Located behind a nondescript wooden door at the intersection of Powell, Carrall, and Water in Gastown, is what’s generally agreed to be one of the best cocktail bars in Vancouver. Personally, it’s my favourite, perhaps because it was my first. This is The Diamond. Apparently, the space that it now occupies used to be a brothel back in the seedier days of Gastown (presumably back when L’Abattoir used to be a jailhouse), and the wallpaper inside gives off an appropriately vintage, classy-with-an-edge vibe. The drinks menu at the Diamond is helpfully split into categories: boozy, delicate, proper (don’t know what this means), notorious (for the “famous” cocktails; the Vesper is in this category), and unappreciated. So, if you’re not sure what you want to drink, you can’t go wrong by picking one from a category that strikes your fancy.
The Corpse Reviver No.2 (gin, cointreau, lillet blanc, lemon, absinthe) is a drink that I’ve been wanting to try for a while. The name comes from its formulation as a morning cocktail, or hangover cure, back in the day when it was not seen as the mark of an alcoholic to drink in the morning. However, as says its description in the Savoy Cocktail Book, “four of these taken in swift succession will unrevive the corpse again”. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with gin: sometimes it’s too green and astringent for my taste, but it tends to blend with other ingredients in a delicious way. The Corpse Reviver No.2 is a very citrusy, sweet drink, but not in the cloying manner of, say a Bellini. The citrus also changed in a really interesting way, from a strong orange taste at the tip of the tongue, to a lemon taste when swallowed. I didn’t really taste any absinthe, but the fact that it’s there lends a kind of romantic quality to a drink.
I left the choice of my second drink up to our server, and she returned with the Gastown Cocktail (gin, grapefruit, orancio vermouth, ramazotti, absinthe). More gin, citrus, and absinthe — perfect! This one was a bit less sweet and citrusy upfront, but was more refreshing. Maybe it was the grapefruit. At first, I thought the Diamond used those giant icecubes (for chilling drinks with less melting and dilution), but I saw they were just regular size. Once again, didn’t really taste the absinthe, but as this particular liqueur is normally used in dashes, or even as a glass wash, I don’t expect it to be nearly as strong (and harsh, and fiery) as the traditionally prepared absinthe that I had at Section(3).
Although you have a hundred different options for drinks in Gastown, it’s definitely worth your while to come to the Diamond at least for a drink or two. You won’t be disappointed. Did I mention that they also make a mean Vietnamese sub?