Take yourself on cocktail safari in Gastown

With its award-winning, internationally renowned bartenders and reputation for innovative drinks, Vancouver is blessed with a vibrant cocktail culture. The beating heart of its shaken-and-stirred empire is in Gastown, where you’ll find any number of excellent bars to enjoy some seriously delicious and thoughtfully crafted cocktails. Although it’s hard to play favourites, here are a few of my can’t-miss cocktail spots.

Wildebeest Restaurant

1
A-120 Hastings St W, Vancouver, BC V6B 1G8

One of the city’s consistently excellent restaurants, Wildebeest also boasts a killer cocktail program thanks to the talents of Josh Pape. The bartenders don’t take themselves too seriously at Wildebeest; after all, they were the first in the city to install a slushie machine for making gloriously boozy frozen drinks. Try the deliciously bright and bubbly Improved Spagliato, made with Campari sorbet, Italian Vermouth, grapefruit and sparkling wine. Alternatively, order up some food and pair with a Mucho Verde made with Mezcal, celery juice, tarragon, agave and lime.

Pidgin Restaurant

2
350 Carrall St, Vancouver, BC V6B 2J3

It’s hard to say which is best at Pidgin: the beautiful cocktails or delicious food. I say, the only way to decide is to have plenty of both! The team here excels at savoury cocktails that pair perfectly with the bold flavours and delicate presentation of chef Shin Suzuki’s menu. Push your taste buds to an exciting new frontier with a Ronin, made with nori-scotch, St Germain elderflower liquer, dry vermouth and escabeche oil.

L'Abattoir

3
217 Carrall St, Vancouver, BC V6B 2J2

You’ll see a queue building around 5:15pm before the doors open at 5.30pm for L’Abattoir’s excellent Happy Hour. If you can score a seat at the compact bar, get ready to imbibe in cut-price cocktails and 50 per cent off appies. Missed Happy Hour? No need to be blue; choose from classics such as a refreshing Paper Plane (made with equal parts of lemon, bourbon, amaro and Aperol), or try one of their original creations such as an Amaretto Sour Refashioned made with locally distilled Sons of Vancouver No. 82 Amaretto, Martini bianco vermouth, lemon, egg white and tonka bean.

Pourhouse Restaurant

4
162 Water St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1B2

As well as being the home to one of the city’s finest burgers, the Pourhouse is also an essential stop for classic cocktails done exactly by the book. They specialize in boozy spirit-forward creations here. Unlike many other Vancouver bars, you’ll not find much in the way of house-made tinctures and bitters. Instead, take a drinky adventure into the past with classic libations such as the Sidecar, which features an intoxicating blend of brandy, cointreau and lemon. If you’re looking for something modern, I love the Desperados Under the Eaves, made with American rye, mezcal, cyan and PH root bitters.

The Diamond

5
6 Powell St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1E7

The talented bartenders at The Diamond shine brightly (as the name would suggest) when it comes to making boozy cocktails, and there’s nowhere in town with a better view over the shenanigans in Gastown. Climb the stairs and make a choice: do you feel like drinking in the elegant main room or the smaller ‘Happy Hour’ room with its rambunctious dive-bar vibe? Either way, you’re guaranteed a delicious drink made by knowledgeable and passionate staff. Challenge yourself to drink your way through the extensive menu, which features innovative original libations alongside nostalgic classics.

Vancouver is a super-casual place, which is great when all you want to do is slob around in yoga pants but not so good when you want to get dressed up a little and feel fancy. However, there is an easy fix to that sartorial problem – a night out at a hotel bar. I adore the glamorous ambiance of a ritzy hotel bar. Slip into your finery and enjoy a cocktail at my fave spots in town. [Photo courtesy of Hawksworth Restaurant]
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