The Gastown Cocktail Crawl
I eat because I have to, I eat well because I can, I eat everything because I enjoy it. I enjoy a good meal and to share it on my blog (vieamaggi.com), that I may relive the “kill”, of plates once digested and drinks once excreted. So today I was delighted to be in the company of two well known characters in the blogger world. Both, with as much passion for food and capturing it in photo as I did, if not more. Each had a deep knowledge of the Vancouver restaurant scene. The places to go, the must try’s when you get there, and even who makes it for you when you arrive. Whereas I love food, but not enough to study up on it. I simply eat interesting things to take interesting photos and try interesting flavours. So I was a little out of my league with these two. Luckily we choose a drink crawl as our activity and that I could keep up with.
The bloggers behind “Picky Diner”, “Drunken Noms”, and I were brought together with our love of the drink. We came to the realization that there aren’t many food bloggers out there that review drinks or like to drink, as we did. I was happy to be joining “Picky Diner”, who actually isn’t so picky, and “Drunken Noms” whose name speaks for herself, on this Gastown cocktail crawl.
We ended up with a great variety of drinks covered because we each like different things and we each drink for different reasons. I for the novelty of trying something new and interesting. “Noms” for the love of hard spirits. And “Diner” because he wants keep up, but paces himself with the easier to take in and keep down cocktails.
[wpv-map-render map_id=’gcc’ map_height=’300px’ marker_icon=’http://vancouver.foodiepulse.com/wp-content/plugins/toolset-maps/resources/images/markers/Shop-1.png’]
Our night began at Gringo because I was hungry and looking to eat. Food to fill our bellies and not empty our pockets. After all had to pace the cash flow for the five stops to come, with drinks and snacks at each. And here at “Gringo” with 6 tacos for $15 and drinks literally by the bucket-full, this was the best starting point.
Though it was the drinks that was the reason why I made this our destination. We each had our own pail for the novelty of it. Choosing from a drink list that was brutally honest. They weren’t shy in saying that their tequila options came in “crap” or “ok”, and that the bourbon was either “cheap-ass” or “top shelf”. This easy to navigate menu was for the layman, and it catered to the budget conscious.
Our choices for the “Thai buckets” were any of their sugary cocktails available. They too came in a single or double, but with the bucket, it would be a triple. Our buckets came with a purely ornamental sand rake. I questioned it, as you could at least drink out of a shovel, but I guess the thick bubble tea straw included did just the same. Overall these weren’t the best drinks, although we weren’t expecting them to be. Really more for the presentation and quantity, where the flavour seemed inconsequential.
I went with the “pink flamingo” with tequila, pink grapefruit, lager, and sour gummy worms. I ordered it solely for the garnishing of a boozy cocktail with sour gummy candy. The colourful worms found its way in my straw and nestled at the bottom of the drink. They disgusted “Noms” with her more refined palette, she doesn’t go with the moniker “Drunken Noms” without good reason.
Describing herself as one who likes a stiff highball and goes for the sharpness of bourbon over a “girly drink”; she went for the “bourbarita” served in a pink bucket. It was made with bourbon, lemon juice, and watermelon. There was no refreshing watermelon flavour, only balls for show. It tasted more like watered down bourbon. Like a champ she finished her bucket first and ended helping us with ours.
“Picky Diner” went with a safer bet, and was rewarded with the best one, I my opinion. His chosen “beera colada” came in a green bucket; it was made with rum, lime, coconut, and pale ale. It was the easiest to take down, like a misty topical fruit punch.
[wpv-map-marker map_id=’gcc’ marker_id=’gringo’ marker_title=’Gringo’ address=’27 Blood Alley Square, Vancouver, BC V6B 0C4′]Gringo – 27 Blood Alley Square, Vancouver, BC V6B 0C4[/wpv-map-marker]
[from left to right: clockwise – beera colada, pink flamingo, bourbarita | girls on thai buckets | tacos]
Tuc Craft Kitchen
Stop number two was at Tuc Craft Kitchen. Looking to wash some of the sweetness down with some sharper flavours.
Similarly, its more demur setting matched our more sophisticated drinks. Gone were the bells and whistles, and bright colours of the last place; and instead there were some strong flavours and a consistent monochromatic theme. The visual drinker in me was not as satisfied, but my palette and tongue felt otherwise.
I ordered the “Coffee & Cigarettes” cocktail, just for its name alone. A catchy name with a more delightful flavour. I am not a big fan of coffee, cigarette smoke, or a stiff drink; and this gave me none of that. It was better than I had hoped, what I got was a smooth glass of mocha. A drink made with Laphroaig quarter cask, Amaro Montenegro, espresso, and xocolatl mole bitters. Bitter chocolate and strong coffee, hiding all traces of would be sharp alcohol. I would make this my signature drink, and at the very least have this again when I return. This was definitely my favourite of the night, the perfect after dinner cocktail to end on a sweet note with.
Tempted by a twist on an old fashion, “Noms” with her refined drinking palette got the “Frida Kahlo Old Fashion”. Made with Hornitos reprosado tequila, Pierre Ferrand dry curacao, cardamom, and orange foam. Like all foamy drinks, this too promised and delivered on a sweeter sip. Easy to take down with a whisper of sweet Mandarin. The drink had a nice bourbon kick, that she liked; and I found the swivelling ice ball a nice grown-up touch.
Looking for another light drink “Picky Diner” got the “Flowers for Algernon” made with Odd Society Wallflower gin, St Germaine, grapefruit, and lavender. I was happy that they delivered on the promise of flowers with actual, colourful petals garnishing the top. This was a very refreshing citrus cocktail with hints of floral, and the easy drinkability of gin.
[wpv-map-marker map_id=’gcc’ marker_id=’tuc’ marker_title=’Tuc Craft Kitchen’ address=’60 W Cordova St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1C9′]Tuc Craft Kitchen – 60 W Cordova St, Vancouver, BC V6B 1C9[/wpv-map-marker]
[from left to right: flowers for algernon | frida khlo old fashion | tuc craft kitchen | coffee & cigarettes ]
The third destination on this Gastown cocktail tour had us back to novelty drinking with the “Bone Marrow Luge” at Wildebeest.
The “Bone Marrow Luge” was an add-on shot to an appetizer. You begin with their bone marrow served criss crossed and stacked with buttered leeks and oyster mushrooms, in a crimini mushroom vinaigrette. Both are plated with a base of grilled country bread.
So here, more for novelty and theatrics, and for $3 more, your marrow serves another purpose. Your now empty bone becomes a full serving vessel for sherry. Each shot is presented in miniature decanter. They await you to take a grip on then and pour. You essentially use the bone as a slide down your throat. I found it too difficult to do for myself, on myself. So had insisted that it would be poured in me, both bloggers followed suit for a more fun and hands-free drinking experience.
When it came time to order more drinks off the menu, we stayed true to our already established drinking preferences. Me: anything creative, with a unique sounding ingredient line up. “D. Noms”: one that kicked you in the face bourbon; and “P. Diner”: something light and fruity with gin.
I got the “Fresh Prince” for its loose proximity to 90’s Will Smith, and because it was described as a “slurpee”. It is was spearmint, Cuban rum, apple, and Fernet Brancha. If 7-eleven had these churning in their machines, you would see me there more often. However it reminded me more of a Bellini with the slush and fruity alcohol, but also like a mojito with the citrus and mint notes.
The “Bombs Away” spoke to “Drunken Noms” with its proper rye, Italian vermouth, cynar, and herbal liqueur. It’s solid glass and opaque colour certainly classified it one of the “non girly drinks”, she goes out of her way to avoid.
When he couldn’t decided “Picky Diner” went for the “Horseradish Sour” with London Dry gin, lemon, horseradish, honey, egg white, and pepper. The cocktail straddled both the savory and sweet side. Savory with pepper and the celery salt, that we insisted that we tasted mixed in. Sweet with the foamy egg white and honey. Once again he choose an easy to drink gin that I was partial to, too.
[from left to right: fresh Prince | bone marrow luge | bombs away | horseradish sour ]
The fourth stop, Bauhaus, was a wild card, our visit was less about the cocktails, and more about “Drunken Noms” loving the place. She insisted on stopping, after the shock she earned; hearing that “Picky Diner” and myself have yet to try it for ourselves. We made this our detour, but still found some cocktails to satisfy our crawling criteria within.
I went with the “Buttermilk Margarita” as I have yet to have much with buttermilk in it, outside of fried chicken and dough; so I was curious how it transitioned into an alcoholic beverage. It was prepared with reposado tequila, agave, buttermilk, lemon and quince jam. You certainly got the promise of buttermilk with its sour and tart taste. It’s an acquired flavour, like expired milk for those unfamiliar. The lemon and quince helped to balance the taste and sweeten the drink.
The “Diner” went with another horseradish cocktail. The “Schmutz Martini” is made using akvavit, horseradish, dry vermouth, and olive mist. You really got the olive essence from this. And with it, and the intensity of the horseradish, it reminded you of an oyster, but in liquid form. This is definitely one of those drinks you have once just to try, and order a classic martini to wash it down afterwards.
Less a creative drink, and more “Nom’s” favourite cocktail: was the “Boulevardier”. This version altered the traditional recipe with the use of cinnamon on top of bourbon, sweet vermouth, and campari. She wasn’t sold on the added spice and the extra warmth it brought, but she isn’t one to waste a drop.
[from left to right: clockwise – boulevardier, shmultz martini, buttermilk margarita | bauhaus | buttermilk margarita l’abattoir]
And finally, the last stop on our Gastown crawl ended with L’Abattoir.
“Drunken Noms” was so excited by the house gimlet that she insisted that we each needed one. Sipping and sharing was not advised here. Apparently this is one of the most famous cocktails in Vancouver. Given the health consciousness of our city, our desire to be green, and the love of vegetables; it makes sense.
We didn’t even look at anything else on the menu. This alone spoke to how highly she thought of the cocktail. Because typically, bloggers have the desire to try as much as we can and share everything, in order to maximize spend for variety.
So here it is, the “Avocado Gimlet” is prepared with rosemary and olive infused baker’s gin, fresh avocado, apfelkorn schnapps, and lime. This drink had the creaminess of avocado, but not its taste; the scent of Rosemary, but not its floral nature; and the herbaceous of gin, but not its alcohol kick. This was easy to take down as it looked good for you. The colour was the most striking, like a freshly squeezed green vegetable juice.
[from left to right: l’abattoir | l’abattoir | avocado gimlet]
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
There is nothing like dining with like minds, so imagine it and times it by 10, and you get what it’s like to drink with like minds. It wasn’t necessarily the restaurants or the drinks that made this night successful and a must do again, but the company I kept and the conversations we had. Truly a must try if you get the chance. Don’t deny your cravings.