The second annual festival brought global bar stars and festive good times to the city
It began, as all good things do, with brunch, and wrapped with one of the best parties Vancouver has ever seen. Vancouver Cocktail Week 2023, presented by The Alchemist, has come to an end, so let’s raise a glass to the week that was, and to what’s ahead.
This was the second annual iteration of the festival. The first, held last March, marked the end of pandemic lockdowns and restrictions. This year’s VCW was a joyful celebration of the terrific cocktail culture here in Vancouver and around the world—and the resilience of this dynamic community.
Nearly 6o events were held throughout the week, which was held March 5 to 12. Almost all of them were quickly sold out and dozens of global bar stars flew in to take part, including brand ambassadors, distillers and bartenders, as well as the cross-country finalists for Diageo’s World Class Canada competition.
Among them were: Lynnette Marrerro, creator of the world’s first all-female speed bartending competition, Speed Rack; Tim Phillips-Johansson, global brand ambassador for Johnnie Walker and World Class Bartender of the Year 2012; Simon Ford, founder of Fords Gin; Takuya Ito and Rogerio Igarashi Vaz of Japan’s absinthe-and-whisky-focused Bar Trench; Dennis Tamse, global relationships director, Nolet Distillery and Ketel One Vodka; and Christina Veira, general manager of Bar Mordecai (No. 47 on North America’s 50 Best Bars).
They led seminars, hosted dinners, spoke at special events and popped up at the dozens of Cinq à Sept happy hours around town. These unticketed events saw VCW partner bars and restaurants packed with revelers on what would otherwise have been the quietest nights of the week. There may even have been a few secret guest shifts for industry only. That’s just the kind of community building we love best.
The week culminated with the Golden Era Cocktail Revival Gala, held Saturday night at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver’s elegant Pacific Ballroom. A happy crowd decked out in velvet jackets, sequinned dresses and other swish cocktail attire milled around the 40 cocktail stations that poured everything from classic Espresso Martinis to Bar Trench’s exciting Sazerac highball to innovative all-new cocktails.
Browse the Golden Era Cocktail Revival Gala image gallery:
Along with the DJ, live band and dancing, the evening’s entertainment included the thrilling final speed round of World Class Canada and the announcement of Canada’s Best Bartender 2023, Toronto’s Jacob Martin, who heads to Sao Paulo, Brazil, in September to compete in the global final. Congratulations to all the competitors—Canada truly has an immensely talented bartending community!
Also quietly announced were the winners of the BC Hospitality Foundation-VCW scholarship for studies in spirits or cocktails: Joe Casson of Bar Susu and Jessica Giroux of Clive’s Classic Lounge in Victoria. All the candidates were immensely qualified, making this an especially tough decision; congratulations to them both!
We’ve already started planning for next year’s event, scheduled for March 3 to 10, 2024, and you should, too. Be sure to follow along here and on our social channels so you can get all the latest info on what’s planned for VCW24.
—by Joanne Sasvari