Attn locavores: Quebec-made hooch

Do you love both drinking and supporting local food and beverage producers in equal amounts? Well then we’ve got the perfect thing for you — a list of Quebec-made booze!

Ungava gin is made in Quebec’s northernmost region. Photo by Giancarlo Rivera

Normally, you’d associate vodka with Russia or Scandinavia, gin with England and brandy with France. Most would agree these regions all produce fine specimens of their respective spirits — but you needn’t look beyond Quebec’s borders for quality inebriants.

Here are your best bets for spirits chez nous:

Pur vodka
Vodka is all about smooth sipping, served ice cold to mute whatever faint alcoholic flavour that may still linger after its sterilization-like distillation process, and the 100 per cent Quebec-made Pur is just that. Distilled locally from an alcohol base made from Quebec-grown corn and blended with glacial water from the north of the province, this real-deal vodka has been racking up gold and silver medals at international competitions, and has now joined the ranks of fellow comrades Stolichnaya, Grey Goose and Belvedere. Try it in your favourite martini — shaken, not stirred, of course. ($42.25 for 750mL)

Ungava gin
Ungava is named after Quebec’s northernmost peninsula and entirely made in Quebec by cider heavyweight Domaine Pinnacle. After distillation, it’s infused with rare, indigenous botanicals found during a short 10-week growing season in the province’s northern tundra; Nordic juniper, wild rose hips, cloudberry, crowberry, Arctic blend and Labrador tea give this gin its uniquely tart and citrusy aromas, as well as an attractive yellow hue. Try it on the rocks with soda water to bring out those refreshing aromas. ($33.50 for 750mL)

Calijo apple brandy
This is Quebec’s answer to Calvados, France’s famous apple brandy. Michel Jodoin, a major player in the Quebec liquor industry, distills a blend of three different Quebec apple ciders and ages the resulting brandy in new oak barrels for three years. This brandy is oozing with aromas of baked apples, burnt caramel and vanilla. Try it as a digestif at room temperature in a snifter glass. ($41.25 for 700mL)

Coureur des Bois maple Canadian whisky
Blended and aged in Quebec by Domaine Pinnacle, Coureur Des Bois is a delicate mix of aged Canadian whisky, brought in from outside the province, and pure premium grade-A Quebec maple syrup, the sweetness of which softens the whisky’s sharp wood and spice flavours. Try it alone, chilled, or combine two ounces of it with an ounce of sweet vermouth and a dash of bitters to make a Maple Manhattan. Don’t forget the cherry on top. ($35.00 for 750mL)

Neige Noire Quebec amber
Here’s a unique beverage that’s not quite a cider or liqueur, nor is it quite a spirit. Quebec amber is a blend of apple brandy and apple juice that has been aged for a minimum of one year in oak barrels. The alcohol level —20 per cent ABV — is at about half of what most spirits usually attain. La Face cachée de la pomme distills its brandy in Quebec and produces its amber by further maturing it to a minimum of four years in oak barrels, resulting in a beverage heavily layered with fig, caramelized apple, cherry and almond flavours. All the apples used are grown in Quebec orchards just north of the U.S. border. And it’s pretty rare, with only 2,178 bottles made.

Slightly chill it and serve alongside your Quebec cheese plate for an all-local meal closer. Available at le Marché des Saveurs du Québec or directly from the producer in Hemmingford. ($55 for 500mL)


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