festivals offer all-inclusive packages, granting access to multiple events throughout the duration of the festival.

Engaging with the Calgary cocktail community is also encouraged. Interacting with renowned mixologists and fellow cocktail enthusiasts can lead to valuable connections and opportunities to exchange knowledge.

Share your experiences on social media using event hashtags and join online communities dedicated to Calgary’s cocktail scene.

By attending these gatherings and engaging with the community, one can truly appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship behind Calgary’s cocktail culture.

Additional Resources for Cocktail Enthusiasts

Recommended Books, Websites, and Blogs

  • “The Craft of the Cocktail” by Dale DeGroff

  • Liquid Intelligence: The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail” by Dave Arnold

  • Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails” by David Kaplan and Alex Day

  • “Meehan’s Bartender Manual” by Jim Meehan

If you’re looking for more cocktail inspiration and education, these books will take you on a journey through the world of mixology.

In addition to these books, there are several websites and blogs where you can find unique cocktail recipes, tips, and techniques:

  • Liquor.com

  • Punch

  • Difford’s Guide

  • Serious Eats: Drinks

Cocktail-making Classes and Workshops in Calgary

If you want to improve your cocktail-making skills or learn the art of mixology, consider attending one of these classes or workshops in Calgary:

  • Cocktail Creation Workshop at Raw Bar – Learn how to create unique and delicious cocktails using fresh ingredients.

  • Calgary Cocktails 101 at Vine Styles – Discover the basics of cocktail-making and gain knowledge about different spirits and techniques.


  • Mixology Workshops at Willow Park Wines & Spirits – Join their interactive mixology classes and explore the world of craft cocktails.

  • Cocktail Masterclass at Shelter – Enjoy a hands-on experience and learn the secrets of expert bartenders.

Social Media Accounts and Groups for Cocktail Inspiration

Follow these social media accounts and join groups to stay updated and find inspiration for your next cocktail creation:

  • @canadiancocktailclub on Instagram

  • Craft Cocktail Community on Facebook

  • @MixologyMagazine on Twitter

  • r/cocktails on Reddit

These accounts and groups share cocktail recipes, techniques, and insider tips that will keep your mixology skills sharp and your creativity flowing.

Whether you prefer diving into books, attending workshops, or finding inspiration on social media, these additional resources will undoubtedly enhance your journey through Calgary’s cocktail scene.

Explore Further: Salary Insights for Canadian Bartenders

Conclusion

In this blog post, we explored Calgary’s cocktail scene and its vibrant and diverse offerings.

From classic cocktails to innovative creations, Calgary’s cocktail scene has something for everyone.

We encourage readers to visit Calgary and experience the city’s thriving cocktail culture firsthand.

Whether you’re a cocktail enthusiast or someone looking for a fun night out, Calgary has it all.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to discover the hidden gems and iconic bars in Calgary.

So raise a glass and explore the dynamic cocktail scene that Calgary has to offer.

Cheers to Calgary’s cocktail scene – it’s time to indulge and enjoy the city’s extraordinary libations.

Plan your next visit to Calgary and sip on the masterful cocktails crafted by talented mixologists.

With its welcoming atmosphere and exceptional cocktail scene, Calgary is a must-visit destination for any cocktail lover.

So why wait? Start your cocktail adventure in Calgary today and taste the creativity in every sip.

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