The Backyard Ingredients of Buckstop Cocktails and Bitters - West Coast Food

By Nikki Bayley

Vancouver is known as Canada’s cocktail capital, a hotbed of innovative alcoholic creations, shaken and stirred by award-winning bartenders who are making a name for themselves on the international circuit. Tucked away in the city’s West End by Stanley Park on Denman Street, you’ll find Buckstop, owned by Fiona Grieve whose local-first approach to cocktails is making her late night barbecue joint a must-visit for locavore drinkers.

“I’m local,” grins Fiona, “I was raised in the Tri-Cities area and have friends there who still who grow things and are always eager to get them into the restaurant. I love to use produce from Coquitlam to make my cocktail bitters. Bitters help to add layers of complexity to a drink, say you have just a plain tomato, if I add salt and pepper to that it changes it and makes it better. Then say I add balsamic vinegar or basil, that will change it again and it’s the same for a cocktail. It’s about adding those layers in so you don’t get a flat beverage. Every step that you put into it will make it more memorable and enjoyable.”

Photo: Jonathan Le Francoi
Photo: Jonathan Le Francois

My family has a huge amount of lavender at home, so I made lavender bitters which we feature in our cocktails and they specifically say ‘tri-cities lavender” on the bottle. It’s a good local product and we’re stoked about it! We’re excited to offer something that came from nearby. People think that lavender is a little exotic so bringing it from somewhere close is fantastic.

Ever since summer began we’ve been making our BC blueberry bourbon lemonade; you smash the blueberries up and they give you this incredible colour. I use Port Moody blackberries, which grow wild, in one of our most popular drinks, the Mule Skinner. My mom goes out and picks them for me. It has blackberry liquer and fresh muddled blackberries in it with with bourbon and it’s fun to say ‘these berries were growing wild in a park in Coquitlam and now you’re drinking them!’ I always make a point about talking about using local fruits in our drinks and so does my bartender. Of course, people are into it! No one’s ever said ‘Oh, I don’t want that local peach, it’s not from Chile!

A really good place to find cocktail ingredients is the Farmer’s Market; I can walk down to the one in Yaletown on Thursdays and it’s exciting because the produce is always changing, we have this short period to enjoy different wonderful local foods, when they come in season. They’re here for a short time and there is absolutely no comparison to anything else; it tastes different. It’s totally awesome, fantastic and delicious to eat and drink local produce!”

Buckstop can be found at 833 Denman St. in Vancouver

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