Sip in style at Vancouver’s best speakeasy bars

Back in the 1920s during Prohibition, Americans had to sneak into speakeasies if they wanted a drink. While the speakeasy-style bars on this list may be similarly low profile, it’s now for show rather than out of necessity. Find your way into one of these semi-secret Vancouver establishments today and you’ll be free to enjoy some standout cocktails without the threat of being arrested. [Image credit:]

Pourhouse Restaurant

162 Water St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1B2

Occupying a 100-year-old building in historic Gastown, Pourhouse’s cozy, wood-panelled interior has speakeasy written all over it. Low-key lighting and a 38-foot bar made of reclaimed wooden planks add to the feel, but it’s the drinks that take centre-stage here. The cocktail menu offers a mix of classics and creativity, from the gimlet and mai tai to an Oaxaca old fashioned and Silver Fizz. The wine selection lets you explore new styles while the beer list includes several interesting B.C. microbrews. Elevated pub food and live jazz on Sunday nights round out the experience.


801 Georgia St W, Vancouver, BC V6C 1P7

While this establishment in the stately Rosewood Hotel Georgia may be a bit more opulent than any speakeasy ever was, Prohibition does deliver a Roaring Twenties ambiance with its decadent decor, shimmering chandelier and regular live music. What the interior lacks in restraint, its suitably obscure entrance makes up for – an unmarked wooden door on Howe Street with a single green light above it to indicate whether the bar is open or not. Step inside and you’ll be treated to expertly prepared cocktails and, on many nights, top-notch local jazz.

Guilt & Co.

1 Alexander St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1B2

Tucked away in the basement below Gastown’s Chill Winston, Guilt & Company is a standout local music venue that slings some mean cocktails. This smallish subterranean hangout boasts live music seven days a week, with an eclectic mix of performers taking the stage, from jazz and blues to folk, soul and cabaret shows. The cocktails are named for songs by famous bands and musicians, so you can enjoy drinks with names like To Zion (Lauryn Hill), Fake Empire (The National) or Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? (Arctic Monkeys).

The Narrow Lounge

1898 Main St, Vancouver, BC V5T 3B7

Like a proper speakeasy, The Narrow Lounge is well hidden behind an unmarked door at the corner of Main Street and 3rd Avenue. The only hint that something lies beyond is a red light above the door – when it’s on, the bar is open. Once you’ve found it, make your way down the stairs to this dimly lit little hideout for good times and excellent cocktails like the Narrow Caesar, Rum Horchata and Bourbon Sour. During the summer months they open a mini “Mexican fiesta patio” where Mount Pleasant hipsters enjoy the warm weather.

The Keefer Bar

135 Keefer St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1X3

When it’s time for cool cocktails in Chinatown, the Keefer Bar is the only address you need to know. Decked out to resemble a Chinese apothecary, this compact establishment exudes Asian cool. Owner and bartender Dani Tatarin plays pharmacist and dispenses top-quality cocktails with exotic ingredients to match the surroundings. Get your prescription filled with a Red Lantern (gin, Lillet Blanc, Cinzano, Maraschino, Angostura and ginseng) or a Dragon Fly (gin, dragonfruit, pearl sake, lemon, ginger syrup and magnolia bark tincture), or go for the popular rosemary gimlet, which is only $5 on Wednesdays!

The Boxcar

917 Main St, Vancouver, BC V6A 2V8

Certainly not a secret anymore, Boxcar is still a unique place for a drink in an interesting part of town. Situated on Main Street just south of the Georgia Viaduct, this long, narrow space used to be a covered driveway alongside the Cobalt Hotel. Today it’s flanked by dive bar/music venue The Cobalt and primo pizza-slingers Pizzeria Farina, for a combination that delivers great food, drinks and music. Boxcar is decidedly more beer-forward than the rest of this list, with 24 taps lining one wall, but the bartenders can mix up whatever you need if a brew isn’t your style.

Hello Goodbye

1120 Hamilton St, Vancouver, BC V6B 2S2

If “underground cocktail club” doesn’t describe a speakeasy, what does? Hello Goodbye Bar fits the description to a T – you enter through a side door on Hamilton Street before descending a red-lit industrial staircase to find yourself in a windowless basement space. But not just any old basement; this one is home to comfy leather booths, live DJs and a team of bartenders serving up sensational cocktails. We suggest trying the Gincident, which combines Tanqueray, Cointreau, Chartreuse, lemon, basil and cucumber. There’s also an extensive champagne selection if the occasion calls for a celebration.

Looking for ideas to celebrate Mom this Mother’s Day? Skip the breakfast in bed and treat her to one of the many special feasts Vancouver’s restaurants have on offer. From decadent brunch to gourmet dinner, these restaurants will help you do Mother’s Day right. [Image courtesy of L’Abattoir]
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