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.

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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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Locovore libations

Island-to-glass cocktails rule the bar at Olo

The concept of “farm-to-table” isn’t new for B.C. restaurants. What’s served from behind the wood is now also joining the sustainable locavore movement for a more complete offering. Brad Holmes, owner and executive chef at Olo in Victoria, has long been a vocal proponent of this movement, and his cocktail program reflects that. “Our whole restaurant is seasonal; the menu changes with what’s available on any given day and season. I always wanted to bring that to the bar. And now, with all of the great gins and vermouths and other local products, we can offer something that was grown in B.C., produced in B.C. and served in B.C.”

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Balancing Act

Simon Ogden encourages his customers to put their drinks in his hands

Bartender Simon Ogden. Supplied photo.

Balance. Whether it’s blending the elements of the perfect cocktail or juggling work and play, balance is key.

It’s a philosophy bartender Simon Ogden takes to heart, both behind the bar and in life.

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Fermentorium Distilling Co.

Fermentorium’s Stump Coastal Forest Gin is fast-becoming a signature B.C. spirit. Its collection of artisanal tonic waters elevate even the most basic of highballs.

2010 Government St., Victoria


• Stump Coastal Forest Gin
• Hop Drop Elixir
• Handcrafted Tonics


Hop Drop Elixir

FRAGRANCE: Dried hops.
FLAVOUR: Lightly bitter, like concentrated IPA.
FEEL: Very even. Starts soft and expands.
FINISH: Dry and clean.
BEST ENJOYED: Added to your favourite lager.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Really cool product. Fun to play with in beer cocktails. —Josh Pape, July 2016

Stump Coastal Forest Gin

FRAGRANCE: Where to begin? Moroccan mint tea. Pine needle or fir. Pesto.
FLAVOUR: Rosemary and stalky herbs. Lavender.
FEEL: Bold. Hot. Kinda brash.
FINISH: A bit boozier than it needs to be.
BEST ENJOYED: As a seasonal Gin & Tonic or a French 75 over the holidays. With a sprig of thyme?
THE BOTTOM LINE: Sub in for your favourite gin classics that are easy on the citrus. —Josh Pape, October 2017