Ottawa grandma finds her happy hour on Instagram

At 82 years old, Donna Calcutt-Andrew is new to Instagram and loving it. With the help of her daughter, she's the star of Cocktails with Grandma, and it's helping to take the edge off the pandemic.

Donna Calcutt-Andrew, 82, is the star of Cocktails with Grandma

Donna Calcutt-Andrew runs her Instagram account Cocktails with Grandma with her daughter's help. (Submitted by Roshene Lawson)

An Ottawa grandmother has found a way to chase away her pandemic blues, one sip at a time.

At 82, Donna Calcutt-Andrew is the star of her new Instagram page Cocktails with Grandma, which highlights her locally sourced cocktail hour drinks.

But the path to finding her pandemic hobby wasn't easy. Due to medical reasons, Calcutt-Andrew moved into her daughter's home in August.

"She had to make that decision in the hospital," said Roshene Lawson, her daughter. "She literally got discharged from the hospital to a whole new life." 

I got up in the morning, I asked how many followers I had.- Donna Calcutt-Andrew

Lawson said the first few weeks were difficult.

"There were a lot of tears and a lot of grieving what she lost," Lawson said, explaining that her mother lost a lot of mobility and wasn't able to say goodbye to her home. "I was a little worried about the isolation plus the grief, and thought we needed to do something." 

Lawson said she was scrolling through social media when she saw a photo of some local cocktails. 

Calcutt-Andrew poses with her cocktail. (Submitted by Roshene Lawson)

"I thought, oh, this looks good," said Lawson. "Mom was a young lady in the 60s and 70s when cocktail hour was a thing."

Cocktails with Grandma was born. 

Calcutt-Andrew said she wasn't on board with the idea when her daughter first brought it up.

"She ends up convincing me of everything," she said. Calcutt-Andrew eventually agreed because she thought it would be helpful for others during what she calls "a dreadful period" in history.

"I went along with it to the point where when I got up in the morning, I asked how many followers I had," Calcultt-Andrew said. 

"It was her morning ritual: 'How many followers, and what are we drinking tonight?'" Lawson added.

Hanging out with The Nellies

Several nights a week, Calcutt-Andrew would curl up with her fancy drink of choice and share the moment with friends and family. Some nights it would be with Aunt Agnes. On Fridays, it's her friends from the National Press Club, known collectively as The Nellies. The moment would then be shared on Instagram.

"It was a way to wind down and a way to see old friends and colleagues," Calcultt-Andrew said, remembering the cocktail hours when she was a working as a director of communications for the federal government. "It was a highlight of the week." 

Cocktails with Grandma's Calcutt-Andrew having a drink with her friends from the National Press Club. (Submitted by Roshene Lawson)

Lawson said the Instagram project has brought joy to her mother.

"It's really given her a window out into the world," Lawson said, adding that when she suggested cancelling it one night when her mom wasn't feeling well, she had "a little bit of a revolution" on her hands.

"She's like, 'Absolutely not. It's the highlight of my day. I'm getting up,'" Lawson said.

"It's brought you some meaning, eh, mom?" Lawson asked her mother.

"It brought some meaning, yes," replied Calcutt-Andrew.

A portrait of a younger Calcutt-Andrew sits beside a few cocktails made by Bar From Afar in Ottawa. (Submitted by Roshene Lawson)

With files from Julia Sisler and Robyn Bresnahan

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