By Shelley Budd
Choose your cocktail catch-up den by proximity to your place, target atmosphere or conversation location.
Pourhourse – Gastown’s updated and upscaled early 1900’s pub. A weekend afternoon is prime time for chatting at this ironclad, locomotive-era restaurant and bar. Cop a seat in one of their cozy leather armchairs and talk to those bartenders, they’ll suggest a drink if you can’t choose from the selection of classic cocktails. They make a fine Martinez; if you like a gin martini this is the mother that spawned it: a mix of Tanqueray, Cinzano Rosso, maraschino liqueur and orange bitters, a superb drink for an occasional sip amongst the hearty chatter of long-lost pals.
Head There To Talk About: Community news, things that have lost their charm or gained it back, generally keeping it real and local.
Voya – Downtown, at the Loden Hotel. Where you’ll find more twisting of classics than there are loops in a shag carpet. One of the low booths by the fire is a great spot to reminisce at a slow pace, luxuriously and languidly loping through all your long ago days. The staff are really knowledgeable in this suave lounge – it’s like somebody took the 70’s on a business casual shopping spree to today’s Holt Renfrew. Have a Wax Poetic, the best drink in town. But if you’re prone to bourbon whiskey bringing out the over-opinionated gremlin inside – you are not alone, ask to have it made with gin instead of Maker’s Mark. It’s delicious.
Head There To Talk About: Sailing the high seas, future aspirations, philosophy of shopping.
The Keefer – Chinatown’s sexiest cocktail den, and still serving classics. Enjoy the graphic art lit up in the walls while marveling at the bartenders ability to mix, shake and stir their Apothecary style cocktails, designed to soothe ailments and balance one’s mood. A good place to open up the deep, dark, secret chambers of chit-chat, but avoid the food – this is a place for drinks only, and they do it well, using house made tinctures, bitters, syrups and teas; their signature cocktail, the Keefer Fizz, made with gin, lavender, lemongrass, lemon, egg white and floral tincture, does a good job of explaining what they’re all about.
Head There To Talk About: Love vs. Lust, magical occurrences in dark places, Kegel techniques.
Cascade - Offering the largest selection of classic cocktails on Main St., and possibly Vancouver, Cascade gained a brag-worthy nod by being featured in a book of the Best Designed Bars from Around the World. The sister bar to next-door’s Habit (great spot for brunch the next day) carries a brit-posh vibe about it; snag one of the booths for a great mid-week, late-night conversation while enjoying their Cascade Room Cocktail (bourbon, apple, lime, vanilla, bitters, egg white fizz with shaved roasted hazelnut), or anything from a Pisco Sour to an Old Fashioned, or an Absinthe Cocktail to, my favorite, the French 75.
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Chambar – Take a seat in the front lounge just before dusk and riddle on about last year’s parties, at the resto that transformed and illuminated Crosstown, while sipping on one of their inventive nouveau cocktails. If you’re feeling peckish, try Chambar’s Blue Fig, this list’s only drink + snack combo – it’s oven roasted figs steeped in gin and frozen, served with Danish blue cheese. The restaurant combines a rich, cigar-den feel with cosmic weightlessness, and tends to get very busy, making for a lively weekend atmosphere. If catch-up goes so well that you want to turn it into dinner, do not shy away from tasting the menu here – it’s worth it. Note: Not a place to ‘make friends,’ but a good one for old friends to make a trip to.
Head There To Talk About: Intimate social circles, chess strategy, investing, Belgian things.
Others of Note: The Corner Suite Bistro Deluxe, Chill Winston, Subeez.