Perfect Pairings

Why cocktails might just make a better partner for food than wine

Vancouver Cocktail Week opened with a perfectly paired brunch at Botanist Restaurant. Here an egg yolk raviolo and crisp serrano ham partner with a cocktail of gin, citrus and a green tea ginger cordial. Jana Bizzarri photo

Move over Pinot, Tempranillo and Albariño. Wine pairings are fine, but cocktails are increasingly gaining recognition for the role they can play in taking a dining experience to the next level.

The growing trend was on full, tantalizing display during Vancouver Cocktail Week 2022, with cocktail-paired brunches and dinners at spots like Botanist, Tableau Bar Bistro and Carlino proving to be particularly popular. 

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Cocktail Pairing Rules

Here’s what you need to know before shaking up a list of cocktails to go with your next dinner party menu.

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• Keep an eye on the alcohol content. It’s socially responsible and besides, too high an ABV will dull the palate and overwhelm delicate flavours. Include low- and no-proof drinks in your lineup.

Bittered drinks, like the Negroni or Boulevardier, are designed to whet the appetite, and should be served with savoury appetizers.

• Just as high-acid wines are the food-friendliest, the tart flavour of citrus-forward drinks can complement a wide range of foods.

• White spirits and fresh herbs go best with lighter dishes like seafood and fresh summer greens.

• Darker spirits like whisky, brandy or aged rum go best with red meat. A rye Manhattan is classic with grilled steak while a bourbon Old Fashioned is ideal with BBQ pork.

• One easy shortcut is to match a region’s spirit to its cuisine, for instance: sake-based cocktails with Japanese cuisine; tequila ones with Mexican; rum with Caribbean. 

• Dessert cocktails should complement rather than match—a raspberry-flavoured French Martini goes better with chocolate mousse than, say, an Espresso Martini. 

Spirits of compassion

Bartenders and distillers step up to help those in need

Putt for philanthropy at The Keefer Yard mini golf course. Facebook.com/TheKeeferYard photo

What’s better than sipping a finely crafted cocktail? Saying cheers to charity. Several bars and distilleries throughout B.C. are adding a dash of do-good to their drinks; here are just a few.

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Cocktails that tell a story

Three new bars define cocktails, each in their unique way

At Carlino. bar manager Gianluigi Bosco revisits the ingredients he grew up with in Italy. Christopher Giannakos photo

There’s a special camaraderie between keen patron and impassioned bartender. The room design, flavour and atmosphere combine and create fertile ground for storytelling. Luckily, these three new cocktail-forward bars and restaurants that have just opened in Vancouver are more than happy to indulge us. 

We stopped by these hot spots to get a taste of what they’re serving.

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Sippin’ along the Spice Trail

Follow the fragrance of ginger, saffron and cardamom to discover Surrey’s burgeoning cocktail scene

The Badam Da Naasha cocktail from Vikram Vij’s restaurant My Shanti in South Surrey is delicate and sophisticated with the subtle taste of almonds and saffron. It is also beautiful, thanks to its silver leaf garnish. Photo courtesy of My Shanti

Exploring Discover Surrey’s new Culinary Spice Trail has been an excellent way to find terrific new eateries in this booming city, especially South Asian ones. But alongside the dosas, pakoras and momos, there is also an exciting cocktail scene developing here.

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Have you met…?

Introducing Vancouver’s next generation of bar stars

As a hotbed of cocktail culture, Vancouver is home to seasoned bartenders who have wowed on the world stage—and to those who are now stepping up their careers. Here’s an introduction to the next generation of local bar stars, five up-and-coming mixologists to seek out the next time your thirst needs quenching.

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Top 10 cocktail trends for 2022

Our experts weigh in on what—and how—you will be drinking this winter

The Espresso Martini is the retro drink we’re craving right now.
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What’s new? What’s next? In some ways, the pandemic has changed everything about how we drink. In others, it’s only accelerated trends that were already in the works. We checked in with experts both local and global, and here’s what they had to say about the way we’re drinking now and in the months to come.

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Fun in the sun

Playful cocktails in retro formats are just what we’re craving right now

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This summer we plan to party like it’s, well, not pandemic times. In fact, we’re going to have some fun playing with retro cocktails in different formats, like jelly shots and boozy popsicles. I mean, who says a cocktail actually has to be liquid? Here are the nostalgic patio crushers we plan to enjoy all summer long.

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From pop-up to permanent

How the pandemic’s temporary spaces may change our streetscapes forever

Day or night, it’s all fun and games at The Keefer Yard, the patio created from an empty lot next door. Photo courtesy of The Keefer Bar

When restaurants and bars were given the green light last year to open temporary patios in response to the pandemic’s toll, the team at The Keefer Bar didn’t want people sipping cool cocktails on alley benches. In went a mini-putt course, fire tables on custom wooden decks, booths, a disco ball and artist-designed graffiti on the walls. The Keefer Yard was born.

“It feels like you’ve walked out of normal city life and stepped through the doors of Narnia, only it’s an outdoor cocktail bar,” says The Keefer Bar’s media-relations rep, Chantelle Benzies. “I describe it as a daydream.

“Every day we are adapting in ways to make the Yard as memorable of an experience as possible, while also keeping it as safe as possible,” she says. “It feels really nice to be able to offer an exciting experience to the community at a point when many of us need it the most.”

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Divided by design

Stylish partitions go beyond Plexiglas

Stylish dividers add character while keeping guests safe at The Heatley. Photo courtesy of The Heatley

Plexiglas is so 2020.

With dividers now the norm in restaurants and bars, more places are getting creative with their pandemic shields. As long as partitions are “washable, rigid and impermeable” and measure at least 1.2 metres from the tabletop, pretty much anything goes.

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