Bars: Bad

This is why I rarely drink in bars (well, one reason, anyway), preferring instead to mix my own at home: the curse of the poorly made cocktail.

Scene: Bacchus Lounge in the Wedgewood Hotel in Vancouver, BC. For the past two years running, Vancouver Magazine named Bacchus the best lounge in the city, so it seemed promising at first.

The first sign of trouble was immediately apparent: Bacchus, and the Wedgewood, have a wonderful beauty to them, but they’re the kind of places that have a particular appeal among the over-60 set. You know—the hunting scenes hanging on the wall, the dark wood and Venetian lamps, the deep burgundy plush of the chairs—the kind of place your grandmother likes to stay. Pleasant? Sure. A temple to fine drinking? Not looking good.

A look at the cocktail list was the second warning: Of the approximately 20 house specialty cocktails, about 95 percent were based on vodka, and most were variations on the cosmo. But, they also had a small list of classic cocktails, and I figured that with a reputation like theirs, and choosing a cocktail on the list, I’d probably be okay. With that in mind, I ordered a Between the Sheets (brandy & white rum, with fresh lemon juice and Coinreau)—not my favorite drink, but one worth sipping on occasion; plus, this being Canada, all of the whiskey drinks were made with Canadian “rye,” (blended, as opposed to American straight rye), so that 86ed my usual top choices.

Stupid. The drink arrived with a thick layer of ice chips on top; once I crunched through those, I found a watery puddle of lemon juice, with neither enough Cointreau to balance the lemon’s tartness, nor enough rum or brandy to have any noticeable taste whatsoever. If there’s any silver lining here, it’s that the bartender didn’t immediately turn it into a candy drink with too much Cointreau, as is so often the case. Still, it was a lousy drink, particularly shocking given Bacchus’ reputation.

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