Liquor industry hopful Vancouver Cocktail Week can stir up fresh business – BC

Bars and restaurants in Metro Vancouver are hoping the annual Vancouver Cocktail Week will help give the industry a shot in the arm amid challenging economic conditions.

Business has been slow in the post-holiday season, with inflation and the rising cost of living and a growing number of people taking time off from drinking for “dry January” and “dry February.”

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North Vancouver’s Copper Penny Distilling said business was down 20 per cent last month for most businesses in the city’s brewery district, but things are picking up with spring on the way.

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“It’s just been a lot of getting really creative, definitely creating more guest experiences, making sure everything is just absolutely exceptional, because costs are so high, and there’s not really much we can do to bring them down,” owner and distiller Jennifer Kom-Tong told Global News.

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The distillery is participating in Cocktail Week for the second time this year, hosting a seminar on the history of tonic and doing a ‘meet the makers event.’

“I think as a whole it got the city and the public excited to try different cocktails and things,” Kom-Tong said of Cocktail Week.

“Being on the North Shore is a little bit trickier for us, getting people to cross the bridge, but the support of our community here has been great.”

Jenna Gillespie, head bartender at Vancouver’s L’abattoir, said the annual Cocktail Week is an opportunity to get people excited about going out again.

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And while there is a major focus on distillers and mixologists — both local and international — Gillespie said the industry is also shifting to welcome non-drinkers and those who are ‘sober curious.’

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“Which is giving us the opportunity to expand our creativity and bring out more non-alcoholic drinks for people to enjoy,” she explained.

“I like to make them look like they are beautiful cocktails because everybody needs to feel welcomed during that time, we don’t want people to stay inside just because they’re not drinking.”

Cocktail Week producer Gail Nugent said the annual event was born in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has continued to grow every year since.

“People are really picking and choosing what they are spending their money on, but our bars and restaurants have really upped their game,” she said.

“In Vancouver, we really, truly have such a culinary vibe and award-winning chefs and bartenders. I think you get your money’s worth when you come out.”

The week’s events include neighbourhood crawls, tasting events, seminars and a Saturday gala to close out the festivities.

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