A knockout read

Blood, Sweat & Beers celebrates Aprons for Gloves, a noon-profit organization that provides community outreach in the Downtown Eastside.

In 2012, a handful of local bartenders slipped on some boxing gloves and started fighting for a cause. Aprons for Gloves, they called it, a non-profit organization with the aim of providing community outreach in the Downtown Eastside through the sweet science of boxing and the annual Restaurant Rumble charity boxing match.

Now there’s a gorgeous hardcover book celebrating the event: Blood, Sweat & Beers is written by wine writer and boxer Laura Starr and features some 450 photos by Guy Roland, who has been documenting the event since the beginning.

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Amour for amaro

The Alchemist’s tasting panel revels in the complexities of made-in-B.C. amaros, vermouths and aperitifs

The lineup (l to r): Long Table Distillery’s Linnaeus Amaro No. 1, de Vine’s Moderna Vermouth, The Woods Spirit Co’s Pacific Northwest Amaro, Goodrich and Williams’ Bitterhouse Rubato, Bitterhouse DaMan and Bitterhouse LaDame aperitifs, Legend Distilling’s Naramaro amaro, Odd Society’s Mia Amata amaro and Bittersweet Vermouth. Dan Toulgoet photo

Consider them the supporting actors of the cocktail world: complex, helpful and a little bitter. Vermouths, aperitifs and amaros are typically fortified wines—though some are sweet enough to be considered liqueurs—flavoured with botanicals such as citrus peel, spices, roots and herbs. They typically have a somewhat bitter profile, hence the name “amaro,” which means bitter in Italian.

It takes a sophisticated palate to appreciate a good bitter drink, so not too surprisingly, Vancouver bartenders were eager to sample the best of B.C. amaros. We sat down with Alex Black of Tableau Bar Bistro, Amber Bruce of The Keefer Bar, cocktail consultant Sabrine Dhaliwal, Robyn Gray of the Rosewood Hotel Georgia and The Botanist’s Jeff Savage to get at the bitter truth.

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The Bon Vivant

The patio scene isn’t for everyone, including our man about town

Ryan Mitson Illustration

In many ways, I’ve always been hilariously unsuited to Vancouver, despite having lived here for the best part of 20 years. While I enjoy observing nature from the distant vantage point of a high-rise apartment, actually venturing into it makes me anxious and irritated. I look upon the lifestyle cults surrounding yoga, spinning and clamshell salads—ostensibly expressions of joyful living, yet deadly serious—as if they were the Republic of Gilead.

But what situates me permanently at the fringe of the party that is this city (this beautiful, very expensive party) is my habitual response to the arrival of summer. When everyone else rushes hysterically into the streets, as if drawn by the promise of eternal youth and free poké bowls, I draw the blinds and cower until nightfall.

I don’t want to be this person, but I have no choice: I’m a ginger.

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Dream team

Sabrine Dhaliwal takes over the guest experience at UVA

Sabrine Dhaliwal didn’t have to join UVA Wine & Cocktail Bar—with her bartending pedigree she would have had her choice of bar manager positions in this town. So why sign on to run the room that had, to date, been defined by Vancouver’s cocktail queen Lauren Mote?

“Why not?” Dhaliwal counters, with a playful smile. “I’ve known Lauren for about five years, so I’ve been fortunate enough to see how she built her cocktails and what avenues she goes in. I’m fortunate in that way to have an insight into that realm.”

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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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On the Town: Speed Rack 2018

Women bartenders show off speed and skill for breast cancer charities at Speed Rack.

From left to right, Sabrine Dhaliwal, Uva Wine & Cocktail Bar; Reece Sims, Brix+Mortar/The Diamond; Liana Madera, The Diamond; Jasmine Radu, Tocador; Amber Bruce, The Keefer Bar. Cathy Browne photo

Bonnie Stewart of The Granville Room was the fastest qualifier and is going to nationals. Cathy Browne photo

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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From vermouth to high volume: Cocktail trends for 2018

Some of Vancouver’s top bartenders give their thoughts on what’ll be hot next year

Glass straws will be seen more widely as bars strive toward more sustainable practices. The Last Straw Co. photo
Glass straws will be seen more widely as bars strive toward more sustainable practices. The Last Straw Co. photo

Raise your glass to the end of 2017, a year that brought us one disaster after another, from raging wildfires to the near-daily perp walk of sexual predators. Between all that and the inescapability of frosé, it’s a year we’re mostly happy to forget.

And so we look forward to 2018. We checked in with some of the city’s top bartenders to discover what’s shaking for the New Year.

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Bright Eyes

Bright Eyes by Sabrine Dhaliwal.
Bright Eyes by Sabrine Dhaliwal.

This tall, refreshing, low-proof cocktail from UVA’s Sabrine Dhaliwal will ensure you remain bright-eyed throughout the night.

1½ oz (45 mL) fino sherry
¾ oz (22 mL) grapefruit juice
¾ oz (22 mL) peach tea syrup (see note)
¾ oz (22 mL) lemon juice
2 dashes Bittered Sling Cherry Bitters
Ginger beer

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You go, girl

Sexual harassment, Speed Rack and the realities of being a woman bartender

Ada Coleman, head bartender of The American Bar at the Savoy in London from 1903 to 1926. Contributed photo

You’ve come a long way, baby – or have you?

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