Spirit of Victoria

12 great places to get a drink in the Vancouver Island city

The B.C. Parliament Buildings are the centrepiece of Victoria’s vibrant Inner Harbour. Tourism Victoria photo

You could say that Matt Cooke has distilled the spirit of Victoria into his cocktails. The general manager at OLO Restaurant transforms Vancouver Island spirits and local produce into the kind of creatively food-friendly sippers that complement chef-owner Brad Holmes’ fresh comfort food so well. There’s often whisky or gin—Victorians love the smoky and botanical flavours of the British Isles—and a subtle nod to the classics. At the same time, Cooke conjures flavours that are completely new, and often made from scratch.

And he’s not alone. Despite its relatively small size, with a population about an eighth of Vancouver’s, Victoria has a vibrant cocktail scene that makes it truly a great place to get a drink, especially at these 12 watering holes.

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Elevate your holiday cocktails with Blackpool Spiced Rum

Nicole MacKay photo

Lemon Hart & Son was established in 1804 with the creation of its iconic British-style rum, aptly named 1804. Times were exciting then, Beethoven was performing symphonies in Vienna, ‘Mad’ King George III ruled Britain and the world’s population had just reached 1 billion. Today, nearing its 215th birthday, the 1804 lends its traditional base to Lemon Hart’s fuller-bodied counterpart. A rich, Demerara style Spiced Rum.

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Perfect Pears

Fall’s favourite tree fruit makes a great addition to autumnal cocktails

Perfectly preserved pears, from left, as purée, in syrup or dehydrated into chips. Dan Toulgoet photo

There is a sublime comfort in autumn, as the breezy aroma of fallen leaves wafts away the smoke of our sultry summer. One of my favourite things to do in the fall is to cruise out to the local farmers markets and fill my basket with delicious local fruits and vegetables. As a cocktail maker, I love loading up on things that I can preserve and keep around through what is sure to be another cold, wet and dreary Vancouver winter.

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Cognac & Pear Brulée

Justin Taylor’s Cognac & Pear Brulée. Dan Toulgoet photo

• 1.5 oz. Remy Martin VS Cognac
• 0.5 oz Bénédictine liqueur
• 1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 0.75 oz pasteurized liquid egg white
• 1 oz caramelized pear purée (see note)
• 2 dashes Angostura bitters
• 1 tsp cinnamon sugar

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Mezcal Mule

Justin Taylor’s Mezcal Mule. Dan Toulgoet photo

• 2 oz mezcal
• 0.25 oz jalapeño and pear syrup (see note)
• 0.5 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
• 4 oz ginger beer, preferably Dickie’s

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Chuzzlewit’s Pear

Justin Taylor’s Chuzzlewit’s Pear. Dan Toulgoet photo

• ¼ Anjou pear
• 0.5 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 0.75 oz blended scotch whisky
• 0.75 oz amontillado sherry
• 0.5 oz Sons of Vancouver amaretto
• 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

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A knockout read

Blood, Sweat & Beers celebrates Aprons for Gloves, a noon-profit organization that provides community outreach in the Downtown Eastside.

In 2012, a handful of local bartenders slipped on some boxing gloves and started fighting for a cause. Aprons for Gloves, they called it, a non-profit organization with the aim of providing community outreach in the Downtown Eastside through the sweet science of boxing and the annual Restaurant Rumble charity boxing match.

Now there’s a gorgeous hardcover book celebrating the event: Blood, Sweat & Beers is written by wine writer and boxer Laura Starr and features some 450 photos by Guy Roland, who has been documenting the event since the beginning.

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