Vancouver’s classic cocktails

There’s now a handful of unique, signature cocktails that make up part of the city’s cultural identity. Pictured: Wildebeest’s Horseradish Sour. Contributed photo

You can’t call something a classic until it’s been kicking around a while. But there’s more to it than that. A classic has a timeless elegance that feels so right, you can’t quite imagine the world without it.

Think Breton stripes, little black dresses, Hemingway’s novels, the Barcelona chair, Frank Sinatra’s velvet vocals and the Manhattan, Old Fashioned or Negroni – the LBDs of the cocktail world.

Here in Vancouver, you might think the cocktail scene is too young to have inspired any classics. You’d be wrong. Here are some of the city’s signature sips.

The Vancouver cocktail. Laura McGuire photo

Vancouver Cocktail (1954)

If the city had a signature cocktail, this would be it: a simply perfect mix of gin, sweet vermouth, Bénédictine and orange bitters. Created in 1954 at the Sylvia Hotel, it disappeared sometime in the 1960s, only to be revived in 2006 by bartender and cocktail historian Steve Da Cruz.

Enjoy it: At top Vancouver cocktail bars.

Recipe here.

The recipe for the hotel Georgia cocktail was discovered in the hotel archives in 2011.

Hotel Georgia (1945)

A decade earlier, the swish Hotel Georgia already had a namesake tipple, a delicate froth of gin, lemon juice, orgeat, orange blossom water and egg white. But it, too, was lost to time until 2011, when Hawksworth Restaurant’s bar manager, Brad Stanton, discovered its ghost lingering in the hotel archives.

Enjoy it: At Rosewood Hotel Georgia’s bars.

Recipe here.

Chambar’s Blue Fig. Scott Little photo

Blue Fig (2004)

When Karri and Nico Schuermans moved from Australia to Vancouver to open Chambar, cocktails were always part of the plan. In 2004, though, Vancouver didn’t have the cocktail scene Sydney did. So they created one, with the help of an Aussie barkeep named David Fesq. His fig-infused gin martini with a side of blue cheese has been on the menu since the beginning. “We have people who come from all over for it,” Karri says.

Enjoy it: At Chambar.

Recipe here

Chartreuse Milkshake. Issha Marie photo

Chartreuse Milkshake (2008)

This “crushable, complex and refreshing” blend of gin, Chartreuse, crème de cacao, chocolate bitters, citrus and egg white was created by Lauren Mote, former UVA bar manager and 2015 Diageo World Class Canada champion, back in 2008 at Chow Restaurant. Not only has it appeared in every menu she’s created since, it’s also been picked up by bartenders worldwide.

Enjoy it: At UVA Wine & Cocktail Bar, and bars in Grand Cayman, Munich and Melbourne.

Recipe here

Port Authority (2011)

Created by the late Derek Vanderheide, bar manager at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia’s 1927 Lobby Lounge, who passed away tragically and suddenly on his 35th birthday. In respect, bartenders all over the city put his elegant chocolate-and-bourbon cocktail on their lists. If you see it, order it to honour a beloved member of the city’s bartending community.

Enjoy it: Anywhere you can find it.


1.5 oz (45 mL) Makers Mark bourbon
0.75 oz (22 mL) Quinto De Crusto LBV Port
0.5 oz (15 mL) crème de cacao or housemade chocolate liqueur
1 barspoon (5 mL) maraschino liqueur
2 dashes Bitter Truth Chocolate Bitters
1 dash Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters

Place all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir well, then strain into a chilled cocktail (martini) glass. If you like, serve with a chocolate garnish. Serves 1.

Wildebeest’s Horseradish Sour. Contributed photo

Horseradish Sour (2012)

Five years ago, Wildebeest restaurant opened, bringing the bone luge and heart tartare into culinary fashion, along with savoury cocktails. Josh Pape’s Horseradish Sour features a crisp tartness balanced with an umami-rich profile that goes exceptionally well with oysters and steak.

Enjoy it: At Wildebeest.

Recipe here

L’Abattoir’s Avocado Gimlet. Contributed photo

Avocado Gimlet (2013)

Who needs avocado toast when you can have this instead? Inspired by a visit to Mexico, L’Abattoir’s former head barman Shaun Layton infused gin with olives and rosemary, mixed it with avocado and created a West Coast classic.

Enjoy it: At L’Abattoir.

Recipe here

The Gerard cocktail. KK Law photo

Gerard (2014)

When Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar opened at Sutton Place, then-bar manager Justin Taylor created this scotch-based drink in homage to the hotel’s dark, cosy Gerard bar. Its whiff of smoke and sweet cherry notes “is perfect for sipping while you sit beside the fireplace on a leather couch and reminisce,” Taylor says.

Enjoy it: At Sutton Place Hotel.

 Recipe here

Robyn Gray’s inception. Contributed photo

Inception (2016)

A white Negroni is captured inside an ice sphere and served in a regular Negroni; as the ice melts, the cocktails intermingle in an ever-changing dream-within-a-dream of flavours. When Prohibition’s co-head bartender Robyn Gray created his Inception cocktail, it made international headlines and became an instant classic.

Enjoy it: At Prohibition.

Recipe: This one is too complicated to make at home.

So, what’s Vancouver’s next great classic cocktail? One thing we know for sure — we can’t wait to taste it.

—by Joanne Sasvari


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