By Melody Fury
Just because your favourite restaurants and bars have packed up the patio furniture for the season doesn’t mean cocktail hour is over. Hand-crafted drinks are a year-round thing in Vancouver, and the cocktail menus are as seasonal as the dinner offerings at local restaurants and bars. So trade in the summer fruit and frilly umbrellas for spiced libations and mugs filled with steamy goodness. Winter means deeper, spicier flavours and more booze-forward cocktails sure to warm up the coldest evening. Here are some of our favourites.
Blue Fig & Golden SidecarChambar
Famed for moules frites and its Chambar Ale, the dark and sexy Chambar also spits out superb hand-crafted drinks that pair perfectly with its many tantalizing appetizers. The Golden Sidecar is a twist on the original, but made with brandy, calvados and Cointreau. The addition of spiced rum is a wonderful winter touch. To dress it up, the barkeeps even rim the glass with gold flakes.
It also offers a cocktail that speaks to those who love both sweet and savory, its signature Blue Fig. Oven-roasted figs are steeped in gin for this martini-style cocktail, served with a side of Danish blue cheese for nibbling.
The Slaugtherhouse and the ClassicsL'Abattoir
Historic Gastown is home to some of the city’s best bartenders, and serious cocktail enthusiasts often place their trust with award-winning bartender Shaun Layton at L’Abattoir, which is French for “the slaughterhouse.” This restaurant is a successful newcomer to the trendy and gritty area that was once a meat-packing district. Its intimate bar is packed nightly with thirsty locals looking for pre-prohibition-era drinks.
L’Abattoir offers classics such as the Martinez, Old Fashioned or Boulevardier. The cocktail menu also features contemporary creations, including the Bagnolet (Hennessy, fino sherry, lemon, fig syrup, bitters) and L’Abattoir’s signature Slaughterhouse, a Cognac-based bevvie laced with orange oils, aromatic bitters and a light chartreuse mist.
, Granville Entertainment District
Lauren Mote has become a force in the local cocktail scene, pushing every envelope by creating original drinks with one part science and two parts innovation. She’s the top bartender at The Refinery, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Granville Street’s Entertainment District. At the bar, you’ll find superb molecular concoctions — using ingredients in news ways like using butternut squash in a vegan cocktail to mimic the same texture as an egg white. These drinks usually showcase home-ade bitters, such as walnut bitters, that add a subtle richness to the timeless Manhattan.
Seasonal ingredients are the stars at The Refinery, and skilled bartenders love to create one-of-a-kind drinks to tempt any palette. Chocolatey sweet vermouth, Szechuan peppercorn, fennel and celery are just some of the ingredients available. Plus, The Refinery hosts “Cocktail Kitchen” every Wednesday night. In this friendly competition, the city’s top bartenders show off their creative cocktails, which are served alongside a special kitchen menu.
Hot Toddys and Snacks West Restaurant
, South Granville
The internationally acclaimed West Restaurant on South Granville serves one of city’s poshest lunch and dinner menus. Its gorgeously lit bar is also perfect for a light snack and a drink. Facing a custom-designed wall stocked with more than 600 wine labels, guests can enjoy the luxurious ambiance while sipping fine wine or a seasonal cocktail designed for cold winter nights.
Try a Dark ‘n’ Stormy made with hand-crafted ginger beer, or a bourbon-driven Boston Sour with a silky egg-white froth. West houses one of the few bars in the city with a Hot Toddy, a warm beverage invented in the 1750s that comes with the mystique of being able to cure everything that ails you. It blends allspice and clove syrup with the star ingredient — rum, brandy or scotch.
Melody Fury is a Vancouver-based freelance writer specializing in food and cocktail writing. She also owns and operates Vancouver Food Tour, which guides locals and tourists alike through the city’s best culinary destinations. Check out her food and travel blog at GourmetFury.com or give her a shout on twitter @GourmetFury.