The Sipsmith Blog

Around the World in 80 Gins: Canadian Gin

in Articles September 9, 2013
Canadian gin

In our next stop on the world tour, we pull up to the snowy North American shores for a look at Canadian gin.

Canada is an exciting outpost with a burgeoning market that has roots in centuries of tradition – and has recently begun innovating with ‘artisanal’ gin.


Much like the United States, Canada’s love affair with gin was born when European settlers first brought the spirit overseas with them. Canadian gin was especially prized by explorers, trappers, and gold prospectors who drank it to keep warm during the wilderness’ brutal winters.

Rugged explorer types weren’t the only ones to appreciate the spirit, however. By the turn of the century Canada nurtured a thriving drinks culture. Though it enacted a brief period of national prohibition from 1918-1920, Canada also took on new importance as a spirits manufacturer during United States Prohibition and became an essential source of alcohol, and the Detroit River, which bridges the two countries, was a notorious avenue for bootleggers.

In the mid-20th century, cocktail making took on a new level of artistry. One important figure in the world of classic Canadian cocktails was Ted Saucier, a Montreal-born socialite who worked as a publicist for the Waldorf-Astoria. He went on to publish Bottoms Up! In 1951, an in-depth compendium of essential cocktails that included a number of Canadian recipes.

What do they drink?

While the big brands still dominate today’s Canadian gin market (with Bombay Sapphire, Beefeater, and Tanqueray coming in as the top three most consumed gins), Canada has also fostered its own growing artisanal gin movement.

One unusual, and distinctly Canadian, take on the spirit is Ungava Gin. Not only is the gin lemon yellow-hued, but all of its botanicals are native to the country. From cloudberries to wild rosehips (the source of its colour) to Labrador tea, the botanicals are as Canadian as they come.

Another artisanal brand is Victoria Gin, made off the coast of Vancouver in Victoria. Handmade small batches are distilled in a copper pot still, and the full-bodied gin boasts floral, spice, and bold juniper flavours.

How do they drink it?

In addition to the Hotel Georgia cocktail below, the country has a number of distinctly Canadian classic cocktails that are still widely enjoyed today. Look out for the Vancouver, which blends gin, Punt e Mes, Benedictine, and orange bitters, and other similar drams. Inspired by the global cocktail renaissance, craft mixology has also become quite the trend in Canada – expect artful gin-based cocktails that combine classic cocktail elements with new ingredients and executions.

Cocktail Recipe

First dreamed up in 1945, the Hotel Georgia Cocktail was invented in Vancouver’s storied hotel of the same name. Last year, it won enRoute Magazine‘s prize for Cocktail of the Year.

Hotel Georgia Cocktail

2 parts gin

1 part lemon juice

½ part orgeat

7 drops orange flower water

1 egg white

Dry shake all the ingredients in order to properly emulsify the egg white. Add ice and then wet shake. Double strain into a chilled coupe glass, and garnish with grated nutmeg.

Feature images © BMJ and withGod, 2013. Used under licence from

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