Ten Simple Rules For A Great Time This Holiday Season





Rule 1: Hosting a crowd can be easy, just stick to the plan

The trick? For food, think low and slow. This family-style holiday roast with bright Asian flavours from executive chef Ted Anderson of Fat Dragon is a cinch to prepare, requires minimal attention, and is sure to be the talk of the party. And for drinks, a simple party punch can accommodate a large group and be prepared well in advance. Giovanni Giardino of Campagnolo shares his favourite.

Brisket Slow Roasted Beef Brisket

by Ted Anderson, Executive Chef at Fat Dragon
Serves: 6 people as a main course; more as part of a buffet-style spread

1 piece flat cut beef brisket (5-6 lbs)
10 stalks lemongrass
15 cloves garlic
2 cups fish sauce
¹⁄³ cup light soy sauce
¹⁄³ cup white sugar

Trim the lemongrass and peel the outer layers until only the tender heart remains, then slice the heart as thinly as possible. Chop garlic fine and mix with the lemongrass, fish sauce, soy sauce, and sugar. Put the brisket into a freezer bag (or Pyrex dish big enough to fit the meat) and pour over the sauce. Marinate for 24 hours, turning once.

Preheat oven to 275ºF. Place marinated brisket on a roasting tray with a rack, and cook for 1 to 1.5 hours per pound of meat. Baste the brisket as  much as you like, rotating it after two hours or so. Test the temperature of the meat after four hours—you’re looking for 175ºF, never below. Remove the brisket from the oven and wrap it tightly in aluminum foil. Let it rest for an hour.

Serve with steamed rice, cucumber slices, lettuce leaves, and any other condiments you like, though Anderson prefers nuoc cham: mix together ¼ cup lime juice, ¼ cup sugar, ¼ cup fish sauce, ²⁄³ cup water, 2 red Thai chilies, seeded and finely chopped, and 3 cloves garlic finely chopped. Let sit overnight.

Tip: Anderson suggests butchers like Sebastian & Co., Big Lou’s, or Rio Friendly Meats for a well-marbled piece of meat.

Gio’s Ginger Jar

by Giovanni Giardino of Campagnolo

1 lb fresh ginger, sliced into chunks
2 cups sugar
6 cups water
spirit of your choice (Giardino likes rye)
soda water
lemons and limes

Put the ginger, water, and sugar into a pot and bring to a boil, reduce heat, and let simmer for about two hours. Let cool. Strain the syrup into a container with a lid. In a pitcher add one part spirit to one part ginger syrup to four parts soda water, and float some lemon or lime wedges.

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Rule 2: There’s a bar for every occasion

When out-of-town guests come calling, asking “Where should we meet tonight?” you need a quick answer.

Hanging With Your College Roommate

The Room

What’s great about Killjoy (1120 Hamilton St., 604-669-4604. Donnellygroup.ca) is it’s a grown-up cocktail bar with interesting wines on tap, but it’s perfectly situated (in Yaletown) should the night take a turn for the rowdy.

The Drink

We like the Gin Gin Mule for its refreshing kick of ginger beer and mint.

Showing Up Your Know-It-All Sibling

The Room

Bartender Jacob Sweetapple devises one of the city’s most interesting cocktail programs at Chambar (562 Beatty St., 604-879-7119. Chambar.com); the long list of Belgium beers invites you to settle in and experiment.

The Drink

Doña Sol is a citrusy number with notes of Thai basil and lemongrass.


Impressing Your Hard-To-Please In-Laws

The Room

The Fairmont Pacific Rim’s Lobby Lounge (1038 Canada Pl., 604-695-5300. Fairmont.com/pacific-rim-vancouver), the very definition of modern elegance, is as welcoming to moneyed professionals as it is to a mature crowd.

The Drink

La Grande Heure jazzes up a classic sour with marzipan and star anise.


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Rule 3: Go out for Christmas dinner

Are the hours of cooking, and the dishwashing marathons, really worth it? Many excellent restaurants offer holiday meals in opulent settings (and they’ll take care of all the dirty work).

Chef Hamid Salimian of Diva at the Met (645 Howe St., 604-602-7788. Metropolitan.com/diva) has designed a four-course menu that features modern takes on classics, like honey-glazed turkey breast, slow cooked leg, and chestnut purée.

At the Rosewood Hotel Georgia (801 W. Georgia St., 604-682-5566. Rosewoodhotels.com/hotelgeorgia), Christmas Eve sees eggnog lattes and seasonal cocktails served in the Lobby Bar, and a seafood buffet groaning under the weight of shellfish.

Bacchus at the Wedgewood (845 Hornby St., 604-689-7777. Wedgewoodhotel.com) offers 100-mile delights on Christmas Day menus (like Sorrento sunchoke soup garnished with crisp Pink Lady apples).

Xi Shi Lounge at the Shangri-la (1128 W. Georgia St., 604-689-1120. Shangri-la.com) brings a festive twist to afternoon tea service.

Kirin Restaurants (various locations. Kirinrestaurants.com) offer full menus on Christmas Day, and big tables to gather the whole family ’round.

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 Rule 4: Set the tone with music

Hotel Cortes Vol.10Hôtel Costes, Vol. 10

“The opener, Angus & Julia Stone’s ‘Paper Aeroplane,’ showcases French DJ/producer Stéphane Pompougnac’s vast array of inspiration; the upbeat ‘Glamour Girl’ by Louie Austen will inspire anyone to reach for that next martini.”

Tyson Villeneuve,
The Social Concierge



Cristina Zavalloni’s Solidago

“Possibly the most versatile vocalist singing today, Zavalloni joins leading Italian jazz musicians for a tribute album to Charles Aznavour that sounds simultaneously retro and contemporary, perfect for serious cocktail fun.”

David Pay, artistic director, Music on Main


Sinatra at the Sands

“To get the mood set for the start of a party, I’d play this Sinatra, recorded live with the Count Basie Orchestra in what I think was Frank’s best era—1966. I defy anyone to not be ready for fun after a few cuts from that album.”

Dal Richards, big band leader, king of swing



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Rule 5: Travel in style

Maybe you’ve seen them: hip San Franciso-based car service with a fleet of sleek black sedans and luxury SUVs—Uber (m.uber.com; $8, plus $2.60 per kilometre—tips included) gives you the option of rolling up in something a little more swank than a Tonka-yellow Prius. Request a pick-up through their mobile app (they have no dispatcher), which pings your location using GPS and sends a car right to the curb. Officially the Vancouver outfit is still “Secret Uber” (read: in market-research stage), which means you won’t be able to book your ride in advance, but they pick up anywhere within city limits, and will nobly brave the bridges to the North Shore.

Designated driver services are for when the office Christmas party gets a little sloppy and you can’t find your way out of the parkade. Give them a call and they’ll send a driver to nurse you and your vehicle home safely. Greater Vancouver Designated Drivers (Gvdd.ca; $20, plus $2.10 per kilometre) and Dial a Designated Driver (Dadd.ca; $17, plus $1.60 per kilometre) offer the best rates. Most drivers operate from the ’burbs, though, so expect to wait upward of an hour if you don’t have an advance booking. Last resort: BCAA provides most of its members one free tow-and-ride-home per year—for those nights when things just can’t get any worse.—Mark Philps

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Rule 6: Stock your home bar smartly


We asked three of our favourite bartenders to help us create a perfect home bar. They each picked five bottles,
from must-have basics to esoteric collectibles, that provide the base for hundreds of cocktails.

Cameron BogueThe Basic

by Cameron Bogue, Director of Beverage Development, Earls

As all vodka has to be distilled to 95 percent pure alcohol, there is very little difference between brands. Smirnoff is well made—it uses charcoal filtration, regarded as one of the best mediums to purify spirits—and offers great value. Appleton Rum delivers a balance of raw sugar cane and deep molasses flavours. Both the white and VX are great for mixing in any cocktails. Beefeater Gin is my favourite example of the London Dry Gin style for its true juniper dominance. El Jimador Tequila contains only 100 percent blue agave, unlike other entry-level tequilas labelled gold, which are often “mixtos” of blue agave and other neutral spirits. Forty Creek Canadian Whiskey is a blend of rye, malted barley, and corn, all aged separately and blended into this masterpiece.


Trevor KalliesNext level

by Trevor Kallies, Bar & Beverage Director, Donnelly Group

After you’ve mastered basics, you’ll need a quality Italian Vermouth—Punt e Mes is a great start. There are a few other liqueurs that once on your back bar, will allow you to make hundreds of classics: you’ll need a classic Italian bitter (Campari for the bold or Aperol for those that enjoy a lighter flavour); (Green) Chartreuse and Maraschino Liqueur; and lastly, a bottle of Cointreau, essential for mixing.




Brad StantonTop shelf

by Brad Stanton, Bar & Lounge Manager, Hawksworth

Stir Giffard Abricot du Roussillon down with your favourite whiskey or gin and bitters combo, or add citrus juices and egg whites for a silky drink with lots of personality. Bourbons are big now, and Wild Turkey “Rare Breed” is a bartender’s bourbon—robust and powerful yet incredibly smooth. The Botanist is legendary Scotch distiller Jim McEwan’s first foray into gin, and 22 of the selected botanticals are native to Islay. It’s dry enough to shine in a traditional martini but in a league of its own mixed with fresh ingredients in a cocktail. Nikka “From the Barrel” Japanese Whiskey is bold, rich in character, and will impress whiskey buffs. Los Siete Misterios mezcal features seven species of agave distilled in clay pots (no time in oak) before being bottled. A taste reveals seductive smoke and earthy notes.

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Rule 7: Assemble snacks like a chef

“I love giving a gift to my guests,” says chef Ned Bell of Yew Restaurant. “Spend an afternoon making this simple cranberry relish and put it in a small Mason jar—affordable, accessible, and totally on-trend”

Cranberry RelishHomemade B.C. Cranberry Relish

3 cups fresh or frozen B.C. cranberries
2 cups dried B.C. cranberries (B.C. blueberries are a great substitute)
2 cups cranberry juice (or apple or pear juice)
1  cup honey (or maple syrup)
3  tbsp smoked sea salt
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1 cinnamon stick, optional

Bring all the ingredients up to a simmer in a small pot over medium heat for 30 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick, and either leave the relish chunky or purée in a blender until smooth. Either way it’s fantastic. Serve a Mason jar in the middle of your charcuterie board.



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Rule 8: Honour the season you’re in

Ceramic Heavyware 

I look for things to make a space cozy, like an alpaca wool throw and a family of candles,” says Naomi Horii of Butter on the Endive Catering. “Use things with weight: heavy candle holders; heavy cutlery; heavy ceramic servingware—Heath Ceramics (Heathceramics.com) makes a gorgeous line using rich earth colours.” Janaki Larsen, owner of Le Marche St. George, uses canvas drop cloths from Midland Liquidators ($8 each) for tablecloths and raw cotton paint rags ($12 for 25 at Home Depot) for napkins. “It doesn’t have to be expensive to be memorable! For flowers my big secret is that I forage from the yard. It’s free and it’s always in keeping with the season.”




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Rule 9: Stock up on smart wines

Sommelier Robert Herman recently grabbed the reins of the wine program at L’Abattoir in Gastown. He recommends France’s André et Mireille Tissot “Crémant du Jura” for the holidays—“It offers a generous sparkling full of pear, apple and toasted nuts.”







The city is fond of light and lively cru Beaujolais, so Liberty Wines founder Robert Simpson tracked down Château du Bois de la Salle’s 2009 Julienas “Les Armoiries” on a recent trip to France. He loves the spiced red fruit and complexity from 45-year-old vines.







Jeff Curry, a wine importer, loves Tasmania’s Josef Chromy 2010 Pinot Noir. “Vancouverites are adventurous with wine, and have developed a fondness toward New World Pinots through exposure to our wonderful, locally produced versions.”—Kurtis Kolt







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Rule 10: Be a pick up artist

Tips by DJ Keaney and David Scholefield