We can safely say that 2021 was a bit of a step down drinking-wise from 2020. Because it would be physically impossible for it not to be.
But still, the pandemic and various other happenings (elections for no reason, white supremacy, fires, floods, OK, we'll stop) gave us more than enough reasons to explore liquor store offerings and drink menus.
Here were the best things we drank all year.
Time's Arrow Saison by Ryan Voigt, Neck of the Woods Honey and Dageraad Brewing
You don't usually see a beer with three different names behind it, but it's no surprise that everyone with anything at all to do with this beer wanted to make sure they were credited. For Christ's sake, whoever made the glass the bottle is in really be doing everything they can to be associated with this thing.
Is the three-paragraph description on Dageraad's site a bit much? I mean, sure, it would be if this was any regular beer. But it really is not. It's not even close. So yeah, Dageraad, wax poetic all you want about how the "matter in this bottle was created in the Big Bang at the dawn of time." Go for it.
For those who don't want to read something that feels like it was written by Gandalf the Grey, Time's Arrow combines honey from Neck of the Woods with a mixed culture of brewers yeast and brettanomyces selected by Studio Brewing's Ryan Voigt.
Then it's aged in red wine barrels for 18 months. Seriously. It's bottled, refermented and aged AGAIN for several months.
So if you're wondering why it costs $17 and is among the most delicious beers you've ever had, you've got your answer. It's a tart, deep beer. The honey is subtle and while it's certainly not "crushable," it's definitely accessible at 7.4 percent.
All that is to say that Time's Arrow is worth the wait.—Nathan Caddell, associate editor
The hard truth about cellaring wine is that it's often a case of peaks and valleys: when everything works out you are treated to the the most sublime expression of wine's highest calling; when it doesn't you feel the depths of despair. And, again with the truth, it often doesn't. Sometimes the maturation is derailed by changes in temperature, sometimes the wine enters the very real phenomena of a dumb period, sometimes it just wasn't built for aging. One of the reasons I like Champagne for aging is it's that both its high acidity and carbon dioxide act are natural preservatives, so you have less surprises when you pop the cork. The downside is that most Champagne takes on richer, more brioche-y notes that some people love (like me), while others don't.
But where some real alchemy happens is when you take arguably the most famous 100% Chardonnay Champagne—Taittinger's Comtes de Champagne—and then give it a decade and a half to cool it's heel. Wow. This was a bottle I had laid down 5 years ago (although you can still buy the 2007 here if you like) and when the cork eased out (popping is for young pups) I prayed that it had weathered the journey with its dignity intact.
And wow again. If elegance could be bottled this would be it—the colour still pale, bubbles tight and controlled and waves of crisp apple, white flowers, maybe a hint of grilled brown sugar. You never want to be the guy who oohs and aahs over the wine you brought, but holy hell all I could do is meet everyone else's eyes with a look that said "are you tasting what I'm tasting?"
I have a lot of time for the critic Antonio Galloni and he's long said that the Comtes de Champagne is the best value of all the prestige bottlings (Krug, Dom, Cristal etc). And after polishing this baby off I tend to agree.—Neal McLennan, food editor
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Koldie's Grapefruit and Vanilla Bean Mixer
Okay, yes, my pick for my favourite drink of the year also happens to by my most recent bev (like, my-glass-is-still-in-the-sink recent). But that's pure coincidence: even if I'd encountered this Koldie's Mixer back in January, and not at the East Side Flea last weekend, I think it would still be on the top of my list. The sweet-and-sour blend of grapefruit and real vanilla bean is sort of irresistible, living somewhere in the nexus of tangy, bright and warm, and offers a punch whether shaken up with your fave gin or a zero-proof spirit. Yeah, you could fashion your own boozy, juicy highball for several bucks less, but locally made Koldie's is the elevated, treat-yourself version (aquafaba gives it a surprising creaminess) that inspires you to say "Does anyone want a cocktail?" on a Tuesday night and break out the fun ice cubes. —Stacey McLachlan, editor at large
Can I first lament how much my sad gluten-free life misses the time-before when I could drink a cold beer on a hot summer's day? It's been a few years since I experienced that sweet joy, and in the meantime, I've searched the world over for a suitable replacement. Most gluten-free options are are either artificially flavoured (is that really what a black cherry tastes like?) or cloyingly sweet (or both!), but these little gems are a perfectly balanced summer treat. They're made by the same gin pros that created the lovely Empress 1908 (purple) gin, the rhubarb they use is harvested from a farm in the Fraser Valley, and the illustrated can is just damn adorable. And the drink? Lightly tart and refreshing, and it paired perfectly with whatever summer read I had on the go at the beach this past July. —Anicka Quin, editorial director
One of my proudest accomplishments this year was the progress I made in my quest to force myself to like beer. Prior to 2021, I only drank beer if the price was right (aka it was free) and even then I couldn't finish more than one. Now, I'm good with most sours—Spectrum Beer's Hot Pink Lemonade sour was close to taking the number one spot—and goses, including this one from Yellow Dog Brewing. Not everyone likes their ginger extra strong, but I do, and this ginger-y, lime-y, salty brew delivers. It's only available during the summer months (as are most fruity beers I like). I'll stick with rum and coke 'till the sunshine returns.—Alyssa Hirose, assistant editor
I know, I know. It’s Smirnoff, and not something made by anyone artisanal or local. Nor is it high brow and brag worthy. And trust me, I really wish it were. I would love to be that kind of person so that I could feel like one of the cool kids in the know about small batch releases and the best kept cellar-aged secrets. I'm not there yet. One day, maybe.
My friend brought a bottle of this home to Vancouver on her way back from Mexico, and let me tell you, this spicy tamarind vodka is everything I’ve ever wanted in a flavoured alcohol. I don’t usually roll that way – I tend to be a bit of purist when it comes to what I’m drinking. But this? It’s spicy, tangy and maybe a little sweet. I love it with soda or tonic and just a touch of lime. It’s even good plain if that’s your fancy. My fave iteration is like a vodka-margarita combo (of course with Tajin rim) but that’s more effort and the best thing about this vodka is that it feels like a zero-effort cocktail.
Unfortunately, you can’t get this in Canada: I’ve tried to ship it from suppliers in the States and when that failed, I attempted to have the BCL make a special order. Your only choice is to bring it back over the border with you. Trust me, it’s worth the luggage space. — Dani Wright, editorial intern