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Green Garden Gala, VCW2024

Tonight we were celebrating the conclusion of Vancouver Cocktail Week with their crowning event/gala. This year’s theme was “Green Garden”, which really spoke to the heavy gin presence. 

In our formal florals we ascended to the second floor of the Sutton Hotel. Here, ticket holders were given free reign of the space, which included drink stations in the adjoining ballroom, food displays in the hall, and a room with tables and chairs for sitting and resting across the way.

We were granted VIP admission, which allows guests to begin the evening an hour earlier at 6pm, as appose to 7pm. This first hour also sees larger pours and full cocktails served in glassware. After which stock runs out and it is 3/4 pours in plastic cups. Although in hindsight, the serving sizes are probably better suited smaller, as there are over 35 premium spirits to try and many of the vendor booths had at least 2 drink options to choose from.

Try as we might, we were not able to hit them all, even with 2 of us sharing and 4 hours to do so. The following are all the drinks available and any of my tasting notes, should I be able to recall them. In the order as they were listed in the program guide.

The award winning World Class bartenders had their own space, serving up conversation and their creations featuring one of the Platnium tier liquor sponsors.

Kaitlyn Stewart, Glowbal World Class Bartending Champion for 2017 was representing both Tanqueray No. Ten and Seedlip non-alcoholic spirit with 2 different cocktail options.

Green Garden & Tonic: Tanqueray No. Ten gin, elderflower, cucumber, mint, lemon, and tonic. Seedling & Tonic: Seedlip Garden, elderflower, cucumber, mint, lemon, and tonic.

Last year’s winner for both World Class Canada and Global Bartender of the year 2023 Jacob Martin had the crowd in stitches as he served up his Ketel One creation. Hedge Maze: Ketel One vodka, aquavit, dry vermouth, hedge cordial (oregano, basil, simple syrup, ascorbic acid), lime, and saline. This would be the only vodka cocktail I would have on this night.

World Class Canada winner Chris Enns was sampling sips of Johnnie Walker Blue label and mixing up a Johnnie Walker Black cocktail. Velvet Jacket: Johnnie Walker Black scotch whisky, vermouth, krupnik, Turkish tobacco bitters, and Lagavulin spray.

And the ever stylish Jeff Savage, 2019’s World Class Canadian winner and global runner up was sporting a cowboy hat and bolo tie while pouring Don Julio tequila. The High Ground: Don Julio Blanco tequila, Pimms, lemon, white peppercorn agave, and grapefruit zest garnish. This would be the only tequila option that I spotted that night.

The rest of the booths were set up with individual spirit vendors and their bar teams. EMPRESS 1908 was showcasing their 3 different bottles of gin in a tonic with citrus. Pollination: Empress 1908 Elderflower, Rose Gin, lemon juice, honey syrup, lemon twist. Basil Gimlet: Empress Cucumber Lemon Gin, basil leaves, lime juice, simple syrup, cucumber ribbon. I would try the latter as my first sip of their new Cucumber Lemon Gin. In a clear liquid it didn’t command the same attention as their purple and pink gins, but certainly had the robust botanical notes that Empress has grown to be known for.

At the Giffard booth they were offering guests a chance to win a 7 course dinner at Minami restaurant while putting the lime light on their flavoured liqueurs in an alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktail. Pêché Mignon: Giffard Pêche de Vigne Liqueur, Prosecco, soda water, rosemary. Or the Little Emperor: Giffard Blueberry Basil syrup, yuzu juice, ginger ale. The former was tasty with the promised flavour of fruit, accented by a bubbly fizz.

Although those in the know, knew to ask for the peach syrup as is and have it as a topper/dip for the Amaro infused Earnest ice cream. More on that later.

St-Germain had a beautiful display with a Metro rack stacked with spring pastel floral arrangements, and their table top was lined with AstroTurf. Both of which well matched their floral meets botanical cocktail with its strong medicinal taste. Pollen Together: St-Germain, Grey Goose La Poire vodka, fennel pollen, sour Riesling, Perrier, fresh cut grass. Very different with a linger taste on the palate.

To be honest I prefer Angel’s Envy straight as a sweeter caramel-honey bourbon, so found the addition of all the floral notes distracting, giving it an acrid taste. Run Rosey Run: Angel’s Envy Port Finished Bourbon, Noilly Prat Dry vermouth, rose and lemon cordial, Perrier, rose bud, citrus wheel.

The Bombay Sapphire booth was a fun one. Their trademark ocean blue marked the way. With a floral cut out photo op and the ability to dawn blue floral head pieces, while posing in front of it.

Shame, their cocktail didn’t match as well. Instead it was a berry punch called Cupid’s Archery: Bombay Sapphire gin, Bitter St-Germain, honey & coliseum cordial, sparkling blackberry, sherry, absinthe. The gin and absinthe threw me off here, both making the cocktail a lot more medicinal then fruit-forward appearance promised.

Flor De Caña was mixing up their tropical Momotombo: Flor de Caña 12 year rum, acidified orange juice, guava juice, habanero and passionfruit syrup, fresh mint, soda. Sweet fruit and spicy pepper for a cocktail that would go well with your main or dessert.

Don Papa is a familiar one, as is their cocktail: Under the Calamansi Tree: Don Papa rum, calamansi and lime juice, tamarind demerara, egg white, calamansi bitters. An easy tropical cocktail with the lemony-orange citrus at the forefront and a creamy mouth-feel from the egg white.

We got a taste of European vermouth across 3 different brands at one booth. Adegas Valmiñor was mixing their Sagrada: Adegas Valmiñor Entroido, Vermouth, Cava, Yuzu Lime Sake, Shiso bitters. Kir-Yianni presented Cafe Grec: Kir-Yianni Veroni vermouth, coffee, tonic, herbs, bitters. And Cesconi was serving their Elementi: Cesconi Lynx vermouth, Mizunara whisky, mushroom, spices, bitters. Now during the review and writing process, I wish I took the time to read the ingredient list better as I would have been interested in the first for its use of shisho, the second as a pick me up with coffee, and the third for the mention of mushroom. Although, truthfully given the energy and the commotion, it is all about quick ordering and faster drinking to be able to move on to the next one, and to try them all.

I learned about and got my first taste of Fettercairn tonight. It originally caught my attention with their unicorn logo and we had to try their Tropical Highball: Fettercairn 12 Year Old Scotch, coconut water, pineapple and star anise bitters, and topped with Perrier. A fun idea, but it could have used more fruit and sugars to better adhere the scotch to the tropical bouquet of the cocktail.

I am already familiar with Bearface whiskey, and their use of natural ingredients to flavour their spirit, but sadly did not get a chance to try either of their creations this night. The Ghost on the Shore: Bearface Wilderness 02 whisky, balsam fir syrup, salted pear honey syrup, roasted dandelion bitters, bruléed pear, thyme sprig. No Sleep Til Brooklyn: Bearface Triple Oak whisky, Amaro Montenegro, lemon juice, red wine syrup, vegan foamer.

At the Dillon’s booth we went for the Rye Tai: Dillon’s Three Oaks Rye, Appleton Estate Signature rum, lime juice, Cointreau, orgeat, mint, lime wheel. And missed they Tuxedo #7: Dillon’s Gin 7, Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth, Cocchi Americano, St-Germain, Dillons Orange Bitters, Tofino Distillery Absinthe.

Cloudhouse. Twin Peaks: Cloudhouse rum, Bearface Triple Oak whisky, Select Aperitif, orange twist.

Amaro Montenegro was a fun one, scooping Amaro-infused Earnest ice cream in a cup and topping it with their Amaro Montenegro syrupy liqueur, with notes of vanilla and orange peel.

And as I mentioned above, we would get creative with their ice cream later, opting to have it in a cone for easy dipping and licking.

Choya was one of the most memorable booths last year, as I discovered they’re ready to drink green tea flavoured ume plum wine. A delicious dessert beverage, with the sweetness and the drinkability of soda pop.

Their cocktail was the Choya Breeze: vodka, pineapple juice, Cointreau, elderflower liqueur, Choya 23, lemon juice, simple syrup, dehydrated lemon wheel. The edible flower garden on top made each quite the visual spectacle.

Kirishoma also had a very striking cocktail with dual colours or orange and green bleeding into one another. This was the Matcha Made in Heaven: fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, fresh-squeezed yuzu juice, Licor 43, matcha powder, vanilla syrup, Kirishima Shochu, Sheringham Kazuki Gin. Not sure if matcha and orange juice belong together for their contrasting sour and bitter profile. Also the mouthfeel felt wrong for anything matcha related, whereas I wanted a thicker milk foam, but got the juiciness of fruit instead. Maybe a vegan foamer would have helped foster that.

Nikka Whisky and Bar Owl & Rooster were manning a booth together and serving up two very distinct and different cocktails. The Daybreak Highball was Shiso tea-infused, Nikka Days whisky, Hokkaido honey, Champagne vinegar, Perrier, red shiso leaf. I am familiar with pungent and punchy flavours of the aromatic shisho, so was stunned to have it so toned down here. I preferred this cocktail more out of the two as a very mild beverage, similar to the nuance of tea. I found myself gravitating back to this and the other refreshing sippers, whereas majority of the cocktails were too bold and too combative, this harmonized.

Asking around, the Green Session was the crowd favourite: Nikka Coffey gin, Giffard, Curacao Triple Sec, pistachio cordial, orgeat syrup, lime juice, raspberry powder. A creamy dessert-like drink without being sweet. The creamy nuttiness of pistachio and the tart tang of raspberry jibed well in this unique head scratcher. I have had nothing like it before. And I am also proud to announced that I snagged the last glass coupe, and truthfully it makes a difference in the presentation and taste of something so refined.

One of the more memorable cocktails this evening belonged to the Peddler’s Gin both. This is my first time trying China’s first craft gin, distilled with local ingredients such Buddha’s hand and spicy peppercorn.

The Dirty Lychee Martini they were serving gave us a first look at Meo, the new bar opening in Vancouver’s Chinatown. Peddler’s Shanghai Craft Gin, lacto-fermented lychee brine, Fernet Hunter BC amaro. Never had a pickled lychee before or a lychee drink that was not sweet, it didn’t even taste much like lychee. This was an interesting take and a great way to showcase what Meo is all about. I cannot wait to visit the actual location in person.

Shelter Point‘ had two cocktails to showcase their gin. The Desert Jewel: Saratoga Sands Dry gin, Green Chartreuse, dry vermouth. And Elderflower Cucumber Fizz: Saratoga Sands Dry Gin, lime, cucumber syrup, elderflower tonic.

Driftwood Spirits also had two cocktails to put their gin on display. Strawberry Negroni: Driftwood Contact Gin, Esquimalt Rosso Vermouth, Campari, clarified strawberry juice, dehydrated strawberry slice. And Lavender Lime Gimlet: Driftwood Parabola Gin, lime oleo, lavender lime syrup, lavender sprig and dehydrated lime.

Downpour Gin was a new one for me. Guests were able to try this Scottish gin as either a martini or part of gin and tonic, both of which allowed you to well taste their refined spirit. Downpour Martini: Downpour Dry Scottish Gin, Dolin dry vermouth and Downpour G&T: Downpour Coast & Croft Gin, tonic.

We had a double take of Amaro with Vecchio Amaro Del Capp and Amaro Lucano. Momo: Amaro del Capo, Giffard Bitter Concentrate, soda, chili pepper. Amaricano: Amaro Lucano, Red Vermouth, Soda, Orange.

My favourite distillery in North Vancouver was present and drawing attention with another one of their stunning displays. A whole bottle of their award winning gin encased in a block of ice with vibrant rosemary sprigs and orange wheel slices. Here, you had your choice between a classic gin cocktail or one with akbavit, which like gin but without the juniper, for those who say they don’t like gin.

Deconstructed T&G: Copperpenny No. 005 Gin, green Chartreuse, rosemary gentian syrup, lemon juice, tonic foam (tonic, versa whip, xanthan gum), dehydrated lemon. The creamy foam topper was the highlight here, adding a sweetness much like you would get from egg whites in a sour.

Carry Me A Whey: Copperpenny Akvavit, acid blend/zap/whey, basil and charred red bell pepper syrup, red pepper spear, basil leaf. In hindsight and reading the ingredient list aloud, I wish I ordered for taste and not for the visual of the aerosol whipped cream. The used of red pepper and basil in the akvavit would have been worth exploring. Guess that is an excuse to visit their bar again.

Our favourite cocktail of the night was from Fords Gin, a minty offering that helped to cleanse our palate throughout the night. The Fords Gin Northside: Fords Gin, lime juice, Giffard Cane Syrup, and fresh BC-grown herbs. Like a margarita, but not blended.

Scrappy’s Bitters known as a flavouring agent for many cocktails teamed up with Fords gin to offer up their Scrappy’s Bitters Enhaced Gimlet: Fords Gin, lime juice, Giffard Gomme Syrup, an atomized spray of your choice of: celery, cardamom or lavender bitters. This is another one I wished I spent more time exploring, to be able to work my way through each of the atomized spray flavours and see how they each changed the profile of the cocktail.

I am very familiar with the fragrant Diplomático rum and enjoyed their sweet and citrusy Iron Shirt: Diplomático Mantuano rum, Amaro Lucano 1894, Banane du Bresil, dried Scrappy’s Chocolate bitters-soaked orange wheel.

My second favourite cocktail of the night for drinking and palate cleansing was by Squirrel Friendz. Another brand I like for their engaging team, bedazzled squirrel mascots, and as the only lgbtqia2s+ local vodka brand in Vancouver. They are known for their stunning drag brand reps, who makes appearances at such events. Tonight we had Cara Bare mingling with guests and striking a pose in photos.

Their Cucumber Spice Oasis was a crushable cocktail made with their Squirrel Friend Cucumber Mint Vodka, jalapeno syrup, pineapple juice, and freshly sliced cucumber and jalapeño garnish. Heat and cooling all in one sip.

As for food, sadly there was a-lot more drink than food, a fact which had people complaining and drinking more than they should. Those on the ball knew to hover and get in their small bites before the lines and supplies ran out. There were meat balls and teriyaki glazed chicken pieces on skewers. A tomato sauce gnocchi station. Cheese and charcuterie boards. Also a few small bites being passed around like tuna in a cone and fried pork balls.

But the feature that saw the longest lines and was continuously running out was the seafood platter courtesy of the Sutton’s award-winning seafood restaurant Blvd. Set in ice there were jumbo shrimp, raw oysters, tuna tataki, and snow crab legs.

Apparently as the night wore on there were also fries and poutine made available, but that was quick to go as well. We made friends with a couple of women who brought in full bags of chips to snack on. Considering the amount of drinking being done, that was wise. I would have the ice cream cone to nibble on, before heading home to order some Vietnamese pho via UberEats.

In short, the Vancouver Cocktail Week end Gala remains one of my favourite events of the year to attend. Not only for the great value of how many cocktails you get for the price you pay, but how many more spirit brands you can discover, and like minded people you get to party with. Always a great time and a great event I will continue to promote and recommend. For those who missed it this year, be sure to keep an eye out for next year’s festivities with the link below.

Vancouver Cocktail Week

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