Bartenders are constantly bestowing new beverages and readjusting their game by boldly revamping the classics
Credit: R.d. Cane

Bartenders are constantly bestowing new beverages and readjusting their game by boldly revamping the classics

Vancouver's cocktail scene is the gift that keeps on giving. And while there’s no shortage of enticing places to imbibe in the city (and beyond), a little guidance can help you plan your partying wisely. We’ve compiled a list of hot new haunts (get upstairs!), killer cocktails (with a festive twist), and crowd-pleasing recipes (hello, SlaughterhouseNog) from top bartenders around town.

Here are our seven picks for where to go and what to drink right now.

Hy’s Encore Vancouver, 637 Hornby Street
Credit: Provoke Studios

Hy’s Encore Vancouver, 637 Hornby Street

Why now?

Some things are worth the wait. Like Hy’s Bar, which officially opened upstairs at the venerable Hornby Street steakhouse last month. Vancouver’s newest cocktail lounge just happens to be in a 1962 space, now revamped with modern touches and the sophistication for which Hy’s Encore Vancouver is known. The second-storey room even sports a picture window overlooking the street—a welcome addition to the upscale space. A framed photo of Hy himself serves as a reminder of the restaurant’s storied history. So does the classic cheese toast for two, a menu mainstay since 1955.

What to drink

Ask bartender Ryan Shimozawa to mix you up with one of his favourite holiday cocktails, the Ash & Soot. It’s a “flip-style cocktail in the same vein as an eggnog,” says Shimozawa, who shares his recipe below. “It requires the use of a whole egg. Make sure you use a fresh organic egg. Also, when dry shaking a whole egg, give it a few extra seconds of hard shakes. This will help create and velvety rich texture.”

 

Ash & Soot cocktail by Ryan Shimozawa

  • 1 oz. Dewar's White Label Scotch
  • 0.5 oz. Averna Amaro
  • 0.5 oz. Punt e Mes
  • 1 oz. orgeat syrup
  • 2 dashes of chocolate bitters
  • 2 dashes of tiki bitters
  • 1 whole fresh egg

Measure all ingredients into shaker tin. Dry shake hard for 20 to 25 seconds. Add ice and shake again vigorously for another 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a grated coffee bean.

Bar Oso, #9-4222 Village Square, Whistler
Credit: Kevin Clark

Bar Oso, #9-4222 Village Square, Whistler

Why now?

Santa came early to Whistler this season, bringing heaps of snow and Bar Oso, a sparkling new Spanish-tinged spot, to the mountain village. Whistler’s wildlife was the muse for Box Interior Design’s handiwork. “Oso,” after all, is the Spanish word for “bear.” This delightful den features a dramatic stone bar that stretches across the room, warmed up by a constellation of Edison bulbs overhead. Graphic black-and-white tiles wrap up the walls and across the floors, while refined wood touches contribute to the look that’s more luxury than lodge.

Celebrated Araxi chef James Walt and chef Jorge Muñoz Santos teamed up to craft an inimitable menu of pintxos (bar snacks) and share plates that offer a dash of European culture while celebrating ingredients sourced nearby. Bar manager Jason Redmond riffs off both as evidenced by his beverage menu, where peach sangria, for instance, is made with elderflower syrup and seasonal elements.

What to drink

The Oso Sour is Redmond’s take on the classic whiskey sour, made with bacon-infused bourbon and maple syrup, and garnished with a slice of maple-candied bacon.

Upstairs at Campagnolo, 1020 Main Street
Credit: Campagnolo

Upstairs at Campagnolo, 1020 Main Street

Why now?

Can a speakeasy be hidden upstairs? Why not? We love sneaking up the narrow staircase and checking out what’s being mixed up by barman Peter Van De Reep. But so do others, so you’d better go soon. Upstairs at Campagnolo is in danger of getting a little too legit, since word of its carefully crafted cocktails started luring larger crowds. Its vibe is remains blessedly unvarnished—a glimmer of authenticity in this gritty-but-gentrifying corridor—but the beverage menu shares the same refined notes as its namesake restaurant below.

What to drink

Barman Peter Van De Reep makes a knockout oaked Negroni cocktail, but if you’re in the mood for something with even more bite, go for the Rattlesnake.

Hawksworth Cocktail Bar, 801 West Georgia Street
Credit: Hawksworth

Hawksworth Cocktail Bar, 801 West Georgia Street

Why now?

It’s a yarn we all tell. You know, the one with the killer cocktail that ruined you for all others—one that’s composed of high-quality ingredients and perfectly balanced. That elusive white whale has been swimming in plain sight at Hawksworth bar, where the talented staff will reel you in with their seriously delicious drinks. Settle into one of the deep leather lounges and gawk at the Hirst while you wait to land the big one. Disappointment is not an option, especially with head bartender Cooper Tardivel steering the ship.

What to drink

For us, one of those aforementioned perfect cocktails is an aperitif, the Spritz con Cynar. The uninitiated might not know that Cynar, an herbal liqueur, gets its pleasing bitter twist from an overarching ingredient: artichoke. And yet it’s totally tasty. After the aperitif, when you’re ready to make a toast, try this celebratory Shotgun Wedding cocktail.

 

shotgun wedding, Hawksworth Cocktail Lounge

  • 1 egg white
  • 0.25 oz gomme syrup
  • 0.75 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1 oz Pierre Ferand 1840 Cognac
  • 0.5 oz Zwack Hungarian Palinka apricot brandy

Shake all ingredients together. Strain into a coupe glass. Charge with a touch of soda. Garnish with gold flakes.

Odd Society Tasting Lounge, 1725 Powell Street
Credit: R.d. Cane

Odd Society Tasting Lounge, 1725 Powell Street

Why now?

It can be hard to resist all the craft breweries that have cropped up in East Vancouver. But the Odd Society distillery is a magnet too, one that’s attracting drinkers in droves to belly up to the bar and savour its award-winning spirits. The tasting lounge bears the same strokes of artwork that bedeck Odd Society’s East Van Vodka and newest offering, Mongrel moonshine. Bartender Kylie Bartlett fits right into the mix, with her artful inventions.

What to drink

Indulge this holiday season with a decadent Nectar of the Goddess cocktail (pictured here) crafted by Bartlett. Or try your hand at home and impress your guests: the Christmas Wort is a complex but truly original recipe that will set you up for the festive season.

 

Christmas Wort Cocktail by Kylie Bartlett

  • 1 oz Odd Society Spirits East Van Vodka
  • 3 oz poached pear, long pepper and barley wort* syrup (see below)
  • 1 pat of butter

Wort syrup

Combine 2 cups of wort, 2 cups of brown sugar, 2 pears and 1 long pepper (8-10 black peppercorns can be substituted) in a slow cooker and simmer on low overnight until thickened. Let cool.

Cocktail

Pour warm syrup in a glass, stir in butter to melt, add vodka and stir. Grind long pepper (black peppercorns can be used as an alternative) on top for garnish. Serve.

*Wort: “If you are kind to your local brewer, you you might be able to get wort from your neighbourhood brewery. Be sure to ask for barley wort,” says Bartlett. “If you would like to make it, you are essentially making a barley tea. You can get a variety of different barley from home-brewing stores. Use a ratio of 1 cup barley to 2 cups water and heat at a consistent temperature of 65 C over night. You can use a slow cooker. This will bring out the sweetness of the barley. Once a touch sweet, strain and keep the water. “

L’Abattoir, 217 Carrall Street
Credit: L'Abattoir

L’Abattoir, 217 Carrall Street

Why now?

Despite our deep nostalgia for the Irish Heather that used to haunt this Gastown spot, we have to admit that L’Abattoir is one of our go-to places to eat (who else makes boudin noir?) and imbibe (or marries green Chartreuse with horseradish in a brunch bevvy) in town. The menu is always changing and everything, without fail, is crafted to perfection without pretension. So sidle up to the bar and order our favourite—a Paper Plane. If something dark and hot is more of your festive fix, go for bartender Thor Paulson’s Coffee Rations. It’s a bracing blend of New Orleans-style chicory coffee, Jameson’s, Dry Curacao and amaro, rimmed with espresso-infused sea salt and sugar.

What to drink

Entertaining a crowd during the holidays? Why not whip up a big batch of SlaughterNog, a recipe Thor Paulson, L’Abattoir’s bar manager, adapted from Shaun Layton. Nothing says festive like a little nog, after all. But if you haven’t had the real deal—homemade, of course—you’re missing out.

 

SlaughterNog Cocktail adapted by thor paulson

Makes 2 litres

  • 24 eggs
  • 2 cups superfine sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp. ground allspice
  • 500 ml Lemon Hart demerara rum
  • 375 ml bourbon
  • 125 ml yellow Chartreuse
  • 75 ml Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream 

Separate egg whites and yolks. Whisk yolks together slowly while adding sugar until smooth. Slowly add in spices to the yolks. Whisk egg whites until stiff peaks form, then fold the egg whites into the yolks mixture. Slowly add cream and milk, then add the run, bourbon and Curacao while stirring. Cover and refrigerate.

Fairmont Pacific Rim Lobby Lounge + Terrace, 1038 Canada Place

Fairmont Pacific Rim Lobby Lounge + Terrace, 1038 Canada Place

Why now?

Don’t blame us if your head is spinning after you try to discover whether the Fairmont Pacific Rim’s new menu of “classics perfected” is a truly refined take on the originals. (We’re speaking from experience.) The menu of greatest hits celebrates top ingredients like the Woodford Reserve Bourbon and Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum that give the Fairmont Old Fashioned its signature flavour. The masterful menu is the result what happens when head bartender Grant Sceney and a handful of other Fairmont bartender “tastemakers” hole up in an hotel experimenting with liquor.

What to drink

On the effervescent side is the Sparkling Collins Royale, which matchmakes Belvedere vodka with Veuve Clicquot and precisely three slim slices of cucumber, two sprigs of mint, and the requisite lime and simple syrup. It’s elegant and refreshing, but if we had to choose a fave (and it’s oh, so hard) would have to be The Right Word, a tasty twist—and improvement—on the 1921 Last Word.

 

The Right Word cocktail by Grant Sceney

  • 1 oz. Fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz. Bombay Sapphire Gin
  • 1 oz. St. Germain or other elderflower liqueur
  • Thinly sliced lime wheel

Shake ingredients together with ice. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with lime wheel.