Drink – Winner

Prickly Pear Equineox

from Eau Claire Distillery

Made in Turner Valley

$50

eauclairedistillery.ca  @eauclairecraft

Who knew prickly pears were an indigenous species in southern Alberta? The field-to-glass folks at Eau Claire Distillery in Turner Valley, that’s who.

These spiky treasures known for their large paddles and bright fruits are ubiquitous in Mexican food, drinks, medicines and beauty products — there’s even one in the middle of the Mexican flag. But around here, practically nothing was made from prickly pears until master distiller Caitlin Quinn and her team, inspired by spring’s arrival on the Prairies, decided to experiment with distilling the flesh of the cacti into a spirit. The result: a naturally sweet, barley-based alternative to gin or vodka that is intensely fruity, floral and fresh, with hints of watermelon and bubblegum. “I love how unique the EquineOx is,” says Julie Van Rosendaal, drink category judge and cookbook author. “I love its complex floral aroma, and it works in so many cocktails, from a mojito to a French 75. It’s delicious in prosecco, or just straight-up — on the rocks, or with a splash of soda.”

EquineOx was a seasonal release when it debuted in the spring of 2015 under the name Spring Equinox. But it proved so popular that the tipple is now available year-round. The name-change pays homage to the horse and oxen used in Alberta farmers’ traditional farming methods — methods that Eau Claire Distillery still uses in its horse-farming practices today.

With its unique and delicious flavour and its high level of commitment to local ingredients, the Eau Claire Distillery EquineOx is one spirit that deserves a spot in every Alberta bar cart.

Photograph: Jared Sych   |   Writer: Jennifer Hamilton

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