Westboro cocktail boutique the latest offering from former Dragons’ Den darling

split tree cocktail
Steve Morrier, founder of Split Tree Cocktail Co., said the company's mocktail classes have been selling out.

Steve Morrier calls himself the chief alchemist. 

Nine years ago, he formulated a modest business crafting distinctive cocktail syrups in his kitchen with $2,000 of his own money. A few months later, he was fielding three investment offers on the CBC program Dragons’ Den. These days, his Split Tree Cocktail Company cordials are distributed online and through retailers across the country. Not bad for a laid-off tech worker and former microbrewery sales rep turned entrepreneur. 

“It was always the goal around the eight- to nine-year mark to try and get a store up and running and I just felt like, jump now or give up. You can’t keep waiting. It’s never going to be a perfect time,” Morrier says of his company’s new 2,000 square foot retail location at 98 Richmond Rd. in Westboro.

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It’s much more than a storefront for Split Tree’s signature cordials, although those do have prominent shelf space. Morrier aims to give Ottawa a one-stop cocktail shop and home entertaining boutique on the order of Toronto’s Cocktail Emporium, Montreal’s Alambika or Vancouver’s Crafty Bartender. 

“I’ve just always thought Ottawa was missing it,” Morrier says. “They had a lot of people who sort of dabbled in barware, dabbled in cocktails, but nobody just went all in.”

Morrier has certainly gone “all in.” Split Tree’s retail floor is dedicated to all things hospitality and cocktail-related. That includes charcuterie boards and cheese plates, in addition to the barware, hardware and cocktail ingredients one might expect. 

Meanwhile, he is developing an event space and kitchen at the rear of the store for workshops and tastings. He also plans to develop custom mixes, exclusive to the store, as well as a juice program to supply local bars and hotels with freshly squeezed citrus.

“We’re just trying to be as nimble as possible and not really say no to any sort of revenue stream that fits within our theme,” Morrier says of his big-tent approach. He says the next step will be securing a liquor license to the kind of workshops and tastings Split Tree is able to offer. 

Morrier admits that having a storefront is more of a personal ambition, rather than something his original cordial business demanded. 

“I really had a pretty good system set up where I had a distributor. I just took orders and shipped stuff off and had people co-packing for me. I was just running the business,” he says.

At the same time, he felt an urge to shake things up and get more involved and engaged in a business he felt was running on cruise control. 

“It was definitely a want, but I also really believed in the idea and I thought Ottawa was ready for this and I think they are,” Morrier says.

Morrier wouldn’t describe himself as a success, but if he has a secret, it has been sticking to his vision and not overextending himself. 

“I never did anything where I said, ‘If this goes south, I’m going to be bankrupt, I’m going to lose everything.’ I always did it very organically and patiently,” he says. 

He says that’s exactly what he plans to continue doing in Westboro and that the response has already been positive. 

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