Ryan Shimozawa recommends Isla's Eyes at Upstairs at Hy’s Vancouver, 637 Hornby Street
"I've often thought of January not as dry, but as damp and cold—perfect for cozy nights in front of a fire, with a good book or another episode of Making a Murderer—and, of course, enhanced with a tasty cocktail.
"Isla's Eyes is a play on a black Manhattan. Using 100 per cent rye gives a nice full-bodied start, while the Amaro gives it a nice sweetness followed by a tart bitterness from the vermouth. It's all finished with the hint of smoke and fresh citrus from a Scotch-rinsed glass and twist of lemon."
Nelson Navasero recommends the Smoked Boulevardier at Pidgin, 350 Carrall Street
"The Smoked Boulevardier is an off-menu selection from our repertoire, made with applewood-smoked, pork-fat washed bourbon. But... we do have the smoked bourbon on hand, so we can definitely mix one up.
"Boozy drinks make sense during the winter months. They're warming and put you into hibernation mode pretty quick. The Boulvardier is the cousin of the Negroni. It calls for 1.5 ounces of bourbon so it packs a wallop. I like it because although it has a high ABV (alcohol by volume), it is still a well-balanced cocktail.
"There is a bit of owner's pride when it comes to this twist; I invented it and it is still one of our most requested cocktails even though it is no longer on our menu. The fat-washing not only adds another element of flavour, it gives a silky rich texture to the drink too."
Robyn Gray recommends the Inception Negroni at Prohibition Lounge, 801 West Georgia (in the Rosewood Hotel Georgia)
"A cocktail within a cocktail, the Inception Negroni gives drinkers the chance to try two classic Negronis in a brand new way.
"The first ‘red’ Negroni is captured within an ice sphere in liquid form, and then a second white Negroni, made with Suze, an aromatic bittersweet French liqueur and Martini Bianco, is poured on top. Watch the drink dance within your drink. Sip the white Negroni and then let the ice sphere crack and the red Negroni mingle with the white to create an altogether more boozy experience."
Jay Jones recommends the Sari, Not Sari at Vij’s, 3106 Cambie Street
"I'm sorry, not sorry that you've been duped into having an all-booze cocktail that looks, smells and tastes like delicious juice: the Sari, Not Sari. This recipe demonstrates that quality cocktails are all about balance—exhibited by a light, refreshing and understatedly complex drink that's composed of nothing but spirits and beer. The bright colour is inspired by the beautiful, elegant traditional saris of Indian fashion culture.
"This is a great drink to start the evening with—it's gentle and plays with your senses, while opening the palate with the botanicals of gin, bittersweet spices of Gancia Americano and the fresh citrus of Grapefruit Radler. The vodka is salted to create flavour enhancement throughout the ingredients, as well as developing a little texture and umami. Brockmans is a mellow gin, defined by berries in its redistillation. All-booze cocktails are the best cocktails!"
Kevin Brownlee recommends the Seize the Day at AnnaLena, 1809 West 1st Avenue
"My drink would be the Seize the Day. It's a great spirit-forward cocktail, using bourbon, Amaro Nonino, Oloroso sherry and Bittered Sling orange and juniper bitters. The orange and slightly bitter notes shine with the almond notes of the sherry and the sweetness of the bourbon.
"This drink is a nod of the hat to my friend Alex Day, who is a huge sherry fan. It has some notes of an Old Fashioned and that’s always such a popular drink. I wanted to introduce some subtle new flavours using ingredients that guests may not be as familiar with, but still be able to gravitate towards."
Aimee Corno recommends the Birds and the Bees at The Acorn, 3995 Main Street
"With the lights dimmed and natural foliage around you, our little room becomes a warm womb in the cold winter months. The Birds and the Bees is made of beeswax-infused Scotch, sweet vermouth, and cherry Heering. The Scotch gives us some sweet toasted notes and we lightly smoke the chilled glass.
"Breathing in that smokiness helps remind us of a warm escape from the cold with thoughts of busy bees awakening in the spring. Sweet vermouth and Cherry Heering with house orange and gentian bitters being stirred down to velvety perfection allows the complexity of our spirits to shine without shocking our palates with the proof. We pour the cocktail tableside to give you that next step of attention and care we so enjoy giving in this small warm room."
Justin Taylor recommends the Nine o'clock Gun at Boulevard, 845 Burrard Street (in the Sutton Place hotel)
"My Nine o'clock Gun cocktail is a variation on a Boulevardier. It really has the best of winter captured right in the glass. I first start out by smoking Forty Creek Whisky with Alder wood. This gives the cocktail that soothing campfire aroma. I add Campari, Amaro, Angostura and maple syrup. The cocktail is then finished with snapped cinnamon sticks and flamed orange.
"I love telling stories through my cocktails. The Nine o'clock Gun is that local landmark that everyone hears, but not many know why it goes off. It was originally fired to signal the end of fishing hours, but for the last century it goes off at 9:00 p.m. to allow seaman and the general public to synchronize their time pieces. For me, the cocktail is a perfect end-of-day sipper. When all is finished and it's time for a small reward, the Nine O'clock Gun is the drink I fire up... and my guests love the story, too."
Carolyn Yu recommends the Verte Chaud at Nicli’s Next Door, 68 East Cordova Street
"I’m not big on hot beverages. It's not that I have anything against a steaming cup of booze, it’s just that I’ve never really gotten off on hot drinks... but this! This is the all-star of all hot drinks.
"The Verte Chaud is just green Chartreuse, semi-sweet hot chocolate and whipped cream. It reminds me of winter holidays in the middle of nowhere, after a day out in the snow, curled up by the fire in a cabin.
"I’m a huge fan of Chartreuse, so you might want to calm down the portions in your Verte Chaud, but you need to know that Chartreuse and chocolate work wonders together. Chartreuse has been around since 1605 when the Carthusian monks first received a manuscript which gave them the formula for an “Elixir of Long Life.” Only two monks know the recipe at at one time so I guess you could say the elusive quality of it allures me. It's a product with over 130 herbs and, in my mind, there is nothing else like it. I love Chartreuse for its complexity—the longer you hold it in your mouth, the more flavours you will discover bursting forth. It was love at first sip!"
Sean McGuigan recommends the Admiral Jack at Supermarine, 1685 Yew Street
"When the weather gets cold, a good stiff drink is my favourite way to warm up. This winter at Supermarine, we’re featuring a whiskey-driven cocktail called the Admiral Jack as part of our entry into the 2016 Brown Forman Spirit Quest cocktail competition.
"A variation on the Black Manhattan, the Admiral Jack features Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel—an older, richer and more intense bottling of Jack Daniel’s Whiskey—and combines it with Amaro Averna, barrel-smoked maple syrup, spiced banana tincture, and aromatic bitters. What I love about this drink is that it really showcases the character of the whiskey; it is bold, spicy, and slightly sweet, with hints of clove, banana, and maple."
Fiona Grieve recommends A Kick in the Head at Grotto, 1725 Davie Street
"The Kick in the Head—aptly named—is a potent little number that tastes like a warm blanket feels. It’s made of 1800 Reposado tequila, bittersweet minty Fernet, and rosemary syrup, shaken with caramelized fresh pineapple chunks, then double strained onto a big chunk of ice. It's lethally strong—you can't taste it—you can only feel it when you stand up."
In life, we know that it’s important to seek balance in all things. For every yin, there is a yang; for every sunrise, there is a sunset. And for those of us who’ve managed maybe a week or so of staying off the booze, there is the warm welcome embrace of the retox.
To help bring back those spirit-based good-time feels, we asked 10 of our favourite bartenders to recommend their favourite boozy cocktails. In no particular order, here they are.
Nikki Bayley is an award-winning travel writer, guide book author and spirits and cocktail journalist whose work appears in National Geographic Traveller, The Globe and Mail and the Difford’s Guide. A cheese fan, hula hooper and all-round word nerd, she writes regularly for BCLiving about food, drink, spas and everything else that makes life worth living.