This past weekend, on Saturday July 27th, Vancouver saw the first ever “Punch Bowl festival” come to life. This was a summer celebration of cocktails and spirits, under the sun at PNE’s fair ground. It was brought to you by the same folks who host “Hopscotch”, the scotch and spirits festival, every fall. It too is hosted at PNE’s, but in doors.

Today’s event was split into 2 parts, the daytime “tasting” from 12-3:30pm and the evening one from 5-8:30pm. The timed sessions allow vendors to restock in between and for more visitors to attend; with the evening spots selling out quick. I attended the afternoon one, as I prefer day drinking.

The sectioned off event is 19 plus so ID is require and guards are stationed to check them and ensure no one drinks too much. Thought at the prices they were charging, I don’t think that was a problem. The event runs on tokens, you need to purchase them in exchange for cash. At $1 a token (plus tax), taster sized drink offerings vary between $2-4. It is a great way to try new spirits and “bar hop” in the safety of a confided area, but I wish the prices were a little more reasonable. After all you are paying for entry, only water and the live entertainment is free. Anything you want to eat, taste, or try requires tokens; and if you don’t have cash on you, they charge you a fee to purchase them with either debit or credit.

As for the event itself, a series of tents snaked around the allocated grassy grounds. There were 50 plus vendors to explore, majority of which represents a brand of spirit, beer, or cider. The website mentions that “this isn’t a drinking festival but rather a tasting event where you can learn about how you, at home, can recreate the easy-to-make cocktails you see today” and invite you to “take the time to learn about the products, the bands, the drinks, etc.” However with the lines at the popular booths and the speed in which its attendants needed work, there wasn’t much time for dialogue between you and them. You simply read off their menu, pay, and walk away with drink in hand. At the less trafficked booth you were able to strike up a conversation.

Some vendors really followed through with their branding, putting forth elaborately decorated booths. These were the ones that drew the largest crowds and their money, myself included. “Beefeater London” gin was pretty in pink, mixing up muddled strawberry and orange cocktails.

And Ketel One Botanicals gave visitors a garden theme with the only cocktails severed in a plastic goblet, topped with a branded “K” stir stick. Cucumber & mint, grapefruit & rose, and peach & orange blossom vodka spritzers.

But out of all the little cups available, my favourite way to enjoy a cocktail at “Punch Bowl” was sucking on a mimosa freezie from the Cointreau booth. Even cut with mango & peach nectar sparkling wine this was not skimping out on any of the alcohol.

And to balance all the drinking, there were a few booths offering food. Including a few Vancouver chefs “showcasing their take on a west coast summer bbq” (as taken from their website).

Like B.K.H. grilling up their Singaporean style short ribs.

And bbq award winners “Smoke & Bones BBQ” and “Dixies BBQ” with their smoker. The two were competing to see who has the best ribs in the city. Guests were invited to try both at 12 tokens ($12 a plate) with sides like slaw and beans or coleslaw and potato salad. Then texting in their favourite of the two.

With so many booths to bounce around from, you could easily spend the afternoon drinking. Or simply lounging in their seating area, which included cushions under shade and wood games like corn hole and jenga.

In short, a successful new event that gave Vancouverites a unique setting to enjoy drinking and sun in one.

PUNCH BOWL
punchbowlfest.com