Cocktail Recipes

Lessons from Tales Vancouver: the Vancouver Cocktail

A tasty drink named for the city where it was (probably) invented.

March 17, 2011

The Sylvia Hotel

Photo courtesy: Wikipedia

Cocktails are about drinking, of course, but they’re also about stories. Magazine writers know that. Marketers know that. And bartenders, well, they really know that. You sell a drink by spinning a yarn.

But we love these stories, don’t we? Even if they are often more like legends than historical accounts. They provide us with chatting fodder at parties, introductory paragraphs, and something fun and tasty to think about when the post-work traffic grinds to a halt.

Two stories associated with the gin-based Vancouver cocktail that may or may not be true:

1. It was invented at the Sylvia Hotel in Vancouver—the city’s first cocktail bar, according to the Calgary Herald.

2. It was the last drink actor Errol Flynn drank before moving on to that great cocktail lounge in the sky. (Indeed, Errol Flynn did die in Vancouver following a week-long booze binge).

I heard a third story at Tales of the Cocktail during a seminar on gin led by master gin distiller Desmond Payne and his colleague Dan Warner. Warner asked a Vancouver bartender—I failed to get his name, bad reporter—to tell us his story about an encounter with his hometown’s eponymous cocktail.

It seems that recently, this bartender and a few of his local bartending friends got to chatting about the Vancouver cocktail, and ended up hopping a cab to the Sylvia to see if they could still order some. When faced with their request for "a round of Vancouvers," the bartender on duty confessed he didn’t really remember how to make one. So the crew coached him through it, and the upshot of that morning (yeah, it was morning) is that the Vancouver cocktail is now back on the menu at the Sylvia. Legend restored.

So now you can get one there next time you are in Vancouver. Or you can make one yourself using the recipe below (adapted from the Calgary Herald. Use Jamie Boudreau’s instead, credited to the Stan Jones Complete Bar Guide, if you like. Boudreau is Canadian, after all).

Or you can go to a good cocktail bar here in Seattle and see if you can’t get one of our local drink mixers to make you one.

The Vancouver Cocktail
2oz gin
0.5oz sweet vermouth
splash of Benedictine
generous dash of orange bitters

Combine the above ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with an orange or lemon twist.

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