Sons of Vancouver, 1431 Crown Street, North Vancouver
The tiniest distillery in North Van just celebrated its first anniversary, and is waiting for the go-ahead for a lounge license too. Stop by and say hello to the chaps, maybe play something on their upright piano or see what’s new on their stack of vinyl, or dare you brave their super-hot chili vodka? On offer: two vodkas and their much-admired Amaretto.
Take away: It has to be their Amaretto. Served chilled from the freezer, this is sweet as an ice maiden’s kiss, thanks to B.C. blackberry honey and Bourbon vanilla beans.
Make mine a... Until their lounge license appears, stick with a tasting flight. Call ahead and you can get a free tour too.
RD Cane, courtesy of Odd Society
Odd Society, 1725 Powell Street
You’re in brewery district territory over this side of East Van, but try to save yourself for the delights on offer at the Odd Society distillery where you’ll find some of the city’s most creative spirits made using B.C. ingredients, such as Crème de Cassis with blackcurrants from Abbotsford, as well as their East Van Vodka, wonderfully floral Wallflower Gin and Mongrel white whisky.
Take home: If there is even a drop of it left in the place, take their Bittersweet Vermouth. It’s incredibly delicious, a complex blend of a warm sweetness which gives way to a mouth-watering bitterness. Try it on ice before dinner. It’s fantastic.
Make mine a... As they employ one of the city’s finest bartending talents behind the bar at their Tasting Lounge, my suggestion would be to drink whatever Ms Kylie Bartlett suggests.
Red brick walls and squashy leather sofas are the order of the day at this full service distillery, brewery and bar/restaurant in the heart of Yaletown on Mainland Street with an enviable wraparound patio for long, late summer sessions. Sticking to the basics, you can pick from gin or vodka here.
Take away: I’d go for the Yaletown vodka as I rather like its clean, creamy finish with a taste of caramelized fruit.
Make mine a... Keep it simple and try a dirty martini. In fact, make it two and see if you prefer it served with their gin or vodka.
Open from Wednesday till Saturday for tastings and retail sales, the multi-international award-winning crew at Long Table throw a fun G&T party every Friday with a different food truck out front, and Saturday is their Cocktail Lab session where they experiment with new flavours. Long Table’s distillers love to get playful and you’ll find a deliciously wide selection of spirits to try here from Peppermint and Limoncello to gins and vodka.
Take away: Romping home with the Gold Medal at last year’s World Spirits competition, it has to be Long Table’s Cucumber Gin made with cukes from the Sunshine Coast. Say goodbye to Hendrick’s and hello to a fantastic local alternative.
Make mine a... Things change at the Cocktail Lab, but if you can try anything with their Långbord Akvavit, that would be my recommendation. I love this spirit!
Granville Island’s very own craft distillery has one of the city’s most attractive tasting rooms with a lovely 100+ year old wooden bar—and it’s just a few minutes walk away from the hustle of the Public Market on Railspur Alley. Plan ahead and take a distillery tour on the weekend (they prefer you to book a week in advance) which costs $10 and include a tasting at the end. The lounge is open to serve cocktails and pour spirits each day from 11 a.m., and there is also a daily Happy Hour from 3 to 6 p.m. Plenty of limited edition spirit runs to choose from here.
Take away: Railspur No.1 White, Liberty’s unaged barley-based ‘white whiskey’ which offers a pleasingly smooth finish and mixes beautifully in cocktails.
Make mine a... Shacker’s Sour with the house Truth Vodka and a signature spiced cranberry syrup and lime juice.
Deep Cove Brewers and Distillers, 2270 Dollarton Hwy #170, North Vancouver
Tucked away under a yoga studio, and next to a 20,000-square-foot climbing centre, Deep Cove’s resident booze-makers have a spacious tasting room that has a bright, airy, contemporary feel and there’s even a small patio for when the sun comes out. You can sample their beers here as well as spirits, and there’s a small menu which showcases their brews, such as the Baked Brie topped with Smooth Criminal stout. They offer a good range of small-batch spirits to pick from.
Take away: If they have it, buy a bottle of their ‘Freja’ Akvavit, a North Van take on a Scandinavian favourite that’s best served icy cold from the freezer, either as an aperitif or digestif. Smooth and crisp with nutty notes of caraway, and herbaceous lemongrass and chamomile, I loved this so much that I wanted everyone to try it... but on the other hand, did I really want to share? Hmmm.
Make mine a... Try a Rosemary and Olive Gin Gimlet and let their savoury Spanish-style gin with olives and rosemary shine.
Canada’s finest craft and micro-distillery festival, BC Distilled, is rolling into town again on March 26th, offering the chance to taste unique spirits and liquors distilled right here in B.C. We spoke to festival founder, Alex Hamer to find out what’s happening at this year’s event.
“We’re seeing so much innovation in B.C. right now as there are so many distilleries. At the festival, we’ll have three new Amaros to try, along with new liquors, new spirits and some really interesting barrel-aged spirits too.”
Don’t worry about eating before you go as this year there are seven restaurants on board, and some, like Forage who is working with Wayward Distillery to create canapés, will be specially paired with spirits.
Hamer’s advice if you’ve never visited a distillery before is to think of it like a winery.
“The cool thing with distilleries is that you can go and have that great experience of maybe meeting the distiller, getting a tour, and then trying their spirits. But if the distillery has a lounge, then they’ll make fantastic cocktails so if you don’t want to try straight-up spirits, you can have them in a cocktail instead!”
To celebrate all things locally distilled, we’ve put together a guide to the city’s distilleries where you can sample spirits and drink cocktails year-round.
Nikki Bayley is an award-winning travel writer, guide book author and spirits and cocktail journalist whose work appears in National Geographic Traveller, The Globe and Mail and the Difford’s Guide. A cheese fan, hula hooper and all-round word nerd, she writes regularly for BCLiving about food, drink, spas and everything else that makes life worth living.