Need something to do this weekend? Here are five local distilleries to check out when B.C. Liquor Stores just don't cut it.
Odd Society, 1725 Powell Street
East Van is a mecca for those obsessed with Vancouver’s craft-beer explosion, with Parallel 49, Powell Street Craft Brewery, and Coal Harbour Brewing Company, and Storm Brewing all within staggering distance of each other. Sometimes you want more than a beer, though. Enter the steampunk-funky Odd Society, located in the shadow of Port Metro Vancouver. Either sit at the tasting lounge’s football-field-size bar or sink into a plush wingback chair, and then get set for cocktail hour. Odd Society makes its own East Van Vodka, Wallflower Gin, and Crème de Cassis on the premises; you can watch the distillers at work through a floor-to-ceiling glass wall. Those spirits are the backbone of a rotating cocktail menu featuring such creations as the Modern Hound (vodka, grapefruit juice, jasmine syrup, lemon juice, rhubarb bitters) and the BC Bramble (gin, lime juice, simple syrup, and crème de cassis). In between trying to decide on a Sour Owl or an Odd Aviation, ask about Odd Society’s coming-soon Canadian Single Malt casks and moonshine-inspired Mongrel offerings.
The Liberty Distillery, 1494 Old Bridge Street, Granville Island
In earlier days, Granville Island was more or less a market, some scattered theatres and restaurants, and a whole lot of driftwood sculpture. The rewards for passing through the island’s bottleneck entrance have become more intriguing since then. Case in point: the Liberty Distillery’s elegant tasting room, with its early-20th-century carved-wood bar. Here, staff of the two-year-old establishment serve up a menu of signature cocktails based on the contents of the copper pots visible through the room’s interior windows, such as silky Truth Vodka, the martini-loving Endeavour Gin, and Railspur No. 1 White, a suave cousin of the drink commonly known as moonshine. And all of it comes from B.C.–grown raw materials. But don’t get too wobbly if you’re planning to shop afterward at the glass-blower just down the road—you know, all those shelves, that open furnace…
The Distillery Bar + Kitchen, 1131 Mainland Street
When one plans a social occasion at the local distillery, it’s usually an evening visit one has in mind. Whiskies and other spirits are of course enjoyed best after dark. But waiting for the sun to set before finding your way to the Distillery Bar + Kitchen in Yaletown will leave you missing out on one of the best brunch deals around. Friday to Sunday until 3 p.m., the entire breakfast menu is 10 bucks even, and these are hearty plates. A Margherita Scramble, meatball hash, and gorgonzola omelette are just three of your options. I’ll also recommend inquiring about the “hangover cure”, which sneaks a shot of straight vodka into that $10 price tag. Alternatives for a morning pick-me-up include the affiliated Yaletown Distilling Company’s own vodka and gin (brewed in-house), caesars and bloody marys for $5 each, or my personal favourite, $10 “bottomless” mimosas. Ask to dine in the lounge for more intimate décor with a slightly Prohibition-era vibe to match your cocktail.
Artisan SakeMaker, 1339 Railspur Avenue, Granville Island
Since 2007, Masa Shiroki has been on a mission to produce a local Junmai sake that can rival premium Japanese imports. Hand-pressed from top-quality rice and bottled in small batches, his Osake brand is notable for its delicate, fruitlike aromas and flavours. One sip and you’ll swear off Gekkeikan forever. Osake’s line includes sparkling varieties and sakes produced from rice grown in the Fraser Valley. (Most sake rice is imported from Japan.) Shiroki hasn’t stopped at just making excellent sake, though—the kasu, or rice lees left over from the fermentation process, has found its way into citrus dressings, hot sauces, nonalcoholic fruit drinks, and even chocolates and Rice Krispie–type squares that you’d never come across at a school bake sale.
Long Table Distillery, 1451 Hornby Street
As Internet commenters have continuously proven, being first holds little to no value in the grand scheme of things. But in the case of Long Table—Vancouver’s original micro-distillery—being first may very well mean being one of the best. Crowds of thirsty imbibers pull up to the spot’s lengthy, live-edge communal table every weekend, where they can sample a selection of award-winning spirits, like cucumber gin, the licorice-forward Långbord Akvavit, and Texada Vodka—all of which are concocted from fresh, handpicked ingredients in the 300-litre copper still that shines like a monument from behind the bar. Pop in on a Friday and you can even DIY your own gin & tonic or sample all three of Long Table’s impressive gins—the aforementioned cucumber, plus London dry and bourbon barrel-aged versions. And because all that sipping is bound to work up an appetite, you can expect to cap off your night with a rotating list of food trucks that are stationed outside the distillery every weekend.