Thanks to an abundance of local ingredients (including made-in-house bitters, vermouths and liqueurs), great bar spaces and an incredible spirit of collaboration and creativity, Vancouver’s cocktail scene is exploding.
“Innovative, unpretentious, relatively affordable and special,” is how Lauren Mote—bar director at UVA Wine & Cocktail Bar and co-proprietor of Bittered Sling, an award-winning line of small-batch bitters and extracts—sums it all up.
With her effortless cool-girl vibe, her encyclopedic knowledge of spirits and cocktails and an entrepreneur’s discipline and sense of innovation, Mote personifies all that is great about drinking in Vancouver right now. Here are some of her favourite local spots.
It’s breakfast, lunch and weekend brunch, and if you need a drink, no problem. Café Medina’s incredible Moroccan- and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine by executive chef Jonathan Chovancek is perfectly paired with a beautiful bar, where guests can enjoy delicious daytime elixirs such as the Coffee Tonic or a signature soda, like the Bergamot + Buttermilk Cream Soda or the Hawayij Rootbeer Float, doctored with a spirited splash.
“People think West is a really formal room because of its reputation (for dining), but the bar is really comfortable,” Mote says of this South Granville icon. It’s creative, too. Bar manager David Wolowidnyk won Bombay Sapphire’s “World’s Most Imaginative Bartender” for his Beldi: a Moroccan-inspired concoction that includes gin infused with saffron and ginseng, toasted coriander mist and Lem-Marrakech bitters.
“Chinese Apothecary turned party house” is how Mote describes this Chinatown favourite headed by bar manager Danielle Tatarin. While the fun literally spills out of this deep, dark tavern (even on weeknights, live music keeps the house packed late), the bar itself resembles a traditional medicine shop, bedecked with bottles of house-made syrups and tinctures based on ingredients from nearby herbalists.
Since arriving here in 2013, Mote has shifted UVA from a wine-focused spot to one of Vancouver’s great cocktail bars, equally enticing to serious cocktail aficionados and those just looking for something new and fun. Case in point: cocktail-filled doughnuts, which give guests a different way to sample Mote’s concoctions.