After my first visit to Vancouver, BC in 2012, all I could think about was getting back. Walking through the neighborhoods and taking in the waterfront left an impression on me. It’s probably because it reminds me of a larger, Canadian version of my hometown of Portland, Maine. When I finally returned in April 2023, it was to visit this distillery and find the best cocktail bars in Vancouver. I also really wanted to take the Cascades train route up after a visit to Portland, OR. While the train only partially worked out–who knew the train transferred to a bus in Seattle–Vancouver was just as nice as I’d remembered. Here are some of my favorite spots we visited for cocktails.
1. Botanist Bar
- Location: 1038 Canada Place (inside Fairmont Pacific Rim)
- Hours: Tuesday-Wednesday, 5:30pm-11pm | Thursday-Saturday, 5:30pm-midnight | Closed Sunday-Monday
Since opening in 2017, Botanist Bar has been named in numerous lists and has received international recognition. Most recently, they were named the 19th best bar in North America by North America’s 50 Best Bars Academy. The food in the restaurant was impeccable and I would highly recommend dinner. The service was excellent and the space is warm and inviting. I almost didn’t notice we were in a hotel until I went to find the restroom.
I enjoyed the Lost in Translation which is made with Japanese whisky, eau de vie, imperial oolong tea, coconut, and amargo chuncho. It is complex and made for the perfect sipper before my meal arrived. The other cocktail I enjoyed was the Council of Trees. It’s a beautiful blend of scotch, fino sherry, cedar, oak moss, birch sap, and alder and cherrywood smoked tea. I absolutely love unique cocktails and this one did not disappoint.
- Location: 1622 Commercial Drive
- Hours: Monday-Thursday, noon-10pm | Friday, noon-11:30pm | Saturday, 10am-11:30pm | Sunday, 10am-10pm
La Mezcaleria opened in 2013 on The Drive in the heart of east side Vancouver, as the first Mezcaleria in Canada. They offer the finest hand-crafted mezcals and cocktails from different regions of Mexico, alongside a delicious menu of food. The space is cozy and packed, so reservations are highly encouraged. They’re easily among the best cocktail bars in Vancouver but they also offer mezcal flights. This offers you the chance to explore their bottle selection with 0.5 and 1oz pours available. You can choose your own or turn your experience over to the staff who can guide you to your new favorites. Curated agave tastings are also offered as an add-on to your reservation if you want to plan ahead.
I enjoyed the Ron Amanecer. It’s vanilla-infused mezcal, rum, pineapple juice, strawberry puree, chocolate bitters, and vegan foamer. My second delicious drink was the Elote. It’s a blend of tequila blanco, coconut tequila, habanero bitters, and corn puree. A flavor-packed drink that will shock your tastebuds to life.
- Location: 135 Keefer Street
- Hours: Friday-Saturday, 4pm-2am | Sunday-Thursday, 4pm-1am
Just named #25 on the North America @50bestbars list, The Keefer Bar is a vibe. Located on the edge of Vancouver’s Chinatown, this jewel-box of a bar has been around for more than a decade. The bar’s original concept (using Chinese apothecary-style inspiration to create libations with a wink to remedies and cures) still persists. When you walk in, the rich colors and swanky decor are the first things you notice. As your eyes adjust to the light, you’ll start to identify an IV bag or an X-ray film. Definitely don’t miss the menu. The cocktails are one of a kind delicious. Plus, if you’re a cocktail nerd like me, you’ll enjoy that the menu includes photos of each drink.
I enjoyed the Love Me Not. It’s made with Suntory Toki whisky, Courvoisier cognac, osmanthus vermouth, honey, tarragon, and Peychaud’s bitters. It was served with a lollipop version of the drink. I also had the Tiptoe to Rio which is a blend of Tanqueray Rangpur gin, cachaca, Licor 43, marshmallow root, coconut, lime, kefir, acai, and nutmeg. A cocktail as delicious as it looked. Keefer is definitely one of the best cocktail bars in Vancouver.
- Location: 518 Main Street
- Hours: 7 days a week, 5pm-late
Named after the black panther in The Jungle Book, Bagheera opened in Vancouver in early 2023. The front of the bar looks like a betting parlor. When you enter, you have to place a bet on King Louie to enter. If you want to see the inside of Bagheera, you either need to visit in person or check out their Instagram. They don’t allow photographs inside the bar. The cocktails were decent and the service was good. It’s definitely worth a visit.
- Location: 162 Water Street
- Hours: Happy Hour 3-6pm 7 days a week | hours vary for lunch, brunch, dinner
I visited Pourhouse on my first visit to Vancouver so I was happy to see it still open when I returned. It’s a beautiful, antique bar housed in a building built in 1910. The place is always packed and they serve delicious food alongside classic cocktails. I enjoyed a sidecar and some tasty snacks. It’s a great location for a meal or a quick drink in the city.
6. Clough Club
- Location: 212 Abbott Street
- Hours: Friday-Saturday, 5pm-2am | Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday – 5pm-1am | Closed Monday-Tuesday
Another long-time favorite cocktail bar in Vancouver, is the Clough Club. The bar focuses on dark spirits but you can find a little bit of everything. I enjoyed a classic gin gimlet while enjoying the dimly-lit atmosphere and great people watching. The bar is named after Gastown’s one-armed lamp lighter. They also serve small plates and have live music on Fridays and Saturdays.
- Location: 1026 Mainland Street
- Hours: Thursday-Saturday, 5pm-1am | Sunday-Wednesday, 5pm-midnight | Closed Monday-Tuesday
Sadly, my seventh pick for best cocktail bars in Vancouver has closed since my last visit. However, I met a couple from Vancouver who were on vacation in Paris in July that provided a strong contender for the list called Bartholomew. Since we met them at Little Red Door, I trust their taste in cocktail bars. This bar looks amazing and will be my first stop on my next trip to Vancouver, B.C. Cheers!