Bars in Vancouver have been generating a lot of buzz recently, and rightly so. From inventive creations like the Inception Negroni, to their reputation for world-class hospitality, this list of the top bars in Vancouver will not disappoint.
Vancouver, British Columbia, is one of the many hotspots in Canada. Hugging the west coast, Canada’s third largest city is picturesque from all angles. With the mountains, ocean, beaches and mild temperatures, you can have it all in Vancouver. Most people who are not from “Van city” are not aware, but every bar must serve food. It’s the law. And that makes it a competitive restaurant and bar community on both fronts.
Bars in Vancouver
Vancouver bartender Kaitlyn Stewart won Diageo World Class in 2017, proving that Vancouver’s bars and bartenders have truly arrived on the global stage. After polling every bartender I could in Vancouver, a list emerged of the top spots. I had the opportunity to sit down with the best in the industry whom I call my friends. Here are the top five bars in Vancouver, according to bartenders.
Clough Club: The Gastown haunt
Few areas in Vancouver evoke as much tourist buzz as Gastown: the whistling steam clock, the eclectic bars and restaurants, the world-class street food. Among the great bars and restaurants sits the seven-year-old Clough Club. This Donnelly Group venue breaks the mold. A relaxed front room and a raucous speakeasy-style backroom.
Opened by the crack team of Trevor Kallies and Joey Donnelly (no relation) and now manned by the charismatic legend Cam Brown, Clough Club is not to be missed. The drinks are modern takes on timely classics. Chef Kai makes the food simple, fresh, and delicious (gourmet hot dogs!). Cam had this to say when I asked why he felt Clough came highly recommended. “Canada is a land of ‘I’m sorry’, and we serve people first, with no apologies.”
Grapes & Soda: Japanese precision, Canadian ego
Often overlooked in the Vancouver cocktail community, Grapes & Soda sits across the Granville Street Bridge, minutes away from the Granville Island markets. Opened in 2015, this is one of three amazing farm-to-table concepts by Chef David Gunawan, the others being Farmer’s Apprentice and Royal Dinette.
Satoshi Yonemori mans the small six seat bar. He offers a daily cocktail along with a monthly rotating menu. You can find some unique Japanese whiskies and custom ingredients on Toshi’s bar. His Japanese heritage is an influence, but his style is unmistakeably Canadian – humble yet with a level of perfection in everything. If you want creativity behind the bar, fresh and farm-to-table fare, this is the spot for you. When I asked Toshi why he felt Grapes & Soda came recommended, he humbly replied, “Because we represent Canada, immigrants, local, and fresh.”
UVA Wine & Cocktail: The cornerstone of cocktails
A short list of bars in Vancouver can say they helped spawn the cocktail revolution in Canada, but UVA Wine & Cocktail is one of them. From hosting Tales of the Cocktail events, and housing the likes of Diageo’s global mixologist Lauren Mote, to Belvedere Canada’s brand ambassador Sabrine Dhaliwal, UVA has been a home to some of the country’s finest bartenders.
Opening in 2008, UVA is tucked away inside the boutique Moda Hotel. On any day of the week, you can find familiar faces from the bar industry pulling up a stool, likely drinking from the long list of specialty and classic drinks UVA produces. Among all the behemoth hotels in Vancouver, this little boutique feels like a home bar. Also, it’s a cocktail lover’s dream. Experience, professionalism and downright fun make this an essential visit for any barfly. Sabrine had this to say about bars in Vancouver: “I go for the people, not the bar, and the people here are the best.”
Prohibition: The five star that never disappoints
This downstairs luxury hotel speakeasy brings new life to the idea of prohibition. Nothing is prohibited here. Plush velvet seating, leather walls and rotating nightly entertainment. Prohibition also has one of the largest selection of spirits of any hotel or restaurant in the city. Head bartender Robyn Gray is known as Mr. Vancouver, and with good reason. His infectious laugh and bright spirit brings this place to life.
A team of well-dressed bartenders great you with charm and a list of creative cocktails to match – from the now world famous Inception Negroni to the classics. Prohibition has helped to bring bars in Vancouver to new heights. The prices can seem steep, but the quality matches up, so be sure not to visit if you’re on a budget. Robyn told me that “People come to Prohibition because we focus on reading people and giving them what they want.”
The Keefer: Vancouver’s Best Cocktail Bar
A bold statement for sure, but nobody in Vancouver would disagree. The Keefer is Canada’s only “World’s Top 50” bar, and has pushed the creative envelope since the beginning. Perched all alone on the edge of Chinatown, The Keefer is part apothecary and part cocktail bar.
General manager Keenan Hood is a bartending legend who pitches in behind the bar all the time. Bar manager and dual World Class Canada finalist Amber Bruce has done it all, from opening the best tequila bar in the city to manning the very busy Keefer. Amber and her team of international bartenders bring a humble and relaxed atmosphere to the bar. Amber said, “The age of the bougie bartender is gone, and the good-time bartender is back.” To walk into The Keefer and walk out in a straight line might be the hardest part, but I recommend trying.
Bildquelle: Vancouver photos via Shutterstock, bar photos via Philippe Grandbois