Honouring a Bartender Handshake

Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto represent Canada’s hot bar scene at North America’s 50 Best Bars 2024 in Mexico.

Vancouver’s Botanist Bar was number 24 at north America’s 50 Best bars 2024. Supplied photo

On a balmy night in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, a new North America’s Best Bar 2024 was crowned: Handshake Speakeasy in Mexico City. At the same time, 2024 represented a strong showing for Canadian bars, with seven places landing on the list from the Great White North. Dozens of Canadians representing several bars made the trip to San Miguel de Allende for the ceremony, busily making plans for collabs, guest shifts and pop-ups with their North American and global colleagues in attendance.

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Exploring BC’s best: Over 200 artisan spirits to be featured at BC Distilled

BC Distilled returns (this time at the Italian Cultural Centre) on Saturday, April 13. Photo courtesy of BC Distilled

BC Distilled, Canada’s leading artisan distillery showcase, is set to return from April 10th to 14th, offering a dynamic lineup of events for local enthusiasts of craft spirits. This year, the Main Tasting will be hosted at the Italian Cultural Centre, following the closure of its previous venue, the Croatian Cultural Centre.

Highlights for the week include the highly anticipated Distillers Dinner at Forage, guided whisky tastings with recent Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame inductee Davin De Kergommeaux, and the showcase of 30 distilleries’ products. Additionally, Legacy Liquor will host an on-site pop-up retail shop on April 13th, ensuring attendees can take their favourite spirits home.

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Where to drink right now in New Orleans

Post-Mardi Gras and before Tales of the Cocktail is the best time to visit NOLA: The cocktail scene is hot, and the weather not-yet swampy.

The Brandy Crusta is the crown jewel of Jewel of the South. Facebook.com/jewelfothesouthnola photo

Bar Stars

Jewel of the South

A 20-year vet of the New Orleans bar scene, co-owner Chris Hannah presides most nights over this restaurant bar, shaking up his perfected Brandy Crusta and other iconic drinks. Though you can hit it on a Wednesday for Casual Caviar happy hour, or dine lavishly on the likes of tripe, pig head and beef tongue made into savoury dinner plates, the bar itself hits hard enough to have landed at No. 5 on North America’s 50 Best Bars and be named the Best Bar in the South in 2023.

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A Vancouver Prophecy: New cocktail bar opening in historic downtown basement

It’ll open later this year.

Prophecy, a new cocktail bar in downtown Vancouver, will be opening under Hotel Georgia. Prophecy/Instagram/Kianna Panico/Pexels

A new cocktail bar is coming to downtown Vancouver.

All the way down.

Prophecy will be making its home in Rosewood Hotel Georgia, specifically the “hotel’s historic basement,” according to the new bar’s website.

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Cocktails! Brunch! Music! So much fun!

Vancouver Cocktail Week 2024 began and ended with the signature events you wouldn’t want to miss

Vancouver’s own Evelyn Chick dropped by from Toronto to chat about her new book and serve up her Green Haka Cooler at the Signature Sunday Cocktail Brunch. Gail Nugent photo

From seminars to neighbourhood crawls to cocktail-paired dinners and bar-star guest shifts, Vancouver Cocktail Week presented by The Alchemist has something for everyone who enjoys raising a glass or two. But the biggest, best, most unmissable parties are the signature events that open and close the week—and this year was no exception.

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Sipping, Dining and Learning at Vancouver Cocktail Week

The Baijiu seminar by Hope & Sesame co-founders Bastien Ciocca and Andrew Ho ran through the major styles of baijiu, and how to use it in cocktails. Charlene Rooke photo

The Seminars

Chinatown speakeasy Laowai opened its freezer-style door to an international cohort of bar colleagues, who gave daytime seminars recounting their personal journeys to world-class status, then held court in the evenings with guest shifts showcasing their creations.

On March 3, the co-founders of Chinese bar Hope & Sesame, hospitality school pals Bastien Ciocca and Andrew Ho, recounted their journey bringing the first speakeasy-style modern bar to southern China, in Guangzhou. Today, they have several bars plus a spirits consultancy (catering to the likes of Ralph Lauren’s hospitality group) in their mini-empire, ranging from café-fronted speakeasies to heritage-themed Chinese bars and elegant, tasting-menu cocktail flights. Their San You bars feature all-Chinese spirits and produce, a perfect segue to their brief session on baijiu, the Chinese spirit in which Laowai specializes (with 50-plus bottlings, the largest selection in Canada). Illustrated with bottlings from SinoCan agency, Ciocca and Ho ran through the major styles of baijiu, and how to use it in cocktails. Bartenders in the room took notes on creating split-base cocktail and using baijiu smartly, as in Hope & Sesame’s famous Moutai Milk Punch, a clarified cocktail with Black Forest Cake flavours, served later that night of Laowai.

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The Legacy of Julie Reiner

Raise an International Women’s Day toast to the Drink Masters bar star who inspired a generation of women in the drinks industry

Julie Reiner is a key player in the rebirth of American cocktail culture and an industry mentor. Daniel Krieger photo

Some of us encountered Reiner two decades ago, as the smiling face behind the curved bar at Flatiron Lounge, the first of her pioneering New York craft cocktail bars. Others know the transplanted Hawaiian from her now-shuttered tropical bar Lani Kai or perhaps Pegu Club, which she owned with fellow trailblazer Audrey Saunders. Many others have tippled at Brooklyn’s long-running Clover Club, or at her joyful revamp of vintage Soho bar Milady’s (both which placed on the North America’s Best Bars 2023 list) in Brooklyn.

Yet more fans met her as the voice-of-reason judge on Netflix’s debut 2022 season of Drink Masters (a second season is in the works). Along the way, she became a key player in the rebirth of American cocktail culture and a mentor to its next generation of stars.

I caught up with Reiner recently when her bars popped up for guest shifts at Kimpton Seafire’s Library by the Sea bar on Grand Cayman earlier this year. Reiner and her team gave an inspiring industry talk about mentorship, collaboration and creativity. She unpacked her impactful career while dishing out snacktail-sized Clover Clubs, a drink she helped popularize in the modern age.

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Great world bars we love: The Elephant Room

The Elephant Room’s founder Yugnes Susela leads a team that regularly swaps roles to keep things fresh.

In a city with no shortage of conspicuous cocktail bars, it’s refreshing to see a small, independent establishment gain serious attention. Such is the case with Singapore’s Elephant Room, which made an impressive debut on this year’s Asia’s 50 Best Bars’ extended list, coming in at number 64. A self-described “culture-forward” bar, The Elephant Room is a staunch ambassador for everything India and has been showcasing the diverse flavours, colours and stories of the world’s second-most populous country, by way of Singapore’s Little India.

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