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It’s a funny thing about Whistler, Host Mountain Resort for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. There’s lots (and lots and lots) to drink, but most of it is pretty mediocre — you know, draft beer, morning-after caesars, plonk by the glass, shooters, the kind of stuff you liked to drink when you were too young to know better. But there are also some exceptional places to enjoy a great cocktail or glass of bubble.
For those of us who’ve evolved beyond the body shot stage of our lives, these are the places to drink in Whistler:
Mallard Lounge in the Fairmont Chateau Whistler: Seriously, could any location be better than this one right at the base of Blackfoot Mountain? The Mallard is wonderfully old school with comfy sofas, river rock fireplaces and terrific live music around cocktail hour, not to mention the attentive Fairmont service. But the drinks are what keep me coming back. A couple of years back, Fairmont introduced its “Fame” program across Canada, which taught bartenders how to make handcrafted drinks with fresh ingredients, and put a strong focus on the classics. It’s been implemented somewhat unevenly across the country, but the Chateau Whistler really gets it right. For the Olympics, the Mallard has introduced a whole menu of Olympic-inspired cocktails, of which “The Triple Lutz,” named for a figure skating move established by a Canadian, is an absolute must-try. Naturally, it’s also a truly Canadian cocktail, being made with Victoria gin from Vancouver Island, Crystal Head vodka from Newfoundland, whisky infused with Quebec maple syrup, muddled blackberries and a snowy foam infused with Canadian icewine. Wonderfully boozy and just what you need to warm you up on a chilly mountain night.
Bearfoot Bistro: First off, there’s the sabering. You haven’t done Whistler till you’ve sabered a champagne bottle in the massive wine cellar in this haute Village restaurant. The cellar itself is awesome, just jam-packed with large-format and hard-to-find bottles. Then there’s the champagne bar upstairs, which has a frozen rim with these sort of cupholder things carved into it where you can place your flute between sips. And now they’ve introduced the Belvedere Ice Room, a sub-zero space where guests, all bundled in cosy parkas and chic chapeaux, get to nibble caviar and taste exotic vodkas. Now that’s cool!
Araxi: Made internationally famous by Gordon Ramsay when a chef position became the grand prize on his popular Hell’s Kitchen reality show. Already famous locally for terrific food and equally terrific drinks. Award-winning wine list with impressive British Columbia selection. Gorgeous hand-crafted cocktails. Everything done perfectly beautifully.
Mountain Club: Cocktails are the focus here, with some pretty inventive work being done behind the bar. Bacon-infused Crown Royal anyone? (Talk about Canadian content!) Huge back bar. Fun drinks along with all the classics, but all done exceedingly well. Also appeals to a younger, more casual crowd than some of the other high-fliers. Fun times.
Bistro Fifty Two 80 at Four Seasons: Located next to the Chateau, the Four Seasons is elegant and beautiful, but perhaps a bit cut off from the action. Maybe that’s why its lounge is one of the best places to spot celebrities enjoying an aprés-ski drink. The focus here is on freshness and quality — well, it is Four Seasons, so what else would you expect?