The Cascade Room Calms with Cocktails
On the front of the Cascade Room’s menu (not to mention on a partition in the entryway), it reads in big block letters, KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON which I have always taken to mean “be cool and don’t freak out when you see the amazing list of cocktails in here”. And I’m always glad of the reminder.
My first visit to the Cascade Room was when I was on a serious bourbon kick and trying to make up for years of drinking rye and scotch by taste-testing as many bourbons as I could possibly get my hands on. Bourbon being a bit of an old-school drink and the Cascade Room being a bar that endeavors to bring back the cocktails of past eras, this was a match made in heaven and I drank my way from the Mint Julep (fresh mint muddled with sugar, filled with crushed ice and a generous measure of Kentucky bourbon), past the Sazerac (bourbon, bitters and sugar stirred over ice and strained into a chilled absinthe and pastis washed glass, with a lemon twist) and finished with the Cascade Room signature cocktail (bourbon shaken hard with fresh pressed apple & lime juices, vanilla bean, bitters and egg white, served straight up with a shaving of roasted hazelnut). Some I liked, some I didn’t, but I relished the opportunity to try cocktails firmly embedded in history that you just don’t see around anymore. Besides, they are giant, 2oz drinks, all with fresh ingredients and all $9.
On the inside of the cocktail menu, it reads:
“Whatever you desire, whether it’s a rickey, a daisy, a crusta or a julep – a sling, a sour, a flip or a fix, a frappe, a mist, a cooler or a float – a fizz, a toddy, a cobbler or a nog – a smash, a punch or just a kick in the balls… we’ll endeavour to make that too.”
Owner Nigel Pike and award-winning bartender Nick Devine are clearly eager to please.
On subsequent visits I sampled the Passion Fruit Collins (gin shaken with caster sugar and mixed with soda water, passion fruit and ice, $8), then to compare I had a regular Tom Collins (the same, obviously minus the passion fruit), the French ’75 (gin shaken with fresh lemon juice and sugar, strained and crowned with Champagne, $8) and the Corpse Reviver II (pastis and lemon juice topped with champagne, $8). The French ’74 is a particular favorite, but there are too many other concoctions to try before I’ll get back around to it. I’m thorough, if nothing else.
I’ve been admittedly less thorough with the food menu, however. Despite amazing-looking items such as Tagliatelle Amatriciana, a Tuscan pasta dish comprised of guanciale, tomato sauce and chili ($15), or the Braised Beef Oxtail ($17), I’ve only eaten the polenta fries with curried mayo dip ($6) and the breaded calamari with red pepper and paprika aioli ($11). Both are outstanding snacks and both soak up the alcohol admirably, but my next visit will certainly include dinner.
How I wish that the Cascade Room was just a little less cool, or a little bit more of a secret. It’s always packed and the trade off for being in the back with the cute wallpaper is that it can get awfully hot and loud, even on a weeknight. Sitting at the bar is a worthwhile experience, not only because you will be seated faster, but also because you can see the cocktail making in action.
2616 Main Street, Vancouver