As we continue to search out all the hot drinks and patios of Calgary this summer, we couldn’t help but stop at the Ox and Angela – that fabulous restaurant with the white façade and the large red bull that looks down on pedestrians passing on 17th Avenue. The Ox is conveniently located between some of the most popular nightspots on the strip but offers a completely different ambiance than its neighbours. The Ox’s food and drinks represent Spanish culture and all the places that culture has touched in the last few centuries, and the dining experience is very much about the sharing table.
The Ox’s summer cocktail list summer is inspired by the tapas it serves, as well as obscure liquors, like vermouth and the prohibition classics with a twist. The drinks here are described as seasonably fresh and what’s most interesting about the current list is how much Sherry is used in the cocktails. The Ox has embraced Sherry culture in an effort to bring Spain’s favourite fortified drink to Calgary’s palettes.
Sherry is somewhat of an uncommon drink in this city but proves to be a versatile beverage and an interesting one to use in cocktails. Sherry is made from the Palomino grape and is produced in several styles that range from light and dry to dangerously sweet. Sherries like Manzanilla and Fino are comparable to white table wines while Amontillado and Oloroso are darker and richer due to the natural process of oxidization that occurs while the sherry is barrel-aged. Then you have the succulent dessert Sherry like Pedro Ximenez, more commonly referred to as ‘PX’, which is a whole other level of sweetness and flavour. According to the Ox staff, the favourite cocktail this summer is the ‘Fernandito’, which re-invents the classic Mojito using Fino Sherry as a replacement for rum with muddled lime, mint and soda.
Among other interesting ingredients on the cocktail list, the Ox is probably one of the only bars in the beltline to feature Cachacha, the key ingredient to Brazil’s national cocktail known as a ‘Caipirinha’. While the Caipirinha isn’t featured on the drink list, the Rio Fogo is a unique cocktail to try in its place. Cachacha is mixed with lime, passion fruit and fresh chili to add a bit of heat. If you are a fan of mint juleps, then look no further. The Tres Juleps is a remake of the Kentucky bourbon classic that has been spiced up with new flavour combinations including honey and herb, pear ginger and the mint pomegranate.
When asked about the cocktail craze in Calgary right now, the Ox staff said they’ve noticed younger clientele turning to the classic cocktails and they also commented on the friendly competition they’re seeing between other establishments. If you’re cruising the strip, make sure you stop for at least one cocktail at the Ox. Besides fabulous cocktails and a patio meant for people watching, the restaurant also has amazing food and an equally unique beer list including the Estrella Damm Daura, which is great option for those of you with gluten allergies. Keep your eyes peeled for the Porron event, which should be happening in the next few months. The event focuses around the use of a decanter that is native to the Basque region of Spain. The decanter is part wine bottle and part watering can. The spout of the decanter is long enough that each person who drinks from the decanter can simply tilt their head back to take a sip of the contents. The idea with the Spanish decanter is that everyone at the table shares. The porron is meant to test the pouring skills of willing participants who will be each challenged to see who can pour the contents of the decanter the furthest from their mouths. The event is open to everyone.
“…and drank out of a dreadful thing called a porron. A porron is a sort of glass bottle with a pointed spout from which a thin jet of wine spurts out whenever you tip it up; you can thus drink from a distance, without touching it with your lips, and it can be passed from hand to hand. I went on strike and demanded a drinking-cup as soon as I saw a porron in use. To my eye the things were altogether too like bed-bottles, especially when they were filled with white wine.”
– George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia
Top photo courtesy Ox and Angela