Tonight we were kicking off Vancouver’s premier cocktail celebration with the Vancouver Cocktail Week Preview Party. Hosted within the heritage hall of The Permanent, this was quite the locale with its vaulted ceiling, embellished decorative wall features, and stain glass sky light. All of which were befitting of the grandiose occasion.
No other local event garners this much attention or fanfare with sponsorship from many major spirit brands, as well as brand appearances from the industry’s top competitive bartenders.
Vancouver Cocktail week runs from March 3rd to the 10th and climaxes at the annual gala, where this year’s World Class Canada global champion will be acknowledged. And tonight, attendees to this preview were able to meet and greet with winners from year’s past.
Here, all four were gathered at the very back, situated behind their own discrete bar. We would bee-line it there first to make sure we were in optimal condition to try their offerings. After all, there were 25 different cocktails to try tonight, all of which featuring 25 different spirits, and no one was pouring sample sizes. The following is all we got to try, with notes of the ones I can recall.
Last year’s World Class Canada winner was Jacob Martin, and tonight he was representing Don Julio with his BINGO FLAMINGO. This was Don Julio Blanco tequila, Sombra mezcal, Campari, camomile syrup, acidified ruby red grapefruit, and
Tabasco sauce. I appreciated the savoury notes here, and the unique addition of hot sauce to this, plus the overall smokey forward flavour.
Featuring Tanqueray No. 10 was a TOUCH GRASS by Jeff Savege. Jeff was 2019’s World Class Canadian winner and global runner up. Tonight his cocktail was a mix of Tanqueray No. 10 gin, Green Chartreuse liqueur, gyukuro, alternative acid, absinthe, soda, lime peel, and tarragon sprig. The cocktail was rich and minty. Sweet and citrusy on the nose, with an acidic herbal quality from the liquorice.
2018 saw Chris Enns as Canada’s winner. Today he was representing Johnnie Walker with his HOMETOWN HERO cocktail. Johnnie Walker Black Label scotch whisky,
Esquimalt Vermouth Rosso, Odd Society Mia Amato amaro, Ms Betters Cafe Maderas bitters, Lagavulin 8 scotch whisky, grated tonka bean, and an orange coin for garnish. This was his take on a Manhattan with a smoke forward essence.
And to ensure Vancouver cocktail week caters to all, Kaitlyn Stewart 2019’s Global Champion was preparing two different cocktails. The CAPSICUM COLLINS was a non-alcoholic option featuring Seedlip Garden (a non-alcoholic spirit). It has the kick and flavour of a liqueur, but without all the sensations of drinking. This was mixed with a Peruvian pepper tincture, lemon juice, and ginger beer; finished with a lemon twist. We would refrain from this and instead get her alcoholic option below.
Her SWEETY MARTINI was my favourite of all the cocktails we had at the preview. Sponsored by Ketel One vodka with fino sherry, dry vermouth, and Peruvian pepper tincture. I love a well balanced savoury cocktail and this hits all the markers. Shaken, it was like drinking a spiked salad vinaigrette, but in a good way, leaving a buttery feeling on the lips.
From here, we explored the individual tables manned by liquor reps or owners of the distillery they represented.
NODO was a Tequilana, as any tequila made outside of Mexico cannot be called a tequila. Tonight they prepared a piña colada without any of the creamines. The NODO SO-LADA with NODO Tequilana Blanco, toasted coconut and pineapple orgeat, lime, coconut water, and soda. A clear cocktail with a milky finish on the lips, transporting you to the tropics.
At the Vecchio Amaro del Capo table they had their AMARO cocktail which was a mix of their spirit and tonic water. The natural flavour of this speciality spirit is what they wanted to showcase, and they did that well.
Similarly, Luciano had their version of an AMARO featuring their Lucano Caffe liqueur over ice. And honestly this is one of the best coffee liqueurs I have had to date. It was herbal and robust, but not domineering and bitter like regular coffee can be.
Already being a fan of Angel’s Envy whisky and its smooth caramel flavour, I was excited to try their 10/10 MANHATTAN. Coconut-washed Angel’s Envy bourbon, Italian vermouth, Oloroso sherry, and orange bitters. The coconut wash was distinct and mellowed out the spirit with its sweetness.
From Kujira Japanese whisky we had a very memorable cocktail, giving us a fishy bonito flavour. The RYUKYU FASHIONED with Kujira Inari Japanese whisky, mizunara liqueur, and umami bitters.
Jura the whisky and the city in Scotland it was distilled in was new to me. According to the brand representatives Jura has a population of 230 people and 6,000 more deer. Their whisky is produced by the community, using some of the tallest pot stills in Scotland.
They’re CRAIGHOUSE PUNCH is Jura 12 scotch whisky, lemon juice, honey, peach tea, foamer, a thyme spring, and sliced peach. It is sweeter having been aged in a sherry barrel with touch of peated smoke that contrasts.
We were entranced by Copperpenny’s INVIERNO G&T prepared with Copperpenny No. 005 gin, Lillet Blanc, Ms Betters Cypress Bowl Bitters, Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic, juniper, smoked rosemary, and dehydrated orange. A classic gin and tonic with a smoke show.
Next, we had a classic Venezuela Libre featuring Diplomático Mantuano rum, Amaro Lucano, lime juice, and authentic cola from a glass bottle. Rum and coke the intended way.
And lastly, we learned of newer and local LGBTQIA Squirrel Friendz, with their inclusive vodka; which they mixed with apple juice and ginger beer for the spiked apple cider-like SQUIRRELY MULE this evening.
We were further drawn in by their brand rep Mia Mercury speaking to the works they have done and the future of their vodka.
Sadly, after 13 cocktails we had to call it quits, leaving 12 behind. But did leave with an excitement for the full Vancouver cocktail week to come.
For those not familiar, Vancouver Cocktail Week runs from March 3-10, 2024. And in its third year, Vancouver Cocktail Week continues to be “a destination event that celebrates the vibrant culture of food and drink in a city that is a hub of cocktail creativity, and its multi-award-winning bartenders ambassadors for all that makes this such an exciting culinary community. (As taken from the website)
Vancouver Cocktail Week festivities includes signature events like their Sunday Cocktail Brunch on March 3rd that launches the occasion, and the Green Garden Gala on March 9th that closes out the week. Other events include distillery tours and tastings, sit down dinners with featured spirit pairings, cocktails and a drag shows, and even a mingler that celebrate International Women’s Day with like-minded spirits.
For a full list of events and how to get your tickets, visit the link below.