Patricia Noonan on locavore distiller Geoff Dillon’s new Craft Cocktails book…

Geoff Dillon had a plan when he took over a big warehouse space in Beamsville, Ontario, in the Niagara wine growing region. His goal was to make handcrafted spirits and bitters using the bounty of surrounding Niagara farmlands. And of course, restaurants and bar chefs naturally want to work with the best locally made products whenever possible so it’s a perfect marriage for those in the business of taste.

His boutique small batch distillery, Dillon’s, produces the popular, award winning Unfiltered Gin 22 ($39.95 – LCBO# 358556) along with other spirits, many different bar bitters and now, Negronis to-go in a very cool little retro 4 pack. (This is reminiscent to me, of buying small bottles in Italy at vending machines, only they were Campari sodas in a bottle…) There’s also an oak aged rye aged in three different types of oak barrels, giving it some sweet oak upfront to balance out the spicy rye. It’s a smooth sipper on its own, either neat or with water, my personal preference. And of course,  the smooth factor makes it very cocktail worthy, so there’s a classic recipe below, included from their book.

The first stills Dillon uses were imported from Germany and painstakingly assembled, much like the spirits he creates with the team. A third still was added last year, which came from Montana. The apothecary style bottles lend the brand a nostalgic look, and this no doubt inspires restaurants and bars using Dillon’s spirits, bitters and liqueurs to be similarly creative with cocktail creations. His small batch spirits and bitters took off on the  cocktail scene and can be found in numerous bars and restaurants.

Now, Geoff and Whitney Rorison, the hospitality manager at Dillons, have written their own seasonally based book, Craft Cocktails, published by Penguin books and it’s coffee table worthy, along with being obviously very useful to the novice. It’s cleverly broken up to be a seasonally inspired cocktail book with some food recipes to boot, in order to show off the growing seasons of the Niagara region. Along with tried and true cocktail classics are many cocktails dreamt up by the team and other award winning mixologists.

On the COVID front, Geoff Dillon tells me, “We are continuing to produce sanitizer, likely for the remainder of the year as demand is still high. We have donated more than one million dollars’ worth so far.” Now that is something worth toasting! Cheers!

Whisky Sour

  • 2 ounces rye whisky

  • 1 ounce fresh lemon juice

  • ¾ ounce simple syrup

  • 2 dashes of Dillon’s aromatic bitters

  • 1 egg white


Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker.Shake vigorously for 15 to 20 seconds. Remove the spring portion of the Hawthorne strainer and drop into the shaker with ice and shake vigorously again, as the spring will help to froth the egg white. Strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice or into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with whisky soaked cherry. (The whisky soaked cherry recipe is on page 249 of their book.)

I added this drink as I tired it at one of the first Dillon’s spirit and cocktail tastings I attended several years ago. It’s simple, tasty, and refreshing!

Gin & Grapefruit Fizz


1 1/2 ounce Dillon’s Unfiltered 22 Gin
Grapefruit juice
Sparkling water


Fill a highball glass with ice, add gin, top with grapefruit juice; finish with a splash of sparkling water. Garnish with a cucumber slice.