Who’s the best Bartender in Kitsilano?

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This week the Vancouver Sun ran a story about re-emergence of the cocktail and how the city’s hottest restaurants are enlisting bartenders with flair to create a memorable drinking experience.

As Vancouver evolved from a city of quaint low-rises to a canyon of cool glass towers, our new watering holes adopted a similarly sleek modern style, each featuring the same décor, the same drinks, the same menus, even the same wait staff of chic young women in form-fitting black.

But over the past few months, a handful of new joints has opened up, all of them trying to shed the impersonal international style and capture the unique essence of Vancouver.

Sun writer Joanne Sasvari singles out a number of local watering holes and “cocktail artists” including Ben deChamplain of Kit’s newest Thai restaurant Maenam.

At last, the city’s Asian restaurants are starting to improve their drinks programs, starting with chef Angus An’s new gourmet Thai eatery, Maenam, which opened at the end of May. (Miku and Flying Tiger are two others to watch.)

In this tiny but chic room, bar manager (and former chef) Ben deChamplain use Thai ingredients like basil, lemongrass and chilies to complement An’s spicy-hot-sour-and-sweet cuisine. Fresh, fragrant and flavourful, these drinks are unforgettable.

We wandered into a full Maenam a couple Saturdays ago with two seats at the bar as our only option. deChamplain served us and we had a blast. Bartenders always have a different perspective on the menu and his recommendations were based on trying the full menu – often.

Ben convinced us to return later in the evening post-Coldplay concert and he were able witness some late night freestyle cocktail artistry.

deChamplain gets my vote as the Best Bartender in Kitsilano. Do yourself a favor, grab a seat at the bar and order a cocktail. Any cocktail.

Photo: Scout’s Magazine’s Owen Lightly

Last modified: July 5, 2009

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