Pimm’s Cup

Justin Taylor’s version of the classic Pimm’s Cup. Jennifer Gauthier photo.

At The Cascade Room, manager and bartender Justin Taylor makes this vibrant version of Pimm’s Cup with added zing from ginger beer rather than traditional sparkling lemonade. You could also use Sprite or ginger ale if you prefer.

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Order up

How to get the right drink in a bar

At Coquille Fine Seafood, Shaun Layton has created a light, bright, classic-based bar list. Order accordingly. Dan Toulgoet photo

You’re thirsty. There’s a bar full of things to drink. You’d think nothing would be simpler than quenching your thirst, right? Not so fast.

We’ve all had those disappointing cocktails that left us wondering what went wrong. That’s because there’s an art to ordering a drink, a good drink at least, and it’s both simple and complex.

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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.

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Whisky raid

Why did BC LCLB agents seize an estimated $150,000 in whisky? And could it happen to your favourite tipple, too?

Provincial liquor inspectors remove bottles of whisky from Fets Whisky Kitchen in Vancouver. Fets Whisky Kitchen photo.

It was a scene that might have been straight out of Prohibition—were this not 2018.

On the morning of January 19, 2018, plainclothes teams of B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Branch agents descended upon two licensed establishments in Vancouver and Nanaimo: Fets Whisky Kitchen and The Grand Hotel. Later that day, in Victoria, they visited The Union Club and Little Jumbo Cocktail Bar. What were they after? Illicit booze, grey market goods being sold as the real thing, or maybe something even more heinous?

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Smooth Operator

The Sidecar cocktail is a sophisticated, classy concoction, so why is it so often overlooked?

Ritz Paris bartender Frank Meier may have invented the Sidecar in 1923. Ritz Paris photo.

The Sidecar is one of the great Prohibition-era classics, a boozy-but-vibrant three-ingredient cocktail that fulfills our desire for both the depth of brown spirits and the bright acidity of citrus. It should be a rock star among cocktails, yet where Old Fashioneds, tiki drinks and even the horrible Gimlet have made their comebacks, the Sidecar has somehow eluded its just recognition amid the modern cocktail revival.

It’s time for that to change.

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Roll out the barrel

Surrey’s Central City may have begun as beer brewers, but they are fast becoming one of B.C.’s most important distillers of single malt.

Central City has 1,400 barrels of single malt aging right now.

He may have a lengthy career in brewing behind him, but Gary Lohin is clear: “I’ve been a whisky aficionado for even longer.”

He got his start in beer at Whistler Brewing back in 1989, before spending most of the 1990s at Sailor Hagar’s Brewpub in North Vancouver. He moved to Central City Brewpub in Surrey in 2003 where his Red Racer beer lineup established him as one of B.C.’s top brewmasters. It was on trips to Oregon and California that he visited microdistilleries and began noticing that breweries there were adding stills. So, when Central City began planning its new production facility in 2010, Lohin suggested to his business partner that they should add a distillery.

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Golden Oldie

The name may sound dated, but the Old Fashioned remains a classic for a reason. The Alchemist asked Sabrine Dhaliwal, Bar Manager at Uva, to let us in on its secrets.

Sabrine Dhaliwal stirs up a classic. Dan Toulgoet photo.

The Old Fashioned is amazing — simple and complex at the same time. On paper it is minimal — spirit, bitters, sugar and water (via the dilution of ice) — but what is critical for an Old Fashioned is getting that balance right. You get the balance right, you have a beautiful cocktail, but if you don’t, there’s nowhere to hide. The fewer the ingredients in a cocktail, the more skill needed to make it.

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Bags of quality

Aunts & Uncles and Brooklyn Clothing believe in durable fashion that only gets better with age

In this increasingly fast-paced, disposable society, quality products that are crafted to last are a reassuring reminder of how things can improve with age. It could be a single malt whisky maturing for a couple of decades, a carefully cellared Bordeaux, or that go-to pair of jeans or bag that never lets you down.

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Star Anise

How a Scandinavian classic is warming hearts in B.C.

iStockphoto.com photo

It takes about three seconds for a shot of ice-cold aquavit to pass your lips and slide down your throat, leaving its distinctive hit of caraway and liquorice tingling on your tongue and introducing a pleasing warmth into your belly. The Swedish Shot, as it is known — raise your glass, lock eyes with your fellow toasters and drink up — is swift and satisfying.

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Class rules

Canada’s Diageo World Class success has much to do with national program to educate and inspire bartenders

Kaitlyn Stewart wins the Diageo World Class competition. Contributed photo

Vancouver made cocktail headlines around the world in August when Kaitlyn Stewart was named bartender of the year at the Diageo World Class competition.

The Royal Dinette bartender’s feat was extraordinary, topping a field of 56 mixologists from around the world during a gruelling four days of competition in Mexico City.

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