Winter is coming, so we asked local drinks expert and veteran Scout columnist Talia Kleinplatz to map out a list of her favourite spots to sip in Vancouver for the season. Did she miss something good? Let us know via @scoutmagazine. But for now, from her glass to yours…cheers!
Chambar | After 15 years on the scene, this Belgian-Moroccan restaurant has staying power. Chambar has always demanded excellence not only from its kitchen but also from its bar. The cocktail program has consistently put out quality drinks, always nailing the classics while also raising the bar when it comes to creativity behind the stick. Drink this: Selva Southside.
Acorn | Recently named the best vegan restaurant in the world by Big 7 Travel, Acorn also just happens to know its cocktails. While they have always kept their list concise, each one is well thought out and balanced. Recognizing that we first drink with our eyes, the bar team is always attentive to presentations, making these some of the prettiest cocktails in the city. Drink This: Cool Hand Cuke.
Mamie Taylor’s | The old brick walls and abundance of taxidermy are just two of this Chinatown’s restaurants many charming qualities. Sidle up to the bar to enjoy an honest drink alongside an order of chicken and waffles. The room is long and unpretentious and the drinks program is consistent, simple and delicious. Drink This: Detroit Rock City.
Grapes & Soda | Tucked away next door to the Farmer’s Apprentice on West 6th Ave., this is an industry favourite. Bar Manager and co-owner Satoshi Yonemori (formerly of The Diamond and Wildebeest) has developed a seasonal cocktail menu that marries the playfulness of unique ingredients with classic cocktail techniques. The result is a sip that never disappoints. Drink This: Old Fashioned (it may take a while but it’s well worth the wait).
L’Abattoir | Come for the sweetbreads, stay for the cocktails. L’Abattoir has long been a favourite for local cocktail lovers and travelling imbibers alike. The bar team maintains long-standing L’Abattoir favourites (such as the Avocado Gimlet) while also offering bold originals (such as the King’s Compass). Drink This: Meat Hook.
Wildebeest | You can always depend on Wildebeest for an open bar seat and a solid drink. The bar team knows its classics but always offers imaginative originals. Pro Tip: No matter what you decide to drink, always get an order of the smoked olives. You won’t regret it! Drink This: Silian Rail.
Kissa Tanto | Walk up the stairs and through the curtains of Chinatown’s Kissa Tanto and you’d swear you stepped onto the set of Mad Men. The jazz-inspired Japanese-Italian eatery was named Canada’s best new restaurant in 2017 and received a glowing review from New York Times food critic Pete Wells in 2018. Serving up kitschy classics with superior execution, the cocktails are a perfect match for the mid-century modern setting. Drink This: Dark End of The Street.
AnnaLena | Chef Michael Robbins wanted the interior of AnnaLena to exude the feeling of his grandmother’s basement — a place of warmth and whimsy. So too are the cocktails put forth by the bar team. A playful menu featuring local ingredients maintains house favourites while rotating seasonal drinks throughout the year. Drink This: French 75.
Bao Bei | While the Chinese brasserie opened its doors in 2010, Bao Bei is one of those unicorns that has maintained its popularity over the years. The bar program incorporates ingredients to complement the Taiwanese and Shanghai-inspired share plates including plum wine, shiso, and yuzu. Drink This: Pina Colada (because they make one of the best ones in the city).
Juniper | With a dedicated gin and tonic menu since its opening in 2015, Juniper is the place to satisfy any G&T craving. Their distinct selection of premium gins and craft tonics beautifully showcase the many iterations of the classic highball. If you’re a G&T fan, this is the bar to sidle up to. Drink This: Rogue G&T.
Hawksworth | Hawksworth may be known for its upscale dining, but consider taking a seat at the bar for an exceptional cocktail experience. The lounge is everything you want out of a good hotel bar- perfect mood lighting, skilled bartenders and expertly executed drinks every time. The menu features long-standing favourites, creative riffs and limited-time offerings. Drink This: The Dopamine Cocktail.
Vij’s | After its move to the Cambie Village, Vij’s embraced the development of a comprehensive cocktail program. In addition to well-rounded beer and wine offerings, the cocktail list incorporates flavours and ingredients that perfectly complement the cuisine including cardamom, sumac and garam masala. Note: though out of season at the time of writing, the rooftop patio is especially welcoming for summer imbibing! Drink This: Fire and Ice.
The Diamond | Climb the creaky stairs to this Gastown favourite and you will be greeted by one of the most capable teams in town. 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: Bee Sting.
The Lobby Lounge | The Lobby Lounge at Fairmont Pacific Rim continues to raise the bar when it comes to thoughtful, quality, delicious cocktails. One of the most opulent locales to grab a drink, the elevated cocktail list matches the luxury of its surroundings. Not to mention, it’s one of the best spots in the city for celebrity watching! Drink This: Improved Lemon Drop.
UVA Wine and Cocktail Bar | Conveniently located around the corner from several of Vancouver’s most popular venues, UVA continues to be a pre-concert and post-theatre favourite. While the menu changes with the seasons, its archival list offers cocktails created by some former UVA bartenders- a legacy of the talent that has shaken and stirred there over the years. Drink This: The Gin Gin Donkey.
The Keefer | By any measure, Chinatown’s Keefer Bar is a destination for cocktail lovers, near and far. The Chinese-apothecary inspired space has achieved the status of Vancouver institution and continues to put out some of the best cocktails in town. Drink This: Chinatown Sour.
Prohibition | Tucked away beneath the Hotel Georgia, Prohibition is one of the city’s true speakeasy-inspired bars. A dimly lit space clad with leather, velvet and dark wood, Prohibition harkens back to the hidden bars of the 1920’s and 30s. Drink This: The Daily House Punch. (Extra tip- if you can’t get in right away, head upstairs to 1927 in the lobby of the Hotel Georgia to grab a drink while you wait).
Upstairs at Campagnolo | While it may be known as home to one of the city’s best burgers, Upstairs at Camp quietly boasts an exceptional bar program as well. The unassuming lounge does away with all of the pretenses of a usual craft cocktail bar in favour of a laid back but expertly executed program. Drink This: The Manhattan.
Botanist | Whimsy is the name of the game at Botanist where Creative Beverage Director Grant Sceney overseas a bar program that houses its very own cocktail lab. The bar team marries unique local ingredients with refined technique, creating a truly sophisticated cocktail experience for their guests. Drink This: Smoke on the Water.
Hy’s Steakhouse and 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: Side Car.
PiDGiN | Combining unique ingredients with local flavours, PiDGiN’s bar program embraces the classics while incorporating a sense of creativity and playfulness into their cocktail offerings. Inspired by it’s Asian-French concept, the bar team regularly incorporates ingredients such as shochu, yuzu, sake and matcha into their cocktails and consistently strike a balance of light and refreshing drinks with dark and boozy sippers. Drink This: Cocktail Flight on Tap.
Pourhouse | The recent renovation at Pourhouse served to provide the space with an update without compromising the beauty of the 100 year old room. Pourhouse draws inspiration from it’s heritage. From the furniture to the bartop built from 120 year old Douglas Fir planks, attention to detail is the name of the game. Specializing in the classics with house originals at the ready, Pourhouse is always a favourite for local cocktail lovers. Drink This: Gastown Gimlet
The Bayside | While not known as a craft cocktail destination, The Bayside occupies one of Vancouver’s most prime pieces of real estate. With wrap around picture windows looking out over English Bay and a circular sunken bar, the vibe at The Bayside feels like the best parts of old Vegas. Drink this: Basilito.
La Mezcaleria | Mezcal has quickly become a favourite spirit among cocktail-loving folks which works out well because La Mezcaleria has one of the best selections in the city. If you have an affinity for agave-based spirits (and queso fundido) head to their Gastown or Commercial Drive location to enjoy a smokey sipper. Drink This: Mi Viejo.
Rangoli | 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 10:00pm til’ 2:00am, Rangoli is easily the the area’s best kept secret. Drink This: Salt and Pepper Gibson.
The Lido | 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.
Cascade Room | Part neighbourhood pub, part cocktail bar, Cascade Room has become much beloved Main Street staple which provides a laid back spot for quality imbibing. Drink This: The Seelbach Cocktail.
Royal Dinette | One of the most intriguing parts of sitting at the bar at Royal Dinette is perusing the experiments bar manager Kaitlyn Stewart has on the go. The 2017 Diageo World Class Bartender of Year takes her craft but not herself too seriously. Whether it’s clarified milk punch, house smoked candy floss or dehydrated fruit, Stewart always has something to share that will surprise and delight even the most seasoned imbiber. Drink This: The Wind Mule.
Shameful Tiki | It’s easy to miss with its blacked-out windows but once you spot Shameful Tiki, it’s worth making a stop. The entire bar is dedicated to the expert execution of vintage cocktails. A word to the wise, however- try to steer clear of the volcano… Drink This: Zombie.
Como Taperia | It came as little surprise to locals that Como Taperia was recently named one of Canada’s best new restaurants. The Spanish-inspired eatery has been at the top of its game since its opening at this time last year and the bar program is no exception. Co-owner and award-winning bartender Shaun Layton has ensured that the curated cocktail list shines bright alongside their stellar tapas offerings. Drink This: Chicharito.
Di Beppe | The cocktail list at Di Beppe may be small but rest assured, it is mighty. As with all of the favourite menu items at the much loved Italian eatery, the cocktails are consistent, steadfast and delicious. All four aperitif cocktails on offer are pre-bottled and can also be enjoyed in the caffe alongside an order of some of their delightful snacks. Drink This: Aperol Spritz.
Elisa | When it comes to great cocktails, the devil is in the details and the folks at Elisa have paid attention to every last one. From light and refreshing aperitifs to boozy and stirred sippers, Bar Manager Katie Ingram has ensured that her curated list has something for everyone. Drink This: A Classic Martini.
Tocador | Inspired by the vibrance and energy of Cuba, Tocador co-owners Dale Styner and Guy Stowell committed to the creation of a colourful and lively space from the get-go. The bar program is a reflection of that mission and features a rotating list of imaginative and playful cocktails. Drink this: Guava Spritz.
Juke Fried Chicken | Fried chicken may be what gets you in the door, but don’t underestimate the cocktails at Juke where award-winning bartender Sabrine Dhaliwal has taken over the bar program. Dhaliwal is known for creating exceptionally sessionable drinks and her current cocktail menu is no exception. Drink this: Can I Kick It?