Where to Go for a Cocktail in Vancouver

Photo Credit: L’Abattoir

Vancouver’s cocktail innovation began roughly fifteen years ago with establishments rooted in the history and craft of drink-making.

Today, Vancouver has a thriving and award-winning cocktail scene, as evidenced by the city’s impressive showing in Canada’s 100 Best Bars and North America’s 50 Best Bars. Many of the restaurants recognized by Michelin also feature stellar cocktail programs.

Below is a tour of some of Vancouver’s best cocktail spots.

THE EARLY INNOVATORS

The Diamond

Photo Credit: The Diamond

When The Diamond opened in 2009, operated by the city’s top bartenders, they initiated a golden era of cocktails. What differentiated this establishment from other bars at the time was their focus on the quality and craft of their drinks (many of them drawing upon classic recipes), along with a heritage aesthetic and atmosphere. The Diamond continues to be a favourite in the city, with offerings such as the pistachio gimlet Glendalough Wild Botanical Bin, pistachio orgeat, lime, and orange bitters or the Gold Rush with bourbon, lemon, and honey.

The Keefer Bar

Photo Credit: The Keefer Bar

With a consistently superior ranking in Canada’s 100 Best Bars (#8 in 2023), The Keefer Bar has been a cocktail innovator in the city since it launched in 2010. Situated in historic Chinatown, The Keefer very much speaks to its location, with its heritage building, apothecary-inspired drinks, and Asian snacks. Sample from their “alumni cocktails” (their greatest hits), such as the Dragonfly with dragonfruit Beefeater Gin, nigori sake, ginger, lemon, and magnolia bark tincture, or the Boss Lady with Cazadores Tequila Reposado, Aperol, mandarin shrub, lemon, egg white, and soda. Reserve cocktails include the Old Fashioned, Sazerac, and Rob Roy.

Pourhouse Restaurant & Cocktail Bar

Photo Credit: The Pourhouse

Pourhouse Restaurant & Cocktail Bar has been a Gastown favourite ever since its opening in 2009. Its homage to “century-old styles of drinking and dining” make it a lovely escape into the time-honoured. Drinks definitely lean toward the classic with selections such as negroni, Old Fashioned, Sidecar, and Manhattan. Order a Bijou martini with Ford’s London Dry gin, Cocchi Torino Vermouth, Green Chartreuse, and orange bitters while listening to their live music (Sundays and Thursdays 7-10pm).

The Bar at L’Abattoir

Photo Credit: L’Abattoir

Placing 33 in Canada’s 100 Best Bars, the Bar at L’Abattoir is wee in size (9 seats) but takes its drink program very seriously. Seasonal cocktails reflect innovation and a careful attention to balance and quality. Exemplars include the Meat Hook #2 with marrow-infused whisky, house vermouth, peated whisky, and maraschino, and the Juan De Fuca with mushroom-infused mezcal, bianco vermouth, chiaro, and long pepper.

Uva Wine and Cocktail Bar

Photo Credit: Uva Wine and Cocktail Bar

Some of the city’s best and award-winning bartenders have showcased their talent at Uva Wine and Cocktail Bar. It continues to be a consistently good choice for cocktails in the city with an expert blend of the classic and the inventive. Take a seat at its well-appointed bar and watch bartenders make you a Paper Plane, with Aperol, Buffalo Trace bourbon, Amaro Montenegro, and lemon juice, or a Pangea with Famous Grouse smoky black blended Scotch whisky, Bols Apricot Brandy, pear juice, lemon juice, almond bitters, and ginger candy.

OTHER OUTSTANDING OPTIONS

Botanist Bar and The Lobby Lounge & Raw Bar

Photo Credit: Botanist Bar

Both located in the Fairmont Pacific Rim, Botanist Bar and The Lobby Lounge & Raw Bar are critically acclaimed venues for cocktails. The former is found within Botanist Restaurant, and is very much resonant with the restaurant’s celebration of diverse West Coast ingredients. Cocktails have a culinary focus, such as the Botanist martini with a coastal gin blend, house vermouth, seaborne tincture, oyster leaf, and vegan caviar, or Scarborough Fair with green chartreuse, bitter bianco, fino sherry, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Hospitality is warm, attentive, and knowledgeable.

Meanwhile, The Lobby Lounge in the high-ceilinged main floor of the hotel offers a serene space for enjoying a cocktail or two. Drinks, such as the Geisha with vodka, strawberry, elderflower, Chambord, and lime, are tailored to pair well with their outstanding sushi selections.

Grapes and Soda

Photo Credit: Grapes & Soda

This charming rustic spot is next door to award-winning Farmer’s Apprentice in the South Granville neighbourhood. The same spotlighting of the local and the artisanal drives the food and drink programs at Grapes and Soda. In addition to bottled cocktail selections, the curated cocktail list includes the Bongga Ka Day, with Filipino rum, calamansi, calpico, basil, cucumber, lemongrass and kafir lime, as well as the Uguisu with sorrel, Japanese gin, Junmai sake, green chartreuse, génépy, and yuzu.

Tocador

Photo Credit: Tocador

Main Street in Mount Pleasant has spots aplenty for lively drinking. Tocador, which specializes in elevated, yet approachable Latin American cuisine, has become known for their great cocktails. Visit the restaurant for an expertly crafted pisco sour, or a creative take on a classic, such as the charred pineapple margarita or lemongrass julep. Or, try one of their refreshing house creations, like the Tocororo with paprika-infused El Jimador tequila, habanero bitters, fresh lime, and ginger beer.

1927 Lobby Lounge

Photo Credit: Rosewood Hotel Georgia

Tucked away in the Rosewood Hotel Georgia, the 1927 Lobby Lounge is an under-the-radar treat. Bartenders in this refined space craft retro cocktails that speak to the history of this beautiful hotel. Enjoy nightly live music (6 to 9pm in the main lobby) along with the Hotel Georgia cocktail, a concoction of Broker’s gin, orgeat, lemon, orange blossom water, egg white, and nutmeg dust, which was created in 1951 and recently brought back when the hotel relaunched.

The Bar at The Victor

Photo Credit: The Victor

Parq Vancouver offers numerous options for imbibing, including D/6 Bar & Lounge, Centre Bar, and Lotus Lounge. Meanwhile, the luxuriant elegance of the bar at The Victor lends itself to cocktail drinking. You’ll have lots to tempt you from their Cocktail Book. If it’s a hot day, sip on a refreshing Uva Chilena with Pisco El Gobernador, St.-Germain, lemon muddled red grapes, and sparkling wine, or if you’re in the mood for something smoky, get their negroni with dark chocolate infused Botanist gin, Antica Formula, Campari, and chocolate bitters, garnished playfully with a Pocky stick.

THE NEWEST COCKTAIL SPOTS: PLAYFUL AND CREATIVE

The Chickadee Room

Photo Credit: The Chickadee Room

Fried chicken and cocktails, yes please! This Chinatown spot features nightly live music (6pm to 9pm) and the option to order food from next door sister restaurant Juke Fried Chicken (which also serves delicious ribs). Drinks at The Chickadee Room are fun and creative, such as this summer’s Konami Code with El Jimador Reposado Tequila, Aperol, mango, chili, lemon, peach bitters, and ginger beer.

Bar Susu

Photo Credit: Sarah Annand

The team behind Published on Main also operates Bar Susu, a whimsical buzzy spot specializing in natural wine and small plates that make local ingredients revelatory. You’ll always find something interesting to drink here, whether it’s unique natural wine pours, or playful cocktails drawing upon bartenders’ travels and fond personal experiences. For example, a Glass Kage of Jordbær, with akvavit, amaro blend No. 2, and House of Funk coffee with coconut and strawberry, was inspired by a visit to a bakery in Copenhagen.

Laowai

Photo Credit: Laowai

Behind Blnd Tgr, a dumpling joint, you’ll find the speakeasy Laowai. Taking Prohibition Era Shanghai as its inspiration, Laowei creates cocktails that are both historically contextualized as well as grounded in modern cocktail craft. Cocktails are centred on people who played an (unrecognized) role in Chinese culture and history, such as Shura Giraldi, an intersex Russian refugee who operated a Beijing nightclub. Giraldi’s cocktail—From Russia with Love—contains Hennessy VS Cognac, a coffee maple stout reduction, and Bittermens Xocolatl mole bitters.

VV Tapas

Photo Credit: Tara Lee

This slightly off-the-grid spot is a gem. VV Tapas‘ striking modern room is complemented by warm service and delicious food and drink. Their choose-your-own cheese and charcuterie plate is always a good option but other small plates such as the umami-rich wild mushroom risotto are worth an order. In addition to the local-focused and international wine list, they have a curated selection of cocktails, such as the ironically named Don’t Waste Your Time, with cucumber-infused Ampersand gin, thyme syrup, lemon, and soda or the Life’s Too Port with bourbon, 10-year tawny port, Averna amaro, lemon, vegan foamer, and chocolate bitters.

The Jungle Room

Photo Credit: The Jungle Room

The Jungle Room, situated in the West End, offers a lavish cocktail experience. Invoking the lushness of a jungle while still adhering to a modern design aesthetic, this establishment features signature as well as classic cocktails. Popular are the Jungle Boogie with Flor de Caña 4 Yr rum, Campari, house-churned pineapple sorbet, lime, and cava, as well as their table side service for drinks such as old fashioneds and classic martinis.

The Stock Room

Photo Credit: The Stock Room

Freehouse Collective (formerly known as the Donnelly Group) operates numerous bars in the city, including Clough Club, their vintage cocktail hideaway in Gastown. Their latest venture is The Stock Room, a speakeasy cocktail bar accessed via Hundy, a very likeable burger and beer joint. Besides classic cocktails such as negronis and Manhattans, you can order one of their fruit-forward house cocktails, such as Ahh Pamplemousse! with fandango mezcal, Cointreau, agave, lime, and Fever-Tree sparkling pink grapefruit.

Please! Tasting House

Photo Credit: Mark Yuen Visuals

The newest fun spot on Main Street is Please! Tasting House, brought to the neighbourhood by the popular Please! Beverage Co. This pretty establishment features small batch premium cocktails on tap, which you can enjoy by the glass or as a flight. Fans of the company can order a favourite, such as the Mango Sticky Rice, Grapefruit Paloma, or Green Tea Fizz. They also have new concoctions like Garden Social, a gin-based iced tea as well as infused vodkas, such as coconut pandan and osmanthus flower.

Mount Pleasant Vintage & Provisions

Photo credit: Tara Lee

As one of the coolest spots to open in the last couple years, Mount Pleasant Vintage & Provisions is well worth a visit. From the exterior it looks like an unassuming white heritage home, but once inside you’ll discover an expansive dining area, in addition to two laidback patio areas. The drinking here is easy and maximizes nostalgic vibes, such as with the Five Alive, with Altos Blanco, Aperol, mandarin sherbet, passionfruit, and lime, or the Cinnamon Toast Punch with Reifel Rye and cereal-infused coconut milk. Snack on tater tots, and enjoy.

The Boxcar

Photo Credit: The Boxcar

Natural wine, local craft beer, and fun cocktails can be found at The Boxcar. Order pizza from next door Pizzeria Farina, take a seat at one of the picnic benches on their patio, and order an Oaxacan Dreamsicle with mezcal, orange cordial, vanilla, lemon, mole bitters, and vegan foamer, or a Strawberry Crush with strawberry gin, mezcal, lemon, mint syrup, and Tajin.

Bartholomew

Photo Credit: Bartholomew

This Yaletown spot opened in 2019 and features gorgeous interiors, charcuterie and cheese boards for sharing, as well as an extensive drink list. Bartholomew‘s negroni and old fashioned tours offer 6 options apiece (e.g., the Mumbai old fashioned with John Paul single malt, John Walker black, chai, and cumin bitters), while they also offer house concoctions with plenty of interest. Go for the Saffron with Barsol Pisco, East India Solero Sherry, saffron cordial, egg white, and malbec, or the Geranium with Aperol, yellow chartreuse, the Woods Chiaro Amaro, fresh orange, and essence of geranium.

Happy imbibing in Vancouver!

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