Cocktails and good eats in Vancouver
I'm thinking of taking my husband to Vancouver for his 30th birthday this fall and am in the early stages of planning our culinary adventure.
To give you some background, my husband is a chef at an upscale restaurant in Los Angeles and we are both very interested in visiting a city with a great restaurant scene. In addition, we are also very enthusiastic about the classic cocktail scene. We're very into classic (and twists on classic) cocktails, especially cocktails using dark spirits. Trying to put some perspective, we've got 8 different bourbons, 4 sweet vermouths and 6 rye whiskey options in my home bar, and many other specialty liquors.
We don't tend to prefer loud spaces, though we're not necessarily opposed. Does anyone have any suggestions for places to eat or cocktail bars?? I'm really not familiar with the area and am not even sure if Vancouver has a cocktail scene, but have heard some great things about the city. Any suggestions, tips, etc. would be great!!
Wow .. Florentine gave you a great list !!
My two cents:
Dont miss L'Abbitoir as stated
Although a bit loud I personally really like the drinks at Keefer Bar,
West, (sit at the bar and have the bartender make something up for you)
Diamond for the atmosphere and the drinks are great too.
I havent been but The lounge at Rosewood Hotel Georgia seems to be the hot spot right now.
Have fun !!!
For cocktails the best for me would be Pourhouse in Gastown. They don't get mentioned much though.
The bartenders sure know a lot about their craft, but no show-off attitudes and whatnot, very low-key, classy, rustic and elegant. Beautiful tasting drinks, ask for recommendations off the menu.
Food is always well executed. They're more rustic, not as flashy as L'Abbatoir, but are excellent and constant in their delivery of quality.
+good music! esp. if you like classic blues and old jazz around 30's-50's era.
This place is effortless elegance.
I am a food photographer in Vancouver and yes, Vancouver has a craft cocktail scene, especially in Gastown around Water & Carrall and Water & Abbott. In fact, last month Tales of the Cocktail (a New Orleans' cocktail event) was here, their second year in a row bringing their event on tour to Vancouver. Vancouver loves its cocktails and bitters and pre-Prohibition-era cocktail culture.
The local mixologists/bartenders you'll want to speak to (just off the top of my head) are:
Pick their brains if you can. You'll also want to eye ScoutMagazine.com for inspiration - I know Lauren Mote writes for them on occasion.
As previously mentioned Gastown gives you a ton of choice.
L'Abbatoir was already recommended.
Others to consider:
Guilt & Co.
Peckinpah (for bourbon)
Shebeen Whiskey House (for Scotch/whiskey only - it's the secret room at the back of the Irish Heather)
The Revel Room
Union Bar (unique Philippino-inspired cocktails)
Maenam (best Thai restaurant in the city with great cocktails)
Main Street/Mount Pleasant:
Elsewhere in downtown Vancouver:
Hawksworth Restaurant's lounge in the Rosewood Hotel Georgia
The Refinery (upstairs on Granville Street)
Uva Wine Bar (Seymour/Smithe)
Market Bar at the Shangri-La or their Xi Shi Lounge downstairs (different cocktail menus)
The lounge inside the Fairmont Pacific Rim
That should give you a start!
Oh! If you can arrange it, make a reservation for Kale & Nori's Bittered Sling Bistro. It'll give you a taste of the Vancouver restaurant/cocktail industry, and it's rather social and fun.
It happens twice a month at the Legacy Liquor Store at the Olympic Village (just south of downtown Vancouver... not too far at all). It's a food + cocktail pairing event where one veteran bartender or one apprentice bartender pairs three courses with three cocktails.
The bartender must use the featured spirit (for the month of March it's Hendrick's Gin, back in November it was Market's Mark Bourbon, and in January it was Flor de Cana Rum, etc.) plus one of Kale & Nori's homemade bitters.
The menu is often themed around the spirit (Japanese cuisine paired with sake cocktails, southern cooking paired with bourbon, etc.). The food remains the same throughout the month - it's the cocktails that differ. At the end of the evening tveryone ranks the bartender based on presentation, pairing, flavour, aroma, etc. The top ranked bartender then wins a prize (including a trip to an affiliated spirit's distillery).
Okay, I'm totally rambling now but for $60 (which includes tax & tip), you both would probably enjoy it and you'd be surrounded by other fine dining/cocktail enthusiasts. Plus it's held at a beautiful liquor store.
There are a number of spots to drink cocktails in the city.
As others have said, L'Abattoir for both food and cocktails. Stellar all around. Bao Bei would also be top notch in that category. I had an outstanding meal there on Saturday. Pourhouse also manages very well on the food side too and is one of the best classic cocktail bars in the city. Try to sit at the bar there for conversation with some of the city's best bartenders.
Great cocktails can also be found at Market in the Shangri-La, the Diamond, Union Bar, West... the list goes on. Even a lot of neighborhood restaurants and bars have some pretty skilled bartenders even if they aren't know specifically for their cocktails.
My limited forays into the Vancouver cocktail scene haven't been as successful as others, clearly. We did have a fun visit to Union Bar last week, might be worth a look. Not uberloud (though we were there on a weeknight so YMMV). It's very close to Bao Bei and not far from other cocktail-forward establishments in Gastown so you could build yourself a crawl if you were so inclined.
As far as great places to eat, what kind of food are you looking for? High end? Asian? As a general comment, I find that many restaurants in Vancouver do a few things well so if you order judiciously you're fine but don't go "off book."