Classy and Cost-Effective: An Ode to Apéritif Hour

photo: Pourhouse

photo: Pourhouse

The following article was written by Tourism Vancouver’s Sonu Purhar and photographed by Tourism Vancouver’s Nicole Havers.

It’s been a long day, maybe a hard one. A frantic client called and kept you on the phone for hours. You were late for an important meeting and your manager sighed in a way that made your blood run cold. Your Instagram post from last night only got three Likes. Life’s rough. And you’re not even that jazzed about happy hour, because all the cheap beer and wine is making you feel like a hungover/headachy mess.

We’ve all been there, friends. And we’re here to share our magic elixir, the antidote to those suspicious “happy hour” blends and bottled beers. It’s called Apéritif Hour, and it’s a steadfast return to the elegance of after-work cocktails – a solid, precious few hours to unwind in an ambient space, lift the day’s weight from your shoulders, and engage in earnest, or mindless, conversation with friends, coworkers and significant others. Apéritif Hour is where you can enjoy a handcrafted cocktail – several, even! every night! – without taking out a second mortgage. There are well-made, palate-sparking drinks to be had – all across Vancouver, at venues new and old – that cost as little as your morning latte.

So what are you waiting for? Buck up and proceed to one, or all, of the venues below. And don’t forget to tag your posts with #AperitifHour.

Pourhouse-Cocktail-CroppedPourhouse

The drink Cocchi Rosa, a rose-coloured apéritif wine – though some would cry vermouth – with lush mouthfeel and an enticing blend of berries and spice. Pourhouse serves Rosa on the rocks with a lemon twist. Sip slowly.

The bartender Charlie Sim

The price $4

Hungry? Order the Scotch Eggs. Because there is an unrivalled decadence in hard-boiled eggs wrapped in meat, coated in bread crumbs and deep-fried.

Apéritif hour 2pm – 6pm (Monday – Friday)

Field notes Stepping into Pourhouse is like entering an Old West saloon: wood beams, jazzy tunes, cozily dim and home to some of the city’s friendliest and most skilled bartenders. Pull up a barstool, order the Rosa to start, and get ready to work your way through the rest of the menu – classic cocktails are just $8 during this four-hour golden spell. If you’re seeking a classy yet unpretentious take on Apéritif Hour, your home is here.

Social: Instagram @pourhouse | Twitter @pourhouse_van

Cafe-MedinaCafé Medina

The drink The Fez Hat, one of the more spirit-forward drinks on Café Medina’s sweet-and-spicy summer menu. Smoky mezcal, green chartreuse, scotch-soaked green apple and a touch of Riesling band together in an effortless tango, resulting in a refreshing cocktail with a peaty finish. Don’t let the booze scare you off – this is a smooth sipper that’ll transport you straight to the sultry streets of Marrakesh.

The price $7

The bartender Trixie Blumel

Hungry? Opt for a spicy accompaniment like the paella or tagine – mezcal pairs well with savour and spice.

Apéritif hour 2pm – 3pm

Field notes Sometimes five o’clock feels miles away, but there’s no rule that says you should wait. Café Medina’s ingenious midday cocktail hour offers a secret respite from your daily toils, or a place to start early on your day off. Dive headfirst into the decidedly exotic cocktail menu and you’ll soon find yourself far from the rat race, exploring an Aladdin’s cave of Moroccan-influenced libations. After the Fez, move on to the Al Maghrib (Postmark IPA, grapefruit juice, green tea, tequila, orange and juniper bitters), then the Mimouna No. 1 (sparkling wine, fresh OJ, and honey infused with a Turkish bazaar’s worth of spices, including star anise, fennel seed and saffron).

Social: Instagram @medinacafe | Twitter @CafeMedina

L'Abattoir-CroppedL’Abattoir

The drink Changes daily. Every morning, the bar staff dreams up a new Apéritif Hour drink, and every so often that drink is such a hit it makes the transition to the regular cocktail list (see: El Camino and the Hawthorn). Ours was a smooth blend of grape-infused gin, Campari, sweet vermouth and yellow chartreuse – a lighter spin on the classic Negroni that hints at grapefruit and summertime.

The bartender William Johnson

The price $7

Hungry? Most appetizers are half-off, and you’ll nail a home run with anything you order off L’Abattoir’s ever-evolving, farm-fresh menu. If you’re keen on an evening of indulgence – and why shouldn’t you be? – the elk and summer truffle pâté with pickled chanterelles will knock your socks off.

Apéritif hour 5.30pm – 6.30pm

Field notes Ever-elegant L’Abattoir epitomizes cocktail hours of yore: snatches of time dedicated to pre-dinner socializing, complemented by ambient surroundings and a dandy drink. The bar is simple yet sophisticated, a rarity in today’s social media-soaked flash-and-sizzle, so breathe deep and relax. But make your order count: this evening’s Apéritif lasts only one hour.

Social: Instagram @labattoir_van | Twitter @LABATTOIR_VAN

Royal-Dinette-CroppedRoyal Dinette

The drink Aperol Spritz, one of six drinks on the restaurant’s L’Apéro menu. (Fun fact: “L’Apéro” loosely translates to “Hey buddy – let’s go for an apéritif”.) This classic Italian apéritif is light and bubbly – prosecco and Aperol garnished with orange and smoked olives – an ideal opener to awaken your palate.

The price $6

The bartender Wendy McGuinness

Hungry? A light cocktail merits a playful snack – try the roasted carrots with harissa, coffee, crème fraiche and hazelnut.

Apéritif hour 4.30pm – 6.30pm

Field notes Royal Dinette is at once informal and elegant, the type of diner Audrey Hepburn would frequent. Well-stocked bar, abstract-retro light fixtures, a busy chef’s table in one corner and pasta hanging out to dry in another – it’s a bustling space, but also warm, whimsical and welcoming. The L’Apéro cocktails are light, so rustle up some pals and spend an evening exploring the menu. After all, what’s a few cocktails between friends?

Social: Instagram @royaldinette | Twitter @RoyalDinette

Grapes&Soda-CroppedGrapes & Soda

The drink Changes daily, based on seasonal ingredients and whatever happens to inspire the bartender. Ours was the Sour Grapes Vesper: muddled grapes, gin and vodka, Lillet Blanc and orange bitters. Sipping this lightly tart and refreshing cocktail, distinctly wine-like in flavour, we felt a bit like Dionysus reclining on his chaise.

The price $8

The bartender Satoshi Yonemori

Hungry? The menu changes regularly based on what’s in-season, and for summer Yonemori recommends the heirloom tomato salad with shaved lardo and smoked salt – a garden-fresh complement to any cocktail.

Apéritif hour 5pm – 6.30pm

Field notes Grapes & Soda is primarily a wine bar, but the cocktails are certainly not to be sneezed at – the sleek-and-slim space shakes up a mean craft drink. After a round of apéritifs, order a couple snacks and crack open a bottle of wine. Vancouver’s endless summer deserves a toast.

Social: Instagram @grapesandsoda | Twitter @grapesandsoda

BeachBayCafe-CroppedBeach Bay Café

The drink  Two, actually: one to enjoy in the sunshine, the other after dusk. Calming Breeze, your daytime drink, is a fresh blend of vodka, Lillet Blanc, sherry and elderflower liqueur, reminiscent of – what else? – liquid sunshine. Cove Haze, on the other hand, is a spicy, palate-tingling blend of rye, sweet vermouth, iced tea, allspice and orange – best enjoyed while watching the sun sink behind English Bay.

The price Highballs are $5, so you can riff off your favourite (the drinks above were dealer’s choice).

The bartender Adrian Lindner

Hungry? Apéritif Hour is a time for indulgence: go for the fried pork ribs with honey mustard. You won’t regret it.

Apéritif hour 3pm – 6pm

Field Notes Beach Bay Café is open, airy and bright – and with a patio looking out toward English Bay, you’ll want to linger long after Apéritif Hour comes to a close. Just remember this, as you sit back and soak in the last weeks of summer: whatever came before, and whatever comes afterward, doesn’t matter here. Right now, in this moment, sipping this cocktail, all is well with the world.

Social: Instagram @beachbaycafepatio | Twitter @beachbaycafe

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