Vancouver’s Bar Scene Heats Up
If you’re drinking in Vancouver, chances are you’ll come across Shaun Layton. The local cocktail maker has designed the menus, trained the behind-the-bar staff, and been a consultant to a number of the city’s favorite bars, including L’Abattoir, Juniper, Bauhaus and Miku. Vancouver has never been known for its nightlife, but Layton asserts that the city is quietly becoming a cocktail and craft beer destination, thanks to bar managers eager to showcase locally sourced ingredients, as well as brews and spirits made right in British Columbia’s backyard. Here, he shares his favorite watering holes.
One for the beer
“I love The Boxcar on Main Street. Their beer list is fantastic and always changing, from porters to sours and saisons. I like to go solo, sit at the bar with my phone, and not talk to anyone. But it’s also great with friends—it attracts a cool crowd.” Shaun’s order: “Try a couple of unique local beers, like Brassneck’s Magicians Assistant, Four Winds’ Nectarous or Strange Fellows’ Talisman.” The Boxcar: 923 Main St.; 604-398-4010.
Post work cocktails
The perfect mix of quality drinks, fun atmosphere and no pretension makes The Diamond one of my favorite places in Vancouver. I like to go early in the week around 9pm, when there’s a good industry crowd coming through, and it’s not too crazy busy. If you go with a group, prepare to line up on weekends.” Shaun’s order: “I often get the Parliament, a bitter, citrusy mix of cachaça, lime, honey and Fernet-Branca.” The Diamond: 6 Powell St.
Dinner and a drink
Grapes & Soda has an innovative cocktail program that complements the food. The bartender, Satoshi, is lightning quick and uber-friendly, and has a creative side that is second to none. His savory cocktails are truly unique.” Shaun’s order: “I like the Punch Drunka, made with bourbon, Campari, Fernet-Branca, lemon, and black tea sherbet” Grapes & Soda:1541 W. 6th Ave.; 604-336-2456.
The happiest hour
“I opened the bar at L’Abattoir, and—not to be biased—but it’s an awesome happy hour. It’s literally just one hour and only happens at the bar, which is tiny but lively and looks out to the heart of Gastown. I typically order the pan-fried sweetbreads and a craft beer or cocktail.” Shaun’s order: “Try the Avocado Gimlet, one of mine from back in the day that will probably never leave that list. It has fresh avocado, olive- and rosemary-infused gin, fresh lime, sugar, and Apfelkorn schnapps.” L’Abattoir: 217 Carrall St.; 604-568-1701.
“Prohibition at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia is my go-to if I’m taking around out-of-towners. It’s an escape into another world. The cocktail program and bar selection are top-notch, and the bar team has some of the best bartenders in Vancouver. I love going when there’s a live jazz band.” Shaun’s order: “Try the Inception Negroni, made with Broker’s gin, Martini Bianco, Suze, and a negroni ice sphere.” Prohibition: 801 W. Georgia St.; 604-673-7089.
Hair of the dog
Mamie Taylor’s in Chinatown does a fantastic brunch. Owners Simon and Ron have been in the bar industry forever, and it’s always nice when the people who own the joint are pouring your beer or dropping off your food from time to time.” Shaun’s order: “They make a great Michelada, a beer-based cocktail from Mexico, with a ton of spice and a bit of clamato. This spicy, savory, refreshing beverage will sort you out pretty quickly. I order it along with a pork schnitzel sandwich, watch some NFL on the TV, and I’m a happy guy.” Mamie Taylor’s: 251 E. Georgia St.; 604-620-8818