We’ve Found the Greatest Drink Deal in Vancouver

On Monday nights something wonderful happens at L'Abattoir.

January 22, 2019

By Neal McLennan / Photo: Erin Ireland

Here at VanMag and we’ve just begun the process of deciding who will become the next Bartender of the Year and working with all the past BOTY winners I’m blown away by the talent we’re blessed with in this town. We have a dozen bartenders who would be legends in almost any other city on earth, and it’s all the more impressive that they’ve reached such heights given the hurdles that exist in our Province. Choice is slowly getting better here, but price is still a huge wallop for both the bartenders and their customers. Drinking is expensive in this city.

Which is why L’Abattoir’s Monday night Back Bar Bottle feature is such a godsend. For the past few months, Bar Director Craig Robertson has been offering up an obscure, special or rare bottle essentially at cost. Here’s his rationale for what, on the face of it, is a terrible business decision:

The Back Bar Bottle feature began as a solution to a few opportunities I saw for the bar: Late night happy hours were starting to become a thing in a few venues especially after they became legal; I had a few new staff members I wanted to inspire and motivate; I really wanted to highlight some of the amazing bottles we had collected over the years and several of the new products I had brought in since taking over. I wanted to add to the essence of the L’Abattoir bar not just as a cocktail bar but also as a bar with tremendous depth of spirit options. 

Basically on Monday nights we offer single pours of something from the back bar at cost. The rules are fairly loose for now and are up to bartender discretion. Usually we just pour it to sip on, other nights we may make cocktails with it if it really displays the beauty of the spirit. We run the feature one night a week until the bottle is done or we close—whichever comes first. The bottle changes weekly. If I can get people in the bar late on quieter nights drinking fun stuff with other like minded people then that’s a success for me.  Personally I really enjoy the idea that there is very little notice, basically a few people’s Instagrams, as to what the bottle for that night it is. I want people to be excited about the unknown.

The feature first came to my attention a back in November when, blasting through my Instagram I came across the magic words: Red Breast 15, $6.20/oz. Come again? The brilliant single pot still Irish whiskey Retails for almost $150 and is usually $20 and up a pour at most spots. And each week the deals kept coming: Balvenie 21, a $380 treat for $15.82, or the same as Prohibition charges for the $95 Ardbeg 10. And it’s not just whisky—there’s been a stellar grappa for $3.90, and I’m told upcoming bottles include overproof bourbon, obscure Italian amaro, a Japanese whisky double header, and cachaca.

To be honest, I was a little conflicted about writing about it. Right now it’s this beautiful little gift, but if everyone starts crowding around L’Abattoir’s modest bar then the golden goose might fly away. Oh well—if I can’t share this rare bit of good fortune in our otherwise price-challenged drinking environment then I’m not worth having a drink with anyways.

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