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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Recognition for Vancouver bars

The Keefer ranks No. 25 at the inaugural North America’s 50 Best Bars Awards; Botanist places No. 2 on Canada’s 50 Best Bars

The winners at the 50 Best Bars ceremony in New York City. Supplied photo

We all know what a dynamic cocktail scene Vancouver has, and what a talented group of bartenders we have slinging drinks here.

Now the rest of the world is getting an idea, too. Well, sort of.

Two sets of “best bar” rankings have just been released, with nods to some of our favourite watering holes. But as always, some of our very best cocktail destinations couldn’t make the list because they just don’t qualify as bars. (Because of our licensing rules, they are often technically considered restaurants.) No matter. We know who you are.

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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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Upscale off-sales

The cocktail kit is the best way to bring your favourite bar home

Sabrine Dhaliwal and Lily Duong have put together four different kits at Chickadee. Photo courtesy of Chickadee

It’s been a long day and all you want to do is get into your pyjamas (if you ever got out of them, let’s be real) and settle in with a good cocktail. But it’s just too much effort to make one yourself. Never fear, thirsty reader. The cocktail kit is here to help.

During the pandemic, many Vancouver restaurants have turned to takeout and some have added cocktails to their to-go menus. What you get varies depending on the establishment. Most offer some sort of mixer, bottle of spirits and garnish; some also offer top-quality ice as well as tools and glassware. Not only do these kits quench your thirst, they also make great gifts and, best of all, support your favourite establishments when they need it most.

Here are just some to try. Note that in restaurants sales of alcohol must be accompanied by sales of food; check the websites for details regarding price and availability.

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Bottled Up! with Dylan Zrobek

Dyaln Zrobek. Wild Hearts Collective photo

How does a new kid in town snag a job at one of Vancouver’s most reputable bars and win a respected bar competition in little more than a hot rotation around the sun? Dylan Zrobek, an Edmonton native, touched down in Vancouver in October 2018, and within a few weeks had secured work at the Keefer Bar, under the highly trained eyes of bar veterans Amber Bruce and Keenan Hood. Despite his relatively light experience, Amber said he had the right energy, and the willingness to work: “A lot of people want the glory without having to do the grind. He’s put in the work, and it shows. He keeps his cool, remains calm and humble.” And that steadfast nature clearly worked in his favour given he just brought home the 2020 Barate Kid Championship Belt, a bar competition that is focused on speed, agility, and quick thinking. If you haven’t seen him in action yet, you can catch Dylan working at the upcoming Keefer Bar 10-year anniversary party on February 10. Don’t miss out, the Keefer knows how to dish out a wild night.

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These 8 Vancouver bars made Canada’s 50 Best Bars of 2019 list

Botanist Dining/Facebook

In mid-April, Canada’s 100 Best revealed their 2019 restaurant rankings. Now for the second year, they’re following up with a list of Canada’s 50 Best Bars of 2019, and for this ranking, Vancouver has an impressive eight spots worth raising a glass or two to.

In fact, Vancouver’s imbibers can pour one out for the always-popular Keefer Bar, which nabbed the number two spot, behind Toronto’s celebrated Bar Raval in the top rung. This is also the second year The Keefer Bar was ranked in the second spot.

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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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Culture Club

Talented bartenders have put Vancouver’s cocktail scene on the world map.

Wendy McGuinness says local spirits must earn their place on her back bar. Fred Fung photo.

In the mood for a Sazerac? How about a Negroni punch bowl mixed with local gin and vermouth, or a playful spin on Arctic Ungava with a dash of citric acid and spritz of Laphroaig perfume? Whatever your poison, it can be found in Vancouver, home to one of the most vibrant cocktail scenes in North America.

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