“Great Canadian Weekends” feature customized itineraries of the nation’s finest destinations prepared by Vacay.ca, the Concierge to Canada. Travellers looking to get the most out of their stay will want to follow these tips and ideas from our travel experts. The series continues with a look at how to spend a Boozy Weekend in cocktail-loving Vancouver.
Story by Adrian Brijbassi
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — No city in Canada does cocktails the way Vancouver can. A decades-old cocktail — featuring gin, orgeat syrup, lemon juice, and egg white — was named after the city’s Hotel Georgia. The current explosion in cocktails in North America started on the west coast and many of Vancouver’s bartenders have taken cues from American centres like Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco, California.
Some of the trendiest places to sit down in Vancouver have been made popular because of the quality of the drinks more so than the food. If you’re headed to the west coast, be prepared to get your drink on. Here’s how to enjoy a Great, Boozy Weekend in Vancouver.
DAY 1 IN BOOZY VANCOUVER
FRIDAY, 6 PM, CHECK-IN AT OPUS HOTEL
Location: 322 Davie Street, Vancouver, BC
Distance from the airport: The best way to reach downtown Vancouver is by train. The Canada Line, which was constructed through funding for the 2010 Winter Olympics, shuttles riders from the airport to the Yaletown stop in about 20 minutes and at a cost of $7.75 for a one-way ride. The Opus Hotel is across the street from the Canada Line train.
Reservations: Telephone 1-866-642-6787 (toll free) or email email@example.com or book online.
What you should know: The Opus has long been the trendy boutique place to stay for celebrities and hip trend-setters. The rooms come in one of four personality styles and each one is spacious and well laid out, with a comfortable sitting area, large bathrooms, and plush beds. Desks are long, ideal for business travellers, and the hotel has added Samsung phones and tablet computers for use during your stay. The phones are yours to use, complimentary and loaded with necessary apps for touring the city. It will save on roaming fees you may incur while using your personal phones. Downstairs, there’s the terrific La Pentola della Quercia restaurant that features Italian cuisine and an excellent cocktail list. As well, there’s a pleasant and colourful lobby lounge where you can enjoy drinks before heading out to enjoy more drinks.
Cost: A recent online search showed rooms can be booked for $249 for a weekend night in October.
Tip: If you like room-darkening curtains (and I do), you can request a set in case your room doesn’t have them upon arrival. Also, Opus provides complimentary car service in the downtown area. Reserve the times you’d like to travel and you’ll save on cab fare.
FRIDAY, 8 PM, DINNER (AND DRINKS) AT L’ABATTOIR
Location: 217 Carrall Street
Reservations: Telephone 1-604-568-1701; or email firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit the website
Distance from Opus Hotel: 2 km (24-minute walk)
What you should know: Shaun Layton mixes the drinks and gets my pick for the best bartender in Canada. His drinks are boozy classics infused with clever flavours and made from the best bottles Layton can find. Layton is passionate about his craft and the attention to detail — whether it’s a sugar rim to cut the bite of potable or a home-made syrup to give an original spin on a classic — is what wins over his customers. Layton’s cocktails are a fine accompaniment to the delicious cuisine coming out of Lee Cooper’s kitchen. L’Abattoir serves inventive west-coast flavours in a beautiful room that showcases the best of the old and the new of Gastown.
Menu price range: $26-$30 for main plates.
You must order: Meat Hook ($12), featuring Rittenhouse rye and Ardbeg 10-year-old scotch, or ask Layton to make something special. For food, the Warm Steelhead and Crunchy Potato Salad ($15) has been a favourite since the restaurant opened.
Vacay.ca Top 50 Restaurants in Canada Rank: No. 23 in 2013; No. 6 in 2012
[box_light]Read more about L’Abattoir on Vacay.ca[/box_light]
FRIDAY, 11 PM, NIGHT CAP AT THE KEEFER BAR
Location: 135 Keefer Street
Distance from L’Abattoir: 600 metres (five-minute walk)
What you should know: Danielle Tatarin tends bar at this funky, sexy spot known for its burlesque shows. It’s a favourite among Vancouver’s many cocktail lovers.
You must order: Main St. Lemonade ($11) includes whisky, YunZhi maple syrup and cinnamon tincture.
DAY 2 IN BOOZY VANCOUVER
SATURDAY, 10:30 AM, FLYOVER CANADA
What you need to know: After breakfast at Opus Hotel’s La Pentola della Quercia, head to Canada Place for an exhilarating film production that features state-of-the-art technology. This showcase of the nation’s landscapes and cityscapes covers 6,000 kilometres (3,728 miles) in a cinematic journey that’s sure to set your heart pounding and, perhaps, make you a little thirsty after the stunning eight-minute production.
Schedule: FlyOver Canada is shown on a 20-metre spherical screen inside Canada Place. The show runs seven days a week and the experience, including pre-show, lasts 30 minutes.
Cost: Tickets are $19.95 for adults, $17.95 for seniors and youths, and $14.95 for kids between ages 4-12. If you book online, you’ll save on the ticket price.
SATURDAY, 6 PM, FORBIDDEN VANCOUVER WALKING TOUR
Location: Tours depart at Dunsmuir & Richards streets at Cathedral Square
Distance from Opus Hotel: 1.7 km (15-minute walk)
What you should know: The tour recounts the volatile Prohibition Era in British Columbia, which began with legislation outlawing alcohol consumption in 1917. Stories of a corrupt mayor (LD Taylor), sexual escapades, and relentless bootleggers are part of the entertaining spin around town led by charismatic guides playing the role of period-era investigative reporters aiming to uncover the sordid facts.
Cost: $22 for adults; $19 for seniors and students
Remember: Tours run 90 minutes and are offered only on Thursdays (7 pm) and Saturdays (6 pm).
SATURDAY, 9 PM, DINNER AT WILDEBEEST
Location: 120 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC
Reservations: Telephone: 604-687-6880; or book online at the restaurant’s website.
Distance from Opus Hotel: 1.8 km (19-minute walk)
What you need to know: A hot restaurant led by two of the city’s most respected restaurateurs, Wildebeest features excellent dishes paired with cocktails imagined by Josh Pape, a terrific mixologist and co-owner. Vacay.ca Top Restaurants in Canada judge Renée Suen of Toronto Life says Wildebeest is “Fun, delicious and generous in food, drink and spirit. Despite being a new player in the mid-range, casual dining scene typified in Vancouver, it charges in confidently with cleanly executed plates and a well-curated cocktail list.”
Menu price range: Share plates, $4-$42
You must order: Pork jowl ($15), with plums and long pepper-scented oats, and bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup.
Vacay.ca Rank: No. 55 in 2013
[box_light]Read more about Wildebeest on Vacay.ca [/box_light]
SATURDAY, 1 AM, NIGHTCAP AT YALETOWN DISTILLING CO.
Location: 1132 Mainland Street (no website)
Distance from Opus Hotel: One block
What you need to know: Shaun Layton helped develop the menu at this massive establishment that opened in April. The adjacent restaurant, Paulie’s, and the bar serve some of the most creative and unique drinks in town. Vancouver’s first craft distillery is making its own spirits, including vodka and gin. Possibly the trendiest bar in the city at the moment, the establishment is often packed but expect to have some room to close out the night as the club set heads to dance venues while you come in for a final few sips.
Cost: Most drinks range from $11-$15
DAY 3 IN BOOZY VANCOUVER
SUNDAY, NOON, BRUNCH AT HAWKSWORTH
Location: 801 W Georgia Street
Distance from Opus Hotel: 1.3 km (16-minute walk)
What you need to know: One of Canada’s best restaurants and a classic fine-dining experience, chef David Hawksworth’s eponymous establishment features one of Vancouver’s top brunch menus. From Classic Eggs Benedict ($18) to a Pacific Sablefish Brandade ($19), this is decadent cuisine from a brilliant chef. It also gives you the chance to enjoy that famous gin cocktail in the hotel where it was imagined.
You must order: The Hotel Georgia, of course. It was invented in 1951 at this recently renovated and exquisite property. It’s made with Beefeater gin and contains orange blossom water, egg white, and nutmeat ($12).
Vacay.ca Rank: 12
SUNDAY, 5 PM, A LAST DRINK AT THE POURHOUSE
Location: 162 Water Street
What you should know: A wonderful speakeasy whose bartenders dress the part in this 1920s-themed drinking hole. The space is dark, the drinks are delicious, and you just may miss your flight out of town if you sample too much of the cocktail list. A fabulous place for a final drink.
Menu price range: Cocktails range from $12-$13, while the main entrees run $17-$33.
You must order: The boozy and interesting Avenue & Davenport ($13) is made with Buffalo Trace bourbon and Rittenhouse rye.
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