Taste of Nova Scotia Cocktail Challenge

Cocktail hour in Nova Scotia

Many highlights of my road trip on the Nova Scotia Joy Ride involve indulging in fine food and spirits. No surprise — it was a culinary tour. But a pleasant surprise was having a chance to create my own cocktail concoction in a challenge with my three road trip rally mates — Kelsy Chauvin, Michele Sponagle, and Karen Schaler.

"Kelsy Chauvin, Michele Sponagle, "Crusher", Karen Schaler and Catherine Sweeney at 2 Doors Down in Halifax, Nova Scotia"

Kelsy Chauvin, Michele Sponagle, “Crusher”, Karen Schaler and me – Photo credit: Michael Stack

On our fifth day of exploring Lunenburg, Wolfville, the Annapolis Valley, and other parts of Nova Scotia, we returned to the starting point of our journey, the capital city of Halifax. Our guides from Taste of Nova Scotia, Emily Haynes and Christine White, arranged our challenge venue at the popular urban bar and restaurant, 2 Doors Down. Social Chemist, Steve Cross (respectfully known as “Crusher” among the clientele) graciously let our group of novices (to making cocktails, not drinking them) take over his bar while we went about creating our drinks.

Nova Scotia Cocktail Challenge

"Nova Scotia cocktail ingredients including Ironworks brandy and Van Dyk's Blueberry Juice"

A few of the Nova Scotia ingredients used in our cocktails – Photo credit: Michael Stack

The only requirement was that Nova Scotia products be prominent in the recipes. With the abundance of fine wine and spirits we’d discovered on the tour, that was not a problem at all.

"Chef Andrew Farrell and Lobster bruschetta at 2 Doors Down in Halifax, Nova Scotia"

Chef Andrew Farrell and his Lobster Bruschetta – Photo credit: Michael Stack

As we set to our mixology project, we were treated to tasty appetizers, such as the lobster bruschetta above, by Andrew Farrell, chef of 2 Doors Down who is fondly known in the kitchen as “Cookie”.

It was a lot of fun to work side by side and share a few laughs with my new friends as we went about our “work”. In very distinct ways, I think that each of the cocktails reflected each mixologist’s personality, perspectives of Nova Scotia spirits, and personal tastes. I hope you’ll enjoy my recipe below. Of course, you might have to make substitutions for certain Nova Scotia products if they’re not available where you live.

Nova Scotia Surprise

"Cocktail created by Catherine Sweeney, the Nova Scotia Surpise, at 2 Doors Down in Halifax, Nova Scotia"

My cocktail, Nova Scotia Surprise – Photo credit: Michael Stack

My recipe for Nova Scotia Surprise was inspired by the many surprises I found in Nova Scotia, including the fine wine and spirits produced here (in this case, Blomidon and Ironworks). I was also surprised by the wonderful blueberries grown in the province and the number of creative dishes and products that incorporate them. Van Dyk’s Wild Blueberry Juice is purely delicious and a first of its kind for me. My inspiration to choose fresh mint as a garnish came after tasting a Boozy Pop with mint at Tangled Garden. The fresh blueberry that bobs around in the flute before settling at the bottom is a bit of a surprise for the cocktail drinker, too.


1 oz Ironworks Apple Brandy
.5 oz Van Dyk’s 100% Pure Wild Blueberry Juice
4 – 5 oz Dry or Off-Dry Sparkling Wine (Blomidon Crémant used in competition)
1 Fresh Blueberry
Fresh Mint Sprig


Mix brandy and blueberry juice and pour into a champagne flute (could be mixed with ice and strained, if you like)
Add sparkling wine
Drop in fresh blueberry
Top with sprig of mint
Suggest sipping through a straw as the mint slides into the flute

"Taste of Nova Scotia hosts, Emily Haynes and Christine White at 2 Doors Down in Halifax, Nova Scotia"

Our Taste of Nova Scotia hosts, Emily and Christine – Photo credit: Michael Stack

Our judges, Christine, Emily, Crusher, and Michael Stack (the photographer who provided all of these photos), were kind in recognizing each of our cocktails with special commendations. I was honored that they felt that my Nova Scotia Surprise was “beautifully presented” and “tasted fantastic”. The overall winning cocktail was created by Michele Sponagle. Watch for her recipe and all of those in the competition on the Taste of Nova Scotia website over the next several weeks.


What’s your favorite cocktail?


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37 thoughts on “Taste of Nova Scotia Cocktail Challenge

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      Nova Scotia is definitely a place for blueberry lovers. The juice (100% pure, no added sugar) really added just the right touch. I originally thought of different ingredients, but glad I settled on the blueberry.

  1. Leigh

    Your cocktail looks amazing Cathy. When I was a kid I have very fond memories of going out blueberry picking – though they all went into pies and not drinks. Sounds like a fun trip.
    I spent a summer living in Blomidon House though it wasn’t quite as fancy back in those days.

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      You’ve really gotten around in your life! How cool that you spent time in Blomidon House. I’ve never picked blueberries, but I used to pick blackberries behind our house when I was a kid. Very fond memories.

  2. Mike

    You two have the most awesome fun times, Catherine! That Lobster Bruschetta looks absolutely amazing and just made my tummy growl with wanting! My fav cocktail is a Manhattan 🙂

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      I’m often tempted to order a Manhattan when I’m out for dinner or drinks, but never do it. Next time, I think I’ll finally order one! They always look so good.

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      The fine quality of wine and spirits of Nova Scotia were a pleasant surprise for me. I’ll have more coming up about them.

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      I’m typically a wine drinker, so no expert on cocktails, but …… I have to admit that the Nova Scotia Surprise was really delicious.

  3. Nancie

    Your cocktail looks and sounds fantastic. Blueberries are so big in Nova Scotia. When I was a kid I would often go picking with my Dad. Did you get to the restaurant “Between the Bushes”? It’s in Canning, just outside of Wolfville. They do a blueberry u-pick, and their restaurant is fabulous.

    1. Catherine Sweeney Post author

      I hate to say that I didn’t get to Between the Bushes, but Karen from our group did . She absolutely loved the blueberry pie.

  4. Doreen Pendgracs

    What a fun trip that must have been, Catherine. I know Michele thru TMAC and I have Karen Schaler’s book, Travel Therapy. It actually inspired me to write Chocolatour!

    Yes, the Nova Scotia region is a culinary delight. Lobster bruschetta! Count me in. And yes, the NS wines are a true delight. Thx for sharing …

  5. Michelle

    This looks like such a fabulous trip to Nova Scotia. It looks like you had such a great time. That first photo shows it and is wonderful! I love how beautiful the “Nova Scotia Surprise” cocktail is!

  6. Debbra Dunning Brouillette

    I was just in Nova Scotia, as part of a cruise itinerary, and only wish I would have had time to sample wine and cocktails while there! We did make it to Lunenburg and Peggy’s Cove, while the ship was in port at Halifax, just long enough to make us wish we had much more time there! I agree with the others who commented on the lobster bruschetta. Looks amazing! Would also love to taste your cocktail!

  7. Suzanne Fluhr

    Hmm. My go to adult beverages are gin and tonic and mojitos (no surprise there for those who are my FB friends 😉 I’d certainly give your concoction a try. It is also news to me that Nova Scotia is a blueberry mecca. We tend to get our blueberries from New Jersey although as a child, I used to pick wild blueberries in the Blue Mountains of Pennsylvania. Not too many of them made it home.

  8. Marcia

    How fun, Cathy! I never would have thought of putting wine and brandy together – very creative. Love the fresh mint as well. Wish I could taste your creation. Have you made it again?
    Love lobster so I’d have devoured that bruschetta…yum.my!

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  10. Jennifer

    Oh my, that cocktail recipe sounds delicious! And since blueberries are full of antioxidants and very healthy for you, this makes this a healthy cocktail, right?

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