Cocktail culture may be thriving in North America, but you could say Italy invented it with the aperitivo. Drawn from the Latin aperire, meaning “to open,” the term implies much more than a drink to whet the appetite; it’s a ritual of gathering with friends and unwinding after work over drinks and small bites and opening up conversation.
Here in Vancouver, several Italian hot spots are serving aperitivo-inspired cocktails, putting their own spin on la bella vita.
10 things not to do at home—or anywhere, according to CocktailSafe’s Camper English
The Roof is on Fire! That was the name of a dangerous-drinks seminar that San Francisco writer Camper English (of alcademics.com fame) and Bittermens co-founder Avery Glasser gave in 2016 at Tales of the Cocktail. Their warnings on potentially dangerous bartending ingredients, equipment and techniques were so eye-opening, English later nabbed a grant to develop cocktailsafe.org, a geekily helpful website packed with deeply researched information and resources.
“Bartenders on Facebook were chatting a lot about potentially dangerous drinks … and I thought it would be useful to put all this information, and a lot more, in one place as a reference to bartenders everywhere,” he says.
Here are his top 10 red flags for home mixologists—and pros, too.
Shake and mix like a pro with this starter list of essential bar gear
Ask a pro bartender for their must-haves, and the answer might be practical: bar mops (a cheap pack of these thin, absorbent white towels is smart, even for home) and pens. However, the essentials below look more aspirational on your home bar cart: always chic in stainless steel, they’re especially envy-inspiring in on-point finishes from gold and rose gold to gunmetal and matte black. (For a roundup of additional tools for the advanced bartending pro, read here.)
B.C.’s small-batch distillers got crafty in this season, releasing new bottled cocktails, gift packs, special editions and other little goodies—from vermouth to liqueur—ideal for stuffing stockings, or treating yourself to new tastes.
Cocktail lovers have a whole back-bar of B.C. craft cocktails and spirits to taste this holiday season. Mini-bottle sets are a hot commodity: Shelter Point’s 12 Days of Christmas advent calendar sold out, direct from the distillery, in hours. More common are spirit trios, which you can break apart into three little presents, or sample without investing in full-size bottles. Sheringham’s gin trios sell out at Legacy Liquor Store, where Remy Letendre, the buyer for the extensive B.C. craft spirits section, says, “This year, I was excited to see a few brands take part in the ‘tri-pack’ Christmas selection. I think it’s a great way for these craft distilleries to get people to try a wider range of products. The early success of the Esquimalt vermouth tri-pack just shows how people are willing to branch out … for home bartending.”
Looking back at the year that changed Vancouver’s cocktail culture
When Vancouverites look back at 2010, we think of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, a rain-soaked Wayne Gretzky and all those red mittens. But the really big news that year could be found at the bottom of a cocktail glass.
Proper cocktail bars were finally opening all over town. Global spirits brand reps started showing up to dole out samples. The organizers of Tales of the Cocktail reached out to see if Vancouver would be a good site for Tales on Tour. (Spoiler alert: Yes, in 2011 and 2012.) And Imbibemagazine discovered “a Galapagos of mixology, a place where cocktails have evolved independently from the rest of the drinking world.”
Ten years later, we revisit the year that changed the city’s cocktail culture.
Don’t call them mocktails: #spiritfree and #placebo drinks are a growing wellness trend
It gathered speed last year with Sober October before the holiday rush. After ringing in 2020, the trend was undeniable: #Dryuary was in full swing on social media and in the bars and living rooms of the nation, as the so-called sober curious or mindful drinking movement reached a new level of maturity.
Peek inside Vancouver’s secret (and not-so-secret) bars within bars
Vancouver is home to countless cool bars, some dive-y, some hip, some themed—and some full of surprises. A few house separate, completely different rooms that you might not even be aware exist. Here’s a handful of the city’s best bars within bars.
The classic—and sessionable—red wine punch from Bodega on Main
• 1 lemon • 1 orange • 1/2 apple • Handful blackberries • 1 bottle (750 mL) Spanish red wine • 1.5 oz Triple Sec or Grand Marnier • 1.5 oz brandy • 2 oz lemonade • 2 oz orange juice • 6 to 8 oz soda water or 7Up
At Camp Up, smoky and bitter flavours combine in an appealingly dark sipper.
• 0.75 oz Los Siete Misterios Doba Yej mezcal
• 0.75 oz Cazadores blanco tequila • 0.75 oz El Bandarra vermouth • 0.3 oz Legend Naramaro • 0.3 oz Odd Society Mia Amata amaro • Dash Apothecary Bitters Darkness Coffee and Cacao Bitters • Garnish: orange twist