Like a cross between spanish tapas and a meat smoothie, The Albion Rooms’ take on the bloody caesar dubbed “The Marcus Brutus” is lively with deep, savoury, sophisticated character. After nibbling away on the generous garnish of locally made capicola, chorizo, and salami, I looked around the stylish lounge and spotted a large glass case framing the Maserati of meat slicers and several hanging swine hocks. Did I just die and go to charcuterie heaven? No, I’m somewhere equally improbable: I’m inside the Novotel. It feels more as though I’ve stumbled upon a low-key London gastropub. Though I’ve travelled just across the road from the Rideau Centre, a jet-lagged hotel guest would certainly find this a comforting place to land. Clearly, someone with good taste and vision (and the coin to back it up) put this place together. Its collection of cozy refuelling stations includes something for everyone: a lounge, a patio, a dining room, and a bar. And judging by the concise modern menu based on our collective love of grazing at all hours, as well as a sincere and comprehensive use of local and seasonal ingredients, there’s a committed team of food lovers behind the scenes. Among them is chef Stephen La Salle, who proudly leads the kitchen. The 26-year-old dove at the opportunity after his three-year tenure cooking at Arc Lounge was interrupted by a character-building stint at The Whalesbone Oyster House under Charlotte Langley. If it can overcome its hotel-bar stigma, The Albion is poised to be for the city’s food scene what The Arc has become for fashionistas. 33 Nicholas St., 613-760-4771
- Clamato juice
- Dill-infused vodka
- Pickling juice
- Sriracha sauce
- Ripasso red wine
- Muddled lemon
- Honey-rimmed with bacon, brown sugar, basil, parsley, steak spice, and dill
- Garnished with Seed to Sausage capicola, chorizo, and salami
Q&A | JENNA STORTINI, INVENTOR OF THE MARCUS BRUTUS
Q: What’s the key to a great cocktail?
A: Making handcrafted cocktails is similar to baking — measurements are extremely important. It’s also important to understand flavours — sweet and sour, for instance — and how to balance them. To make a great cocktail, you have to be true to your own creative mind. Don’t be afraid to try ingredients that you think would work together. And if the end product doesn’t come out the way you thought, don’t be afraid to tweak your recipe.
Q: What’s the most common cocktail faux pas?
A: The biggest mistake is not balancing flavours correctly. When one flavour overpowers the others, it takes away from the complexity of the cocktail because all of the other flavours are lost. It’s like cooking a filet mignon to a perfect medium rare and then dousing it with barbecue sauce. What’s the point when all you can taste is sauce?
Q: How did you go about creating the Marcus Brutus?
A: I have always really enjoyed caesars, so I wanted to create something based on all the elements that I love. First I created my own unique rimmer. It has many ingredients, including fresh bacon, brown sugar, basil, parsley, steak spice, and fresh dill. I use honey to adhere it to the glass. As for the drink itself, I’ve always enjoyed caesars with a kick and lots of flavour, so I substituted Sriracha for Tabasco. I also knew from the beginning that pickles would be part of my inspiration. I infused the vodka with fresh dill for 48 hours and used house-made sweet and spicy pickling juice. An element that most people wouldn’t be able to identify is the Ripasso red wine. This wine has a fruity element that goes well with the muddled lemon. We call it Marcus Brutus, named for the man who led the assassination of Julius Caesar. So we like to say: The Marcus Brutus is so good, it killed the traditional caesar.
Q: What are your impressions of cocktail culture in Ottawa right now?
A: I believe there’s a growing appreciation for places that focus on the art of cocktails, such as The Albion Rooms, Union Local 613, and El Camino. These places focus on fresh ingredients, consistency, creativeness, knowledge, and quality over quantity. Over the past year, I’ve noticed an increasing number of people choosing a traditional handcrafted cocktail instead of a rum and Coke.