Bar None Turns 20 – A Cocktail Retrospective

I’ve been writing the cocktail lists for the Donnelly Group for just about 2.5 years. That is only 1/10 of the time that Bar None has been open. 20 years is longer than it takes to reach legal drinking age in British Columbia from birth. 20 years is long enough (and believe me when I tell you this) to serve 1.3million vodka sodas. 1.3 MILLION. And that’s just from the rail.

When I think back to what has happened at Bar None over the past 20 years it truly blows my mind. Did you know that the Juno award winning band SOULSTREAM got their start within these walls? That Hip Hop Icons Naughty By Nature, Kurupt, Talib Kweli, R&B and Dance Hall legends Slim (112) and Beenie Man, and even the soulful Prince have performed at one time or another.

The warehouse turned hardware store turned gay bar turned dance bar turned VANCOUVER LEGEND has seen its fair share of history.

With all these epic performers making their stop to add to the venue’s past success, what may not be looked back on is that Bar None has always been home to a proper Cocktail.

In the summer of 2007, tutored by the Vancouver cocktail icon Jay Jones, I made my first Old Fashioned inside the walls of Bar None Nightclub. Jay was brought over from the stick at Nu restaurant to consult on a new phase of drink culture – Craft Cocktails. 20 or so bartenders who barely knew a bar spoon from a hawthorne strainer gathered one hot summer day to mix and taste 10 drinks designed by Jay and destined to see the pages of the cocktail menu at Granville Room and the then named Denman St. Freehouse (the Calling). We mixed a selection of Classic Cocktails – including a Mai Tai Trader Vic would be proud of, an Old Fashioned later endorsed by Bill Samuels and a Dark n Stormy that didn’t break any trademark violations. Jay also taught us some contemporary creations. The Jack Sparrow (a pineapple & rum concoction with crack black pepper), Remarkable (Kiwi & Manuka honey Vodka), and the Kentucky Sun (Apple & Bourbon). We muddled, mixed, shook and stirred and gave up the fight that these drinks couldn’t be made fast enough. A few looks at Jay’s cold glance and tattoo’d arms told us quickly that these drinks would be made. It was that afternoon inside Bar None that I learned how to make cocktails with passion and care.

But even before that 2007 afternoon, Bar None had a cocktail in its arsenal. You may be hard-pressed to find a copy today, but Bar None was featured inside Bill Tikos’ cocktail bar collection Signature Cocktails (Cool Cocktails from Cool Places). The name of the books a bit dated, but to give you an idea of how this is important – Bill Tikos is the founder of a little website The Cool Hunter.

Here’s an excerpt from Signature Cocktails:

“Bar None, housed in a converted warehouse, is contemporary, intimate, and offers something for every taste. Whether it’s live music, international DJ’s, a cigar lounge or Martini bar you’re looking for, you’ll find it here. If you are in Vancouver it’s definitely worth a visit – but in the meantime, here’s the recipe for Pistachio Margarita.


  • 1 1/2 ounces 1800 Cuervo Gold Tequila
  • 1/2 ounce Cointreau
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Finely ground, salted pistachio nuts


  1. Rim a rocks glass with the pistachio nuts.
  2. Place the tequila, Cointreau, sugar and lime juice in a shaker with ice and shake vigorously.
  3. Pour and serve.”

Frankly, it is nothing more than a traditional margarita with a nutty rim made with premium tequila. But, as a young bartender into proper cocktails for the first time, you can imagine the effect that finding that page in a cocktail book while scouring Chapters for Dale Degroff’s The Craft of the Cocktail would make. An internationally printed cocktail book with a bar owned by the company I was currently working for. Oh indeed.

It doesn’t stop there, head over to the World’s Best Bars website you’ll find a review from a few years ago tagging Bar None with 5 stars claiming drinks are ” but well poured and with three bars to choose from, easy to get hold of.”

You may not think of Bar None paving the way for cocktail culture in Vancouver nightclubs, but think again. With worldly Bartenders like Mr. Jones at one time calling the wood at Bar None home, seasonal cocktail lists changing multiple times yearly and an entertainment lineup as storied as it gets in our fair city you may be pleasantly surprised at the quality of drink you’ll receive.

The party starts Wednesday, November 14 with an amazing performance by SOULSTREAM and continues all week. Come celebrate 20 Years of Music and cocktails with us. For a full list of events and happenings please visit our event page.


For guest list, just contact us in the usual fashions – BBM your hookup or click here if you’re the iphone type.