12 great places to get a drink in the Vancouver Island city
You could say that Matt Cooke has distilled the spirit of Victoria into his cocktails. The general manager at OLO Restaurant transforms Vancouver Island spirits and local produce into the kind of creatively food-friendly sippers that complement chef-owner Brad Holmes’ fresh comfort food so well. There’s often whisky or gin—Victorians love the smoky and botanical flavours of the British Isles—and a subtle nod to the classics. At the same time, Cooke conjures flavours that are completely new, and often made from scratch.
And he’s not alone. Despite its relatively small size, with a population about an eighth of Vancouver’s, Victoria has a vibrant cocktail scene that makes it truly a great place to get a drink, especially at these 12 watering holes.
Brewer-distillers have unique advantages over their still-only colleagues
Early visitors to Yaletown Distillery on Vancouver’s Hamilton Street may have tripped to—or rather, over—its connection to Yaletown Brewing, a block away. Originally, the fermented base for the spirits came through a hose in the sidewalk. “The wash comes through this pipe now,” says brewer-distiller Tariq Khan, pointing toward the ceiling.
That supply chain of fermented-grain wash is a key advantage of local businesses that make both beer and spirits, including relative newbies The 101 Brewhouse + Distillery in Gibsons and Moon Under Water in Victoria, as well as veterans like Deep Cove Brewers and Distillers in North Vancouver. Brewing on site guarantees a pipeline to so-called distiller’s beer, the essential raw material for making spirits.
It’s back to the future with de Vine’s Ancient Grains
It’s been a minute since we’ve had to worry about those pesky little things called grades, but for distillers like Saanichton’s de Vine Wines & Spirits, report card day still comes around each year with the release of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible and the reviews and scores therein.
When you’re surrounded by wild bounty the way Tofino is, it only makes sense to use it however you can. And so Wolf in the Fog’s bar manager Hailey Pasemko transforms huckleberries into bitters, infuses gin with salal or spruce tips, and fat-washes vodka with salmon.
Now she’s looking beyond Tofino, to the great spirits being produced across B.C., for her new “Local Legends” cocktail program.
Sure, you could enjoy cocktails alone in your back yard. Or you could join the crowds having fun at these great events here at home and abroad over the next few months.
Don your fancy chapeaux and hoist your glasses! The ponies hit the track once again on July 21 for the 10th annual Deighton Cup at Hastings Racecourse. Some 5,000 people gather at the track to gamble on the ponies while enjoying swish fashion, buckets of bubbly, fine cigars, gourmet cuisine and, of course, cocktails. The event includes an annual mixology competition, plus sweet summer sippers to enjoy trackside. deightoncup.com
As we get set to celebrate BC Day on Aug. 7, let’s raise a glass to the province’s greatest unsung local ingredient, the one that can transform our cocktails from ordinary to sublime: Salt.
Throughout history, this tasty and essential mineral has been used as a currency, a preservative and a flavour enhancer. Wars have been fought over the stuff. And there’s a whole ocean of it right on our doorstep.
Gin’s dark past comes to light as distillers go back to the drink’s barrel-aged roots
To the superstitious, a black cat is a bad omen. But to underground drinkers during Prohibition, spotting a sign depicting an old tomcat meant you’d hit the gin jackpot.
A precursor to the crisp and clear London dry gin, Old Tom gin was stored and shipped in wooden barrels, so it had a naturally darker hue. Sometimes it was sweeter or more resiny, thanks to the addition of sugar or, yes, turpentine. Swill or not, Old Tom was probably better than no Tom.
Victoria’s grande dame gets a makeover with a sexy new bar and a truly royal namesake gin
The gin is sky blue – that’s right, blue – and it has a delicate floral aroma. Add a little tonic water, though, and it magically turns a beautiful royal purple.
“It’s spectacular, isn’t it? It goes from that nice blue, then you pour the tonic in there, it swirls around, and you get that nice pink colour,” says Peter Hunt, president of Victoria Distillers. “It’s certainly something fun for bartenders and mixologists to play with.”