‘I don’t want to be a dreamer’: These former set decorators are disrupting the landscape of gin distilling in North Vancouver

Copperpenny Distillery looks like a stunning cocktail lounge but it’s the behind the scenes work that sets them apart.

You won’t find any wide shots of the room on social media because like with their gin, the couple aims to take people by surprise. | @copperpennydistilling/Instagram

One of the statement pieces of Copperpenny Distilling Co.‘s emerald and gold, peacock-esque cocktail lounge is a bunny lamp that made the 7,581 km trek from London to North Vancouver segmented in co-owner and mistress of distilling Jennifer Kom-Tong’s hand luggage. The shade, stashed under the seat in front of her, forced Kom-Tong to spend the nine-hour flight with her legs shoved to the side—but it was worth it.

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Saanich distiller changes names as whisky dispute settled

A Saanich distillery has settled a long-running branding dispute with the Scotch Whisky Association.

Graeme Macaloney with some of his distillery’s products. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

A Saanich distillery has settled a long-running branding dispute with the Scotch Whisky Association.

Graeme Macaloney, who has operated Macaloney Brewer and Distillers since 2016, is slightly changing his distillery’s name and re-labelling some of his brands, moving away from popular names and places in his native Scotland. The Scotch Whisky Association claimed the brands were misleading, making Canadians believe the whisky was made in Scotland.

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Drinks in the Desert: Coachella Edition

Whether you’re catching Coachella this weekend or heading to the Palm Springs area for some spring sun, here’s where to taste the hot drinks scene.

The vintage inspired bar at Bar Cecil is one of the most coveted seats in town. Photo courtesy of Bar Cecil.

Modern Cocktails

For proper cocktails, head uptown the small, dark and sexy new Tailor Shop (look for the vintage sewing machine in the green hedge). If they’re wheeling the cart, have an Old Fashioned mixed at the table, or declare your Canadian cred with a Spifflicated Butterfly starring Empress 1908 Gin. Japanese whisky and mixology fans should head straight to Sandfish (same owners), a sushi restaurant with inventive cocktails and a killer whisky list topped with Yamazaki. On the LGBTQ-friendly strip of bars on Arenas Road, choose Blackbook for a seriously comprehensive, bourbon-heavy whisky list.

The toughest reservation in town is Bar Cecil, where you want to be sitting at the pretty vintage-inspired bar ordering a French 75 Regal, topped with Moët & Chandon. Truss & Twine‘s big, horseshoe bar is a late-night industry hang, and serves an excellent Hanky Panky. In the same uptown ‘hood, the poolside Colony Club bar at the Colony Palms hotel and the house Negroni on Birba‘s patio are also worthy stops. In a town with few rooftop bars, the High Bar at the Rowan Hotel is a mountain-view, poolside spot to grab a drink..

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Beyond Mezcal: Distilled and Fermented in Mexico

Dip into the back bar, behind-the-counter and unlabelled jugs of fermented and distilled goodies on your next visit to Mexico or the southern U.S.

A flight of blanco or unaged agave spirits at Nómada in San José del Cabo. In a flight they can look benign—just several glasses of colourless liquid—but be prepared for weird flavours, aromas and textures. Charlene Rooke photo

Like many Western Canadians, I’ve been to Mexico too many times to count—but typically on holidays, not at work as a drinks writer and educator. On my latest trip, I was determined to go beyond margaritas, and way beyond even some of the excellent agave spirits we’re now able to purchase in Canada. Here’s what I found.

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Aki’s Tea

Aki’s Tea cocktail by Reece Sims. Reece Sims photos

The Audience Choice winner at Vancouver Cocktail Week‘s Fun City Gala, this cocktail is inspired by Aki Restaurant, which opened in Vancouver in 1963 and was the first Japanese-Canadian owned Japanese restaurant in Vancouver. 

Born in Steveston, Richmond, a young Aki Takeuchi and his family fled to Osaka, Japan, early in the Second World War, avoiding the internment camps. He returned to Canada as an adult, settling in Vancouver.

When Takeuchi opened Aki Restaurant he was the first to bring authentic Japanese food to Vancouver. At the time, the few other Japanese restaurants in existence only served cooked food and were more like a Chinese-Japanese fusion style of cuisine. Takeuchi was the first to serve raw fish in his restaurant.

The restaurant could not obtain a liquor license and so they would hide saké in teapots. This cocktail celebrates Japanese culture in Vancouver with a Japanese Gin, Saké and tea-focused drink.

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Great world bars we love: Johnnie Walker Princes Street, Edinburgh

Photo courtesy of Johnnie Walker/Diageo

There are few places I’d rather be right now than the Explorers’ Bothy at Johnnie Walker Princes Street in Edinburgh. This glam new rooftop whisky bar not only features stunning views of the Edinburgh skyline, it also offers 150 different drams to sample. Then again, its neighbour, 1820, has equally breathtaking views and craft cocktails. Hmm, which to choose?

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Vancouver Cocktail Week: Nerd Edition

For those in the tiny club of Canadian drinks journalists, an event like Vancouver Cocktail Week (VCW) provides a rare opportunity to nerd out on niche, unexplored and trending topics in drinks.

While professional drinks writers regularly get to sample spirits, taste cocktails and interview bartenders and experts, rare are the opportunities to, well… completely nerd out. My friends tire pretty quickly of a nuanced debate on which Italian amari is more bitter, the ideal proportions of a house vermouth blend for a Manhattan and the finer points of making directionally frozen, diamond-clear ice. But at VCW 2022, all this and more was possible—served up with guided tastings and dinners were seminars deep-dive enough to satisfy even minutiae-thirsty writers and drinks superfans.

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Vancouver bar at centre of $40K whisky seizure denied procedural fairness, judge rules

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has order the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch to hand over documents about a seizure of alcohol from Fets Whisky Kitchen in Vancouver.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ordered the Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch to give a Vancouver restaurant records relevant to the 2018 seizure of 242 bottles of scotch whisky.

Justice Nathan Smith ruled March 14 that Fets Whisky Kitchen had been denied documents the Commercial Drive eatery needed to address the seizures.

“I find that Fets was entitled to fully argue the issue based on a complete evidentiary record and that the denial of full access to documents relating to the branch’s investigation was a breach of procedural fairness,” Smith said.

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A final toast to VCW 2022

The bartending team at A Botany of Brunch.

We learned, we tasted, we socialized, we drank deeply of cocktail culture. Heck, we even danced a little.

The first ever Vancouver Cocktail Week presented by The Alchemist has just wrapped up, and plans are already in the works for next year—mark your calendars now for VCW 2023, March 5 to 11!

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