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Time for a Drink: The Vancouver Recipe

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Every great city should share its name with a great cocktail—but with the notable exception of the Manhattan (and some of its borough and neighborhood-named relations), few actually do. There’s the Toronto cocktail, a tasty little tipple that’s woefully obscure; the Manhattan-related Newarkcocktail (yes, really), which is way more fun than any time I’ve had in that city; the Los Angeles, an odd bird that’s recently been rejiggered into approachability; and the Frisco, which has the misfortune of bearing the annoying nickname for San Francisco but can be forgiven because of its deliciousness.

Here’s another drink that may not qualify as “great” but still does pretty well for itself in the glass: the Vancouver.

Reportedly created at the Sylvia Hotel in Vancouver, B.C. during the 1950s, the Vancouver is a sultry descendant of the Martinez, with the ethereal flavor of Benedictine herbal liqueur riffing on the botanicals of gin and sweet vermouth, the drink’s other major components. Not a whole lot is known about the Vancouver: There’s a story that Errol Flynn knocked back a Vancouver immediately before expiring, which seems like one of those “too convenient to be true” kinds of anecdotes. What is known is that the drink sank into obscurity before being revived by Vancouver bartenders just a few years ago.

A quick note on preparation: this is the kind of drink where your choice of gin and sweet vermouth will make a lot of difference. I like drinks of this style with a more savory or citrusy gin, with less of a juniper bite; Martin Miller’s and Plymouth are good choices. Also, your vermouth needs to do some actual flavor work here, rather than simply being a sweetening, softening agent; Carpano Antica will give a deep, vanilla-ed richness to the drink, while Punt e Mes will lend a bitter bite, or if you want to go mainstream vermouth, a recently opened bottle of Martini & Rossi will still get you there. Benedictine is Benedictine, and don’t forget the lemon twist—a little spray of citrus oil really helps bring the whole drink together.

  • 2 ounces gin
  • 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 teaspoon Benedictine
  • 1-2 dashes orange bitters, to taste
  • Thin strip of lemon peel, for garnish
  1. Combine ingredients in mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir well until chilled, about 30 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Twist lemon peel over drink and use as garnish.

Special equipment

mixing glass, bar spoon, strainer

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