Spirit of Victoria

12 great places to get a drink in the Vancouver Island city

The B.C. Parliament Buildings are the centrepiece of Victoria’s vibrant Inner Harbour. Tourism Victoria photo

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.

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It all comes out in the wash

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.

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Apple Flip

At Olo, the Apple Flip is served with a side of Julien Fremont Calvados to round out the apple experience. Byron Smith photo.

At Olo, the Apple Flip is served with a side of Julien Fremont Calvados to round out the apple experience. 

INGREDIENTS:
• 2oz House Spiced & Solera Aged Honey Shine ‘Rum’ by Devine Vineyards
• 0.5oz Sea Star ‘Prose’ Riesling & Apple Dessert Wine
• 0.5oz Apple & Shiso Syrup
• One whole egg
• Okanagan Spirits Taboo Absinthe Spritz

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Mark your calendars

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.

Deighton Cup photo

Deighton Cup

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

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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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Whisky raid leaves shelves empty, bar owners stunned

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

It’s the story that everyone in the BC booze industry is buzzing about: On Jan. 18, the provincial government conducted four simultaneous Prohibition-style raids on establishments in Victoria, Nanaimo and Vancouver and confiscated tens of thousands of dollars worth of liquor.

Their target? Bottles of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s unique (and expensive) whiskies.

Their reasoning? Although the bottles were shipped to B.C. under proper channels and all appropriate taxes paid, the licensees bought them through private retailers instead of government stores, which is not allowed.

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November’s most ‘spirited’ events

November is no one’s favourite month. It’s dark, cold, wet and gloomy, and it isn’t quitethe month that comes with presents. Maybe that’s why it’s such a great month for drinking. I mean,  maybe that’s why it’s such a great month for new product releases and exciting social events, starting with these.

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Foxtrot Tango Whisky for the win

Victoria’s new cocktail lounge evokes the cool retro vibe of 1950s Los Angeles

The new Foxtrot Tango Whisky bar at the Doubletree by Hilton Victoria. Foxtrot Tango Whisky photo

It’s the cool new cocktail lounge Vancouver has been waiting for. Too bad it’s all the way over there in Victoria.

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All hail the Empress’ new reign

Victoria’s grande dame gets a makeover with a sexy new bar and a truly royal namesake gin

The new Q Bar at the Fairmont Hotel Empress in Victoria, BC. Fairmont Hotel Empress photo

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.”

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