Business in the back, party in the front

Distillery tasting rooms are some of the hottest cocktail bars in B.C. Here are a few to try in the Vancouver area.

The tasting room at Surrey’s Central City Brewers & Distillers is a welcoming space to sample spirits and enjoy a cocktail or two. Duncan Joseph photo.

Distillery visits aren’t just for spirits geeks—although staff (even the distillers) are usually keen to tour guests through the production line. Even micro-distilleries now offer flights, cocktails and tastings, some spiked with snacks or entertainment. More reasons to visit: You can buy bottles right from the source, including seasonal and limited releases, only-at-the-distillery products (such as collaborations with local brewers or food producers) and even cocktail accoutrements. Since many distillery tasting rooms are small, family-run affairs, call ahead or check social media for hours, especially if your group is more than a few or would like a tour.

Central City Brewers & Distillers

Vibe: Thrill of discovering an elite, cosmopolitan distillery inside a cavernous suburban brewery.

What’s new: Curvy new bottle for Queensborough Gin plus Gin Twst and Gin Fizz can cocktails.

Single malt whisky starts its life as beer: get the whole birth-to-barrel cycle at Central City, two-time winner of Canadian Brewery of the Year, and a medal-winning distillery for its Lohin McKinnon whiskies and Queensborough Gin. A pubby tasting room features beer pints and flights, and a clubby tasting lounge offers concoctions from brand ambassador Christos Kalaitzis (an award-winning mixologist in Greece and the UK). Cocktails are $8, and spirits tastings are $2 for a half-ounce or $6 for a two-ounce pour.

11411 Bridgeview Dr., Surrey,
Monday to Friday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m to 9 p.m. (tours S/S at 1, 3 and 5 p.m., book at ext. 131)

Make Christos Kalaitzis’ Salted Caramel Rob Roy. 

Odd Society Spirits

A funky vintage vibe infuses the tasting room at Odd Society Spirits. Cause and Affect photo.

Vibe: East Van motorcycle garage turned steampunk Victorian speakeasy.

What’s new: House ginger beer and more award-winning whisky releases this spring.

While sampling, you might spot the vintage Italian recipe book behind the bar that inspired the complex Bittersweet Vermouth. Select it as part of a tasting range including vodka, white or aged gin, Crème de Cassis, Mongrel (white dog) or Mia Amata amaro ($7 for three spirits). Cocktails like the Wallflower Gin and Tonic Sour are around $10; light snacks available. Watch social media for Thursday music nights and special spirit/cocktail event announcements.

1725 Powell St., Vancouver,
Thursday 1 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 1 to 11 p.m., Sunday 1 to 6 p.m. (happy hour 4 to 6 p.m. T/F)

Make Mia Glanz’s Ambrosia. 

Resurrection Spirits

Vibe: Hip, airy east-side cocktail bar with killer mixology.

What’s new: Sustainability rules here, with glass straws and other low-waste bar/distillery practices.

A nondescript exterior masks this lofty manufacturing space (stills in the back, aging barrels upstairs) with glass-decanter light fixtures twinkling over a vast lounge, animated by local hipsters and wall-projected films. Former Pourhouse ’tender Briant Grant is a co-owner, and bar legend David Wolowidnyk lends his sharp palate to the distillery. The cocktail menu features the signature White Rye in an apple-thyme Old Fashioned and an elevated Rye and Ginger. Inventive snacks include crispy chicharrones and spicy pumpkin seeds.

1672 Franklin St., Vancouver, (tour bookings)
Thursday to Saturday, 6 p.m. to 12 a.m.

Sons of Vancouver Distillery

The tiny, industrial-chic tasting room at North Vancouver’s Sons of Vancouver offers a secret cocktail list. Lucy-kate Armstrong photo

Vibe: North Shore quirky, with a soundtrack of vintage piano and eclectic vinyl.

What’s new: Spring cocktail menu of drinks by local bartenders “way more talented than us.”

As if generous sample pours and two-ounce cocktails (up to $12) don’t make for enough fun here, there’s a secret tiki cocktail list hidden in your gold-embossed vintage leather menu cover, made by nearby Old English Bindery. If co-owners James Lester or Richard Kraus aren’t behind the bar, their tiki-mug visages are always there in spirit. SOV’s amaretto and vodka stand out in everything from a Cocchi-upgraded martini to a Forbidden Spicy Pineapple spiked with dangerous Chili Vodka.

1431 Crown St., North Vancouver,
Friday 5 to 9 p.m., Saturday 1 to 9 p.m., Sunday 1 to 5 p.m.

The Woods Spirit Company

Vibe: Nouveau-Italian designer, with rose-gold wire light fixtures matching a cool carved-wood ceiling.

What’s new: The tasting room debuts this spring, along with a fresh Cascade Gin.

The Woods Spirit Co. is just a short stumble through the back alley from SOV (its signature Pacific Northwest amaro was actually initially produced there). The tasting counter in The Woods’ new home base will showcase the nicely bitter-edged amaro in cocktails, with more spirits (gin, whisky and perhaps a barrel-aged amaro) to come. Owner Fabio Martini hopes to make the tasting room a “hub or base for community activities,” like the local foraging tours he used to lead, pre-spiritual life.

1450 Rupert St., North Vancouver,
Scheduled to open sometime in April; Friday, Saturday and Sunday 1 to 6 p.m.

Long Table Distillery

The focal point at Long Table Distillery is indeed a long table—and the gleaming copper still behind it. Jennifer Gauthier photo.

Vibe: False Creek industrial chic, a quick ferry hop from Granville Island.

What’s new: Rye-barrel-aged akvavit, a fifth-anniversary rum later this year.

Pull up a stool around the eponymous 14-foot sequoia slab to sip spirits like the cleverly named Långbord (Long Table in Norwegian) Akvavit, savoury Linnaeus Amaro No. 1 or lemongrass-tinged Texada Vodka in flights or creative cocktails (around $10). Signature G&Ts with a range of gins are happy-hour hits, along with small snacks. Shop for cocktail equipment, mixers, bitters, books and bottles (including cute mini-bottles of spirits).

1451 Hornby St., Vancouver,
Wednesday/Thursday (tastings and bottle sales only) 1 to 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday 1 to 9 p.m. (cocktails after 3 p.m., happy hour 3 to 5 p.m. F/Sat)

Make The Joyce, created by Tarquin Melnyk.

—by Charlene Rooke

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