Though it’s not a difficult thing to find a good drink in Vancouver, not all cocktail bars are created equal. So we asked local drinks expert and Scout columnist Talia Kleinplatz to help us put together the ultimate list of the best imbibing spots in the city for your ranking consideration. No matter the order in which they are sorted by readers in the poll below, any one of the following will serve you right. From our glass to yours…cheers!
The casual, cool, perennially stylish Belgian-Moroccan hybrid is a legend in Vancouver’s restaurant scene partly because several of the city’s top bartenders have honed their skills here (see The Chambar Effect). The bar program has maintained high standards since its launch in 2005, and is currently in the capable hands of Phil Grandbois. Drink This: Blue Fig.
568 Beatty St. | Crosstown | 604-879-7119 | www.chambar.com
True story: the best vegetarian restaurant in Vancouver (and possibly all of Canada) is also a player in the local cocktail game. The list is short and sweet (all of five signature drinks) but each one is well thought out and balanced. A few are even as pretty as they are delicious. Drink This: Surfer Rosa.
3995 Main St. | Mount Pleasant | 604-566-9001 | www.theacornrestaurant.ca
Grapes & Soda
From the folks that brought you Farmer’s Apprentice and Royal Dinette, Grapes & Soda is an industry favourite tucked away next door to the former. Bar Manager Satoshi Yonemori (formerly of The Diamond and Wildebeest) has developed a seasonal cocktail menu that marries the playfulness of unique ingredients with classic cocktail technique. The results are sips that never disappoint. Drink This: Old Fashioned.
1541 West 6th Ave | South Granville | 604-336-2456 | www.grapesandsoda.ca
Long a legend in Vancouver’s cocktail scene, this South Granville icon has always innovated at the wood and well, consistently churning out well constructed original drinks without losing focus on tried and true classics. Deep, diverse list. Attentive service. Drink This: West 75.
2881 Granville St. | South Granville | 604-687-6880 | www.westrestaurant.com
Come for the sweetbreads, stay for the cocktails! L’Abattoir has long been a favourite for local cocktail lovers and travelling imbibers. Head bartender Katie Ingram has maintained long-standing L’Abattoir favourites (such as the Avocado Gimlet) while also offering bold originals (such as the Lost In Translation). Drink This: A classic daiquiri.
217 Carrall St. | Gastown | 604-568-1701 | www.labattoir.ca
Walk up the stairs and through the curtains of this Chinatown gem and be transported to the 1930s. The jazz-inspired. Japanese-Italian looker was named Canada’s best new restaurant in 2017 with a bar program to match. Well-executed kitschy classics perfectly match the sexy setting. Drink This: Singapore Sling.
263 East Pender | Chinatown | 778-379-8078 | www.kissatanto.com
Chef Michael Robbins wanted the interior of AnnaLena to exude the feeling of his grandmother’s basement – a place of warmth and whimsy. The cocktails, put forth by bar manager Kevin Brownlee (formerly of West Restaurant), strike a similar pose. The playful menu showcases local ingredients and maintains house favourites while rotating seasonal drinks throughout the year. Drink This: Clockwork Blood Orange.
1809 West 1st Ave. | Kitsilano | 778-379-4052 | www.annalena.ca
This Chinese brasserie opened its doors in 2010, which is to say it’s one of those rare unicorns that has maintained its popularity over time. The bar program incorporates ingredients to complement the Taiwanese and Shanghai-inspired share plates, things like plum wine, peppercorns, and lapsang tea. Highly original with nods to the classics. Drink This: Chino Margarita
163 Keefer St. | Chinatown | 604-688-0876 | www.bao-bei.ca
One of the greats when it comes to consistency and breadth of capability, this reliable spot on the western edge of Gastown nails the classics while also offering a deep list of imaginative, carefully constructed originals. Bonus: even in peak times there’s almost always has a spare seat at the bar. Take it if you know what’s good for you. Drink This: Hey Mickey.
Wildebeest | 120 West Hastings St. | Gastown | 604-687-6880 | www.wildebeest.ca
Hawksworth may be known for its upscale dining, but consider taking a seat at the bar for a superior cocktail experience. Broken down by spirit, the drinks menu offers a selection of original cocktails, many inspired by the classics. Excellent service. Drink This: Hotel Georgia.
801 West Georgia St. | Downtown | 604-673-7000 | www.hawksworthrestaurant.com
With its recent move to the Cambie Village, Vij’s decided to develop a new bar program with the help with award-winning bartender Jay Jones (formerly of Market and Blackbird). It’s been a great success. The new rooftop patio is especially welcome for summer imbibing. Bonus: it wouldn’t be a Jones menu without a Star Wars inspired beverage. Drink This: The Last Jedi.
3106 Cambie St. | Mt Pleasant | 604-736-6664 | www.vijsrestaurant.ca
Climb the creaky stairs to this Gastown favourite and you’ll be greeted by one of the most esteemed cocktail bars in the city. The building’s storied past adds to the allure (it was originally a brothel) and the view overlooking Maple Tree Square can’t be beat. Drink This: The Buck Buck Mule.
6 Powell St. | Gastown | 604-568-8272 | www.di6mond.com
The home of local bartending legends Ron Oliver and Simon Kaulback. It’s a long, unpretentious room dominated by old brick, looming taxidermy and aromas of good American cooking. Drinks program is honest, simple and very well executed. Drink This: Mamie Taylor.
251 East Georgia St. | Chinatown | 604-620-8818 | www.mamietaylors.ca
While you can get a proper Gin & Tonic at most cocktail bars in the city, few offer a dedicated menu with a distinct selection of various gins and craft tonics to showcase the diversity of the drink. Juniper proves the G&T is a genre and not just a cocktail. If you’re a fan of the refreshing highball, this spot is for you! Drink This: Tea Party.
185 Keefer St. | Chinatown | 604-681-1695 | www.junipervancouver.com
The Lobby Lounge
No Vancouver cocktail list is complete without mention of this institution in at The Fairmont Pacific Rim. It’s high on the opulent scale and the well made cocktails match the luxury of their surroundings. It’s also one of the best spots in the city for celebrity watching, if that’s your thing. Drink This: The Sun Also Rises.
1038 Canada Pl. | Downtown | 604-695-5300 | www.lobbyloungerawbar.com
UVA Wine & Cocktail Bar
Conveniently located kitty corner to The Orpheum, UVA is a favourite of the pre- and post-theatre crowd, and for good reason: With award-winning bartender Sabrine Dhaliwal at the helm, the drinks are quick and consistently excellent. Drink This: The Gin Gin Donkey.
900 Seymour St. | Downtown | 604-632-9560 | www.uvavancouver.com
The Keefer Bar
Chinatown’s Keefer Bar is a destination for cocktail lovers, near and far. The Chinese apothecary-inspired space has achieved the status of a Vancouver institution and continues to put out some of the best, most thoughtfully constructed drinks in town. Entertaining staff. One-of-a-kind patio. Drink This: Buffalo Soldier.
135 Keefer St. | Chinatown | 604-688-1961 | www.thekeeferbar.com
Tucked beneath the Hotel Georgia is a bar that embodies its name in every way. Inspired by the hidden bars of the bygone era, Prohibition is a sexy, dimly lit space clad in leather, velvet and dark wood. Drink This: The Absinthe Experience.
801 W. Georgia St. | Downtown | 604-673-7089 | Website
Upstairs at Campagnolo
Upstairs at Camp is known for its celebrated Dirty Burger but the bar program deserves just as much recognition. The lounge does away with the usual fuss of craft cocktail bars in favour of a laid back but exceptionally executed program. Drink This: The Martinez.
1020 Main St. | Strathcona | 604-484-6018 | www.campagnolorestaurant.ca
Recently opened in the old Oru space at The Fairmont Pacific Rim, Botanist promises a true fine dining experience married to an equally elevated bar program. The cocktail laboratory – a real playground for bartenders – is run by Creative Beverage Director Grant Sceney and Head Bartender David Wolowidnyk, two award-winning heavyweights who bring together unique local ingredients and refined techniques. Drink This: The Deep Cove.
1038 Canada Pl. | Downtown | 604-695-5500 | www.botanistrestaurant.com
Hy’s Steakhouse & Cocktail Bar
An unapologetically old school remnant of the Mad Men era complete with thick carpets, wood-panelled walls, and gilt-framed baronial portraits. A local institution since the 50’s, it was recently renovated to include an especially cozy cocktail bar upstairs. Drink This: Classic Gin Martini.
637 Hornby St. | Downtown | 604-683-7671 | www.hyssteakhouse.com
Come for the classics at happy hour and stay for the original creations inspired by PiDGiN’s Asian-French concept. Incorporating unique ingredients such as soju, yuzu, sake and kalamansi, the program strikes a balance between light and refreshing cocktails and dark and boozy sippers. Drink This: Cocktail Flight on Tap
350 Carrall St. | Gastown | 604-620-9400 | www.pidginvancouver.com
Quite possibly the most under-sung of all the great bars on this list. The come-as-you-are live music venue has a serviceable drinks list (with great Happy Hour specials) but it’s the atmosphere that really elevates it into the extraordinary. Think couches and overstuffed chairs set in nooks and corners giving the place a warm, cozy, living room feel. Cash only operation with an ATM on site. Drink This: Moscow Mule.
518 E. Broadway | East Van | 604-620-9400 | Facebook
Pourhouse draws inspiration from the heritage building that houses it. From the antique furniture to the bartop built from 120 year old Douglas Fir planks, attention to detail is the name of the game. Classic cocktails are their specialty but well considered house originals also pepper the menu. Drink This: Old Bay Ridge.
162 Water St. | Downtown | 604-568-7022 | www.pourhousevancouver.com
The Bayside Lounge
While not at all known as a craft cocktail destination, The Bayside nevertheless occupies one of our most prime pieces of real estate. It’s also unlikely that anyone you know will think to look for you at this dive-like hideaway. With its circular sunken bar and overall patina of yesteryear, it feels like the best parts of old Vegas. Drink this: Bayside Breeze.
1755 Davie St. | West End | 604-682-1831 | www.baysidelounge.ca
Agave spirits have been on the rise in the cocktail world and can do great things in capable hands. This busy spot on The Drive offers Vancouver’s most extensive selection of tequila and mezcal-based drinks, going far beyond the Margarita. They pair beautifully with the Mexican fare, especially those dishes that see some heat (and doubly so when the sun is shining in). Drink This: Ancho Old Fashioned.
1622 Commercial Dr. | The Drive | 604-559-8226 | www.lamezcaleria.ca
Opened in 2015 with Top Chef Canada alumni Curtis Luk at the helm, Mission quickly came out of the gate as a Kits favourite. The cocktail program brings just as much creativity and attention to detail as the kitchen, using infusions, herbs and tinctures to develop unique and nuanced flavours. Drink This: The Velveteen Rabbit.
2042 West 4th Ave. | Kitsilano | 604-739-2042 | www.missionkits.ca
It may jump off the page at first glance or slowly sink in over drink number two. But part of the fun of drinking at Crowbar is realizing that each cocktail is named for a famous movie character. Whether it’s the Walter Sobchak or the Jules Winnfield, matching the character to the movie is part of the drinking experience at this Fraserhood haunt. Drink This: Marge Gunderson.
646 Kingsway | Fraserhood | 604-366-2769 | www.crowbareastvan.com
When Vij’s relocated, Rangoli bumped next door and up to the top of the list for late night cocktail destinations. With a happy hour menu for both food and cocktails running from 10pm until 2am, Rangoli is easily the city’s best kept secret. Drink This: The Destroyer.
1480 West 11th Ave. | South Granville | 604-736-5711 | www.vijsrangoli.ca
Part neighbourhood pub, part cocktail bar, the Cascade Room has evolved into a much-beloved Main Street staple offering laid back vibes and quality libations. Drink This: The Seelbach Cocktail.
2616 Main St. | Mt. Pleasant | 604-709-8650 | www.thecascade.ca
One of the most best things about sitting at the bar here is getting in on the experiments that bar manager Kaitlyn Stewart has on the go. The 2017 Diageo Canada Bartender of Year takes her craft seriously, but not so much herself. Whether it’s clarified milk punch, house-smoked candy floss or dehydrated fruit, Stewart always has something fun to share that will surprise and delight even the most seasoned, jaded imbiber. Drink This: The Woodstock.
905 Dunsmuir St. | Downtown | 604-974-8077 | www.royaldinette.ca
Shameful Tiki Room
No other bar in the city is completely dedicated to art of tiki cocktails and this place does it exceptionally well. It’s easy to miss with its blacked-out windows but worth a visit if you can find it. A word to the wise, however: try to steer clear of the volcano! Drink This: Zombie.
4362 Main St. | Mount Pleasant | 604-999-5684 | www.shamefultikiroom.com