Where to Drink Vancouver’s Six Best Classic Bourbon Cocktails Right Now

As the season shifts from summer to fall, it’s time to switch up fresh summer flavours for cosy fall sippers; in other words, embrace bourbon. And because everything tastes better when you know more about it, we asked Joel Virginillo, Reserve consultant and ambassador, Wirtz Beverage to explain a little more. “Bourbon is the definition of American whiskey: bold, boisterous and complex on the palate.  Bourbon was historically made in Kentucky, but recently the laws were relaxed and now any state can produce it as long as it follows the steadfast rules of two years minimum aging in brand new oak barrels and it needs to be a minimum 51% corn based with no charcoal filtration.”

So now you know what you’re drinking, here’s six classic Bourbon cocktails to try in six awesome Vancouver bars, ready, steady, cheers! 

Gez McAlpine, Keefer Bar: The Manhattan

DSC_0906I feel like the Manhattan was the first ‘grown up’ cocktail I really loved making. I started out in the world of 2004 bartending– flavoured vodkas and muddled fruit– so my relationship with the Manhattan was the first that introduced me to the subtle nature of vermouths and how using different base spirits can completely alter the result of a cocktail. Then there’s the city that gave it its name; Manhattan for me has always been the epicenter of the cocktail revival, and a place that embodied everything I loved about classic cocktail culture, so I was naturally drawn to it. I feel like it shows off the spirit well as sweet Vermouth and Bourbon are like a match made in heaven, subtle bitterness and rich bold flavours perfectly round out any aggressive edges of whiskey and I like to go pretty heavy on angostura to really up that level of richness in the cocktail. My favorite whiskey to use would have to be Woodford Reserve.

Thor Paulson, Wildebeest: the Whiskey Sour.

I like our house Whiskey Sour because it really lives up to its name– something whiskey sours often don’t. We make it with premium Bourbon, and it’s actually sour. We use a 2:1 ratio of fresh lemon juice to simple syrup, which helps highlight the whiskey instead of masking it with too much sugar, as well as giving the drink a tart, appetite-whetting edge. We use a bit of egg white to give it a bit of a frothy, round mouthfeel too. If you’ve ordered it with food, we put a little spritz of peated scotch on top to help it pair with the rich, meaty, gamey flavours of many of our dishes.

Sean McGuigan, Supermarine: The Brown Derby

bourbonThis is a Los Angeles cocktail from the 1930s that is very simple, but beautifully balanced and incredibly drinkable. It is a straightforward blend of just three ingredients: Bourbon, fresh pink grapefruit juice and honey syrup, which together create an elegant and refreshing balance of flavour. While each element is readily distinguishable from the others, the interaction between them creates a whole that is certainly more than the sum of its parts. Fresh grapefruit juice is the key here, juice should be squeezed to order or the drink can lose some of the vibrancy that makes it a real winner in my opinion. Shake the mixture hard with ice and strain into a chilled coupe. No garnish. No frills. Just simple, boozy, delicious refreshment.

Justin Taylor, Boulevard: The Boulevardier

It is my favorite cocktail for this time of year because I find it rich and complex as we creep out of summer and into fall. It’s the perfect wind-down cocktail for me, especially on cooler days. It’s also great because it is very versatile; you can apply different Bourbons and vermouth to pair with food and change the drink from light to heavy. Although the recipe doesn’t really change (I follow 1.5 oz Bourbon, .75 oz Campari, .75 oz sweet vermouth), the types of vermouth and Bourbon used can provide drastically varying results. For now my favorite recipe is with Evan Williams Black Label Bourbon, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, Campari and a flamed orange zest.

Mike Shum, Fairmont Pacific Rim Lobby Lounge: the Mint Julep

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s the cocktail that got me into cocktails, Ryan Chevery got me behind the bar in the first place and this was the first drink that he gave me: it had history, ritual, it’s beautiful. You just think of a front porch,  the frosted glass, slow sipping and that great social aspect. At the Kentucky Derby they use Woodford Reserve, but Angel’s Envy is really nice if you can find it. It’s a simple drink, only three ingredients, you can make a mint-flavoured Bourbon drink or a Bourbon-flavoured mint drink, but it needs to be a Bourbon that you like. Some people muddle it up and tear the mint, I like to rub it inside the glass and use the rest as a garnish.

Trevor Kallies, The Granville Room: The Old Fashioned

I would have to say that I typically end up drinking an Old Fashioned Whiskey cocktail. It was the Bourbon cocktail that got me into drinking whiskey almost a decade ago. I still remember the first “real” Old Fashioned I ever had – it was at a cocktail training session being run by Jay Jones at Bar None, of all places! He was brought on to consult on our new cocktail list at Granville Room, I barely knew him at the time but it was that cocktail list that Jay put together that really stood out to me and proved there was something to this cocktail profession. We feature $7 Old Fashioned cocktails every single Monday at the Granville Room that pour a full 2oz of Maker’s Mark.


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2 Responses to Where to Drink Vancouver’s Six Best Classic Bourbon Cocktails Right Now

  1. Great selectction of cocktails and great selection of places! yhe Whiskey Sour at Wildebeest is phenomenal!

    • Nikki Bayley