Christmas Cocktail Crawl V: Reviving the ‘20s


Bartender: Micky Valens | Bar: Hello Goodbye

Photographed by Nicole Havers.

It’s a special year for Inside Vancouver’s annual Christmas Cocktail Crawl. This December, we commemorate half a decade of refined revelry, carefully curated cocktails… and the exquisite beauty that is drinking.

If these sentiments sound up your alley, go now and re-familiarize yourself with The Roaring ‘20s – an era that axed legalized liquor; increased liquid indulgence via speakeasies and private bars; and inspired an upsurge of curiosity towards spirits, bitters and other alcoholic delights with bartenders exploring how these elements come together in flawless harmony to create a delightfully balanced cocktail.

So – you’ve read up on the ‘20s? Good. Now don your fedoras and fascinators, strap on your suspenders and step with us back in time. We’ll show you seven ‘20s-era cocktails, each with a contemporary twist and all guaranteed to bring out your inner Gatsby. These are damn good drinks – and mighty stiff, to boot – so pace yourself and don’t get zozzled. Let’s get to it.

Fairmont Pacific Rim Lobby Lounge | @FairmontPacific

Fairmont-Pacific-Rim---Dec-The drink: The VSOP Boulevardier. Whisky, Rémy Martin champagne cognac, Campari and sweet red vermouth combine for a robust drink with just a hint of bite.

Inspiration: The Boulevardier. Credited to cheeky American expatriate Erskine Gwynne who moved to Paris to gad about, start barfights and launch a literary magazine called – you guessed it – The Boulevardier. Gwynne shared his new drink with Harry McElhone, owner of Harry’s New York Bar (located in Paris), and the latter recorded it in his famed book Barflies and Cocktails. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how legends are born.

The bartender: Grant Sceney

Best part of the ‘20s? “Bartenders in the ‘20s didn’t have access to all the ingredients we do today, but they were still passionate about cocktails. There was nothing showy about ‘20s cocktail culture – at the end of the day, it all came down to making a solid drink.” – Grant

L’Abattoir | @labattoir_van

L'Abattoir---Dec-3The drink: Tuxedo #2. Gin, Cinzano vermouth, maraschino and absinthe meld into a dry sipper with just a hint of sweet depth. If you’re unsure about Martinis, this is the perfect entry.

Inspiration: A variation on the Martini, Tuxedo #2 was born near the end of the 19th century though became much more widespread in the ‘20s. And now let’s pause for a story: a few months after New York’s fashionable Tuxedo Club opened in 1886, the proprietor’s son and his sassy friends decided to chop off the tails of members’ jackets during a dinner party. The Prince of Wales was one of the victims, and rather enjoyed the look of his now-short jacket – and just like that, the tuxedo was born. Just as the tuxedo was a then-contemporary twist on a classic, so too is the Tuxedo #2 to the Martini. And now you’ve got a story for cocktail parties.

The bartender: Thor Paulson

Best part of the ‘20s? “The ‘20s was rife with social turmoil caused by Prohibition, but this was tempered by the sparkle and dazzle of the Jazz Age. Similarly, bartenders experimented with sweet additions to cocktails in order to mask the bitter taste of cheap alcohol. The Great Gatsby encapsulates that time for me, that legacy left by Prohibition.” – Thor

Tacofino | @TacofinoVAN

Tacofino---Dec-3The drink: The Navidad Negroni. This festive drink features Reposado tequila, Becherovka liqueur, bitters and Cocchi Rosa (aperitif wine), and garnished with a cinnamon stick, orange peel and exquisite (Vancouver-made!) cocktail pick. Christmas at its boozy best.

Inspiration: The Negroni was invented in Florence by Count Camillo Negroni, who reportedly urged his bartender buddy to add more booze to his favourite cocktail, the Americano (what a guy). So gin replaced soda water, orange garnish replaced lemon, and bam – the Negroni was born.

The bartender: Julia Diakow

Best part of the ‘20s? “The ‘20s was an over-the-top, overzealous age rife with new cocktails made on the sly. It was an age of creativity and innovation. And the extravagant parties and jazz bands were pretty cool, too.” – Julia

Juniper | @junipervancouver

Juniper---Dec-3The drink: The Beets Knees. A brilliant crimson or yellow hue – depending on whether the beets used are red or golden – the drink consists of Unruly vodka, housemade honey liqueur and beet syrup, celery bitters and fresh lemon juice. The result: a smooth, citrusy burst of flavour adorned with a dramatic spray of raw beets. This drink is an Instagram waiting to happen.

Inspiration: The Bees Knees, a bathtub gin-based cocktail whose sweeter ingredients were added to balance out the sharp tang of illegal hooch. Honey in cocktails was a novelty in those days, adding floral undertones that sugar couldn’t replicate and making for a heavier and more complex drink.

The bartender: Shaun Layton

Best part of the ‘20s? “During Prohibition, American bartenders gravitated to Europe and founded bars in major drinking cities like Paris and New York – places like Harry’s New York Bar (in Paris). Some of Europe’s most influential bars were created because of Prohibition. Talk about irony.” – Shaun

Royal Dinette | @royaldinette

Royal-Dinette---Dec-3The drink: Word Play. A refreshing potion featuring Long Table Distillery Akvavit, green chartreuse, Momo Kawa pearl sake, simple syrup, lime juice and egg white. This drink is a true West Coast original – local and Asian-influenced spirits, herbal undertones thanks to the Akvavit’s caraway and fennel, and a soft green hue reminiscent of our lush outdoors.

Inspiration: The Last Word. Originally created behind the bar of the Detroit Athletic Club, this gorgeous green drink was slow to pick up steam further afield – in fact, it wasn’t until the 21st century that its popularity rightfully surged. Fun fact: The Last Word packs a hefty medicinal punch thanks to green chartreuse, a French liqueur flavoured with more than 130 herbs. A spoonful of alcohol makes the medicine go down – is that how it goes?

The bartender: Kaitlyn Stewart

Best part of the ‘20s? “The style! Three-piece suits, flapper dresses… Check out any gangster movie based in the ‘20s and you’ll see everyone dressed to the nines. It was such a dapper age.” – Kaitlyn

Torafuku | @torafukuyvr

Torafuku---Dec-3The drink: The Knockout 2.0. This drink packs a punch with Bacardi, orange and lemon juice, and oleo saccharum (citrus peel and sugar), all topped with Black Seal rum. One sip of this and you’ll be transported straight to poolside in Jamaica.

Inspiration: Planter’s Punch, a rum drink first captured in a 1908 edition of The New York Times, though rumour has it the cocktail was originally crafted in Jamaica. After Prohibition was repealed and high-quality rum became readily available in the U.S., Planter’s Punch became the bees’ knees (sorry) as a tropical drink fad tore across the country, bringing with it such classic concoctions as the daiquiri and rum Collins.

The bartender: Max Barrowman

Best part of the ‘20s? “The speakeasy culture. It was dangerous, illegal… everything was illicit, so everything was exciting. You’d sneak into a speakeasy and it would be packed with like-minded people, all of you breaking the law together.” – Max

Hello Goodbye | @hellogoodbyebar

Hello-Goodbye---Dec-3The drink: The Rolls Royce. Cognac, Calvados brandy, Becherovka, fresh lemon and vanilla-infused honey, finished with a cinnamon sugar rim, combine for a decadent cocktail that subtly hints at the holidays while holding its own as a damn boozy brew. You’ll want at least three, so pace yourself or else you’ll be Cocktail Crawl-ing right out of the bar.

Inspiration: The Sidecar. Invented in New Orleans – the cocktail’s holy land – the Sidecar served as inspiration for multiple cocktails afterward though was itself fathered by the Brandy Crusta. Many believe the latter was created at our friend Harry’s New York Bar, requested by an army captain who rode up in the sidecar of a motorcycle. Another story claims the drink was named after its definition in the cocktail world…

sidecar (n.): when a bartender messes up ingredient quantities and finds himself with more liquid than his serving glass can hold, he pours the extra into a shot glass. That glass is referred to as a sidecar.

… As with most cocktails, the origins are hotly disputed. But it all makes for great storytelling, doesn’t it?

The bartender: Micky Valens

Best part of the ‘20s? “The celebration – the ‘20s were all about fun. People lived for the moment. They enjoyed life. This cocktail crawl? This is what they would do in the ‘20s. Because at the end of the day, life is for living. And drinking good cocktails.” – Micky

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