Vancouver Speakeasy Laowai Among Canadian Cocktail Stars Prepped to Light Up Milan


Stylish and charming Moebius is a favourite location in Milan for cocktails, tapas, and pleasant vibes. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for Vacay.ca)

Cocktail lovers in Milan will be tempted to refer to October 7 this year as Canada Day.

Moebius, a culinary star in the fashionable Italian city, will host mixologists from three of Canada’s leading bars: Vancouver’s Laowai, Bar Mordecai of Toronto, and Montreal notable The Cold Room.

Known as a hot spot for jetsetters during the many major events held annually in the city, Moebius is a space that’s both funky and elegant, with brilliant drinks and a fine-dining program headed by a two-Michelin-star chef. Drinks master and restaurateur Lorenzo Querci opened Moebius in 2019, curating an experience that is high in quality and good times. Named after the nom-de-plume of French sci-fi comic-book creator and avant-garde artist Jean Girard, whose work inspired “Blade Runner”, Moebius is sleek and modern. It includes a small section adjacent to the bar that sells vinyl records, a DJ booth, and a stage where local musicians play every Monday and Thursday.

Located near Milan’s main train station, Moebius is actually two restaurants in one. The cavernous 160-seat street-level lounge includes an extremely well-stocked and eye-catching bar, and a kitchen that sends out tapas dishes that match the creative drinks produced by Querci’s team. Appearing to float above that activity is a glass-enclosed 30-seat fine-dining space where the culinary team delivers plates crafted by chef Enrico Croatti.


Bartender Davide Wang slings exceptional drinks at Moebius in Milan. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for Vacay.ca)

“It’s a cultural box where different identities live and merge together. There’s a lot going on under the same roof when we talk about creativity, intertwined in all these different shapes,” Querci says of his restaurant. “We have the privilege of having talented people who have worked all around the world that now put their heads and hands toward the elevation of the concept of hospitality in the Milan drink scene, contributing in making this city one of the world capitals for fine drinking.”

The mix of eclecticism and quality has propelled his enterprise’s reputation. Moebius is a go-to location for Fashion Week and Design Week, events that attract industry leaders from all over the world. Its name became known in Canadian cocktail circles, leading to a series of conversations that resulted in the fall event where Moebius will host a contingent of the nation’s bartending stars.

“I believe the bartending scene in Canada is growing really fast, probably Toronto is stealing the majority of the spotlights but the European interest toward what is happening across the oceans, and not just in the U.S., is increasing dramatically,” Querci says. “We always look for something new that motivates us and having the chance to get to know new cultures and different approaches in the world of mixology is enriching, both for us and for our guests.”


It’s not all about the drinks at Moebius. The Milan standout features tapas delights, including (from left): deconstructed pizza with sauces of Parmigiano Reggiano and San Marzano tomato served on a thin flat bread; seared peach topped with bacon; and thirst-inducing fried pork. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for Vacay.ca)

The gathering evolved after Querci connected with Lewis Hart and Alex Black of Laowai. Their speakeasy in Vancouver’s Chinatown launches an ambitious new international series on August 17 that will include spreading its name globally while also inviting mixology notables to Vancouver. Hart says the pop-up series is meant to further raise the profile of the two-year-old enterprise that celebrates the curious and under-appreciated tales of China’s culture and history. Laowai’s unique take on Asian drinks, particularly its baiju appreciation, is one reason Querci wanted to team up.

“We clicked straight away,” he says of Hart and Black. “After some research, I discovered their high degree of specialization in spirits, especially in baijiu, and the amount of work and creativity they put in crafting their menus. I realized right away that it was a great fit for Moebius.”

Hart and Black will journey more than 8,000 kilometres east to Italy to show Moebius’s clientele what the west coast of North America can do behind the bar.

“Although branded a series it’s more of just a progression of Laowai as a business,” Hart says of the international program. “The best bars in the world travel to each other, share ideas and showcase their skills, which allows for guests to experience bars without the travel expenses. Since we have opened we have made some great contacts and friends that have just naturally allowed these connections to be made.”

Discover More: Secret’s Out on Laowai


To enter the Laowai speakeasy you need to surreptitiously pass through the dumpling house BLND TGER, which faces onto East Georgia Street in Vancouver’s Chinatown. (Adrian Brijbassi photo for Vacay.ca)

Among the invitees to Vancouver are Mexico’s Licorería Limantour, which will kick off the international pop-up series on Thursday. The evening will feature a four-course tasting menu at Laowai.

“Vancouver is beautiful yet a really out-of-the-way destination for most — we are a 12-hour flight from London or Hong Kong — so it’s nice to see people want to spend that amount of time on a plane for a guest shift. I think their willingness to do so says Laowai’s reputation is spreading beyond our small city and that our hard work is being noticed,” Hart notes. “Hopefully the bartenders who come in to join us have such a good experience that we naturally become an option for more industry professionals.”

Hart also points out that there is a tourism component involved in the decision to launch the series. “Travelling to other bars helps us spread the word to potential tourists but also helps us gain a ton of knowledge. B.C’s liquor laws are really restrictive so it allows us to share ideas and see techniques that aren’t available to us here. On the reverse, bringing bars into Vancouver provides a chance for our customers to experience what these talented bartenders can do without the need to book a vacation.”


Events at Laowai (251 East Georgia Street, Vancouver; located behind BLND TGER dumpling house)

August 17: Licorería Limantour (Mexico), recently voted the No. 4 bar in the world (World’s 50 Best Bars)
September 11 and 12: Penicillin (Hong Kong), the No. 22-ranked bar in Asia
November 6 and 7: Papa Doble (Singapore), No. 61 bar in Asia

International Events Featuring Laowai:

October 7: At Moebius (Milan)
October 11: Laowai at The Court (Rome), No. 77 bar in the world
October 15: Laowai at Opium (London Cocktail Week)

Adrian is the editor of Vacay.ca and VacayNetwork.com. He also edited "Inspired Cooking", a nutrition-focused cookbook featuring 20 of Canada's leading chefs and in support of the cancer-fighting charity, InspireHealth. "Inspired Cooking" was created in honour of Adrian's late wife and Vacay.ca co-founder, Julia Pelish, who passed away of brain cancer in 2016. Adrian has won numerous awards for his travel writing, travel photography, and fiction, and has visited more than 55 countries. He is a former editor at the Toronto Star and New York Newsday, and was the social media and advocacy manager for Destination Canada. His articles have frequently appeared in the Huffington Post, Globe & Mail, and other major publications. He has appeared on national and local broadcasts, talking about travel, sports, creative writing and journalism. In 2019, he launched Trippzy, a travel-trivia app developed to educate consumers about destinations around the world.