Just over the Canadian border, three hours by car north of Seattle, Vancouver shares the mild coastal weather with that city rather than the stereotypical snowiness of the nearby ski town of Whistler. The cocktail scene in this cosmopolitan city of 600,000 inhabitants is exploding in size and the number of great bars, and in the creativity used in making drinks.
Clearly bartenders are keeping up with international trends, as tobacco bitters, smoky flavours, carbonated cocktails, barrel-aged drinks, dehydrated Campari and bottled cocktails are found in various bars throughout town. The fact that Tales of the Cocktail has chosen Vancouver as its second location means bartenders here are getting exposed to some of the most notable speakers and topics in the business, and it shows. Local drinkers also seem thrilled with the options. In the majority of these twelve bars patrons are seen ordering off-menu or “bartender’s choice” options. Many of the best cocktail bars are within walking distance of a few others, clumped into the historic-yet-hip Gastown District or down the neon-lit party corridor of Granville Street, making bar-hopping efficient and cab rides necessary only at the beginning and end of the night.
THE GRANVILLE ROOM
Address: 957 Granville Street, Vancouver, CA
Tel: +1 604.633.0056
Type: Cocktail bar Located on wild, neon-lit Granville Street, the Granville Room is a cocktail bar built for the neighborhood. Inside, it has a design common to many speakeasy bars, with brick walls, wooden shelves, and Edison bulbs, but the flat-screen televisions and blaring house music overrule the décor. So too, does the crowd of twenty- and thirty-something revelers out to get good and loaded while sharing some bar food. It may look like a classic cocktail bar but the vibe is more like that of a party pub. Speaking of classic cocktails, the list offers ten of those (Aviation, Last Word, Mai Tai, etc.) and five “modern classics” created by bartenders like Audrey Saunders (Gin-Gin Mule) and Tony Conigliaro (Wink). For the most part, the crowd eschews this menu in favour of more typical high-volume bar drinks like vodka-sodas. Consider this a fun, high-energy bar with good cocktail options rather than a cocktail bar that happens to be fun. 3.5/5
Address: 212 Abbott Street, Vancouver, BC
Tel: +1 604.558.1581
Type: Cocktail bar Along with the Granville Room, Clough Club is one of the two “cocktail taverns” owned by the Donnelly Group, but this space (just a couple months old) places a stronger emphasis on quality, progressive cocktails. The look of the century-old room is well-worn chic, with a tiled floor and a curvy white marble bar in one corner and about six barstools in front of it. In the middle of the room is a tall marble-topped table for standing, and around the walls are comfortable upholstered benches, club chairs, and tables. A few more seats are located in the rear hallway that leads to a second bar in the back. This more bare-bones room with distressed walls and exposed brick is usually only open on the weekends and for special events. The drink menu at Clough Club is divided into classics (including the Seelbach, Sazerac, and Vieux Carre), modern classics (with drinks from Kirk Estopinal of Cure in New Orleans, Jim Meehan of PDT in New York, and others) and house cocktails. The latter includes trendy cocktail touches like smoking a glass over a burning piece of bourbon barrel stave, and sprinkling dehydrated Campari powder on top of the foam of an egg white drink. More than just for show, the drinks are delicious as well.