A TASTE OF TOFINO: Drink it in, man

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What’s in a cocktail?

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To many it’s a tasty little concoction to drink during happy hour or at a fancy shindig. But there’s more to it than just being a sweet, alcoholic beverage.

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For those looking to learn the science behind making a cocktail, Carl Hamilton has you covered. The bar manager at Roar (roartofino.com) restaurant in Tofino, B.C., certainly knows a thing or two about cocktails, and he will show you what goes into making each specialty drink.

“There are a lot of stories behind the drinks we make and there’s usually a reason why we put things (ingredients) together,” says Hamilton. “We have a really collaborative cocktail menu. Most of the bartenders have their own drink on the menu. We do talk about drinks a lot and do a lot of impromptu demos.”

Local is the focus of the menu at Roar, and that includes the drinks. Local ingredients can be as simple as a gin made from a distillery in Tofino, or something that has to be foraged from the forest.

“A lot of our drinks have that element to them,” says Hamilton. “We’re all pretty passionate about the local producers and specially foraged ingredients.

“Kind of a big thing in our program has been making things that are seasonal. Tofino is really fun. The nature is so beautiful. The longer you live here, the more you get tied into the culture.

“Like, ‘Oh, it’s spruce tip season. Let’s go for a hike,’ and pick some spruce tips and make ice cream out of it. Or make a sparkling wine out of something.”

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Hamilton says concocting the perfect drink comes from learning about the environment they’re in.

“People coming out to Tofino, they want that sense of place,” he says. “It’s kind of a fun thing to incorporate into a drink they have at the end of the day. It has some part of the natural landscape into it.”

Some of the popular ingredients found in Tofino include elder flowers, sea asparagus, spruce tips and mushrooms.

“Mushrooms are a big one,” says Hamilton. “We have a mushroom whisky sour. One of our bartenders, Pete McKenzie, came up with that drink. We workshopped a long time to come up with a mushroom whisky drink that was good.”

Hamilton got his start in the food and beverage industry as a bartender on the side while living in Toronto. During the day, he worked in copywriting and marketing, and would mix drinks when he could.

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But the more he worked his day job, the more he missed working behind the bar. He decided to follow his true calling after leaving the Big Smoke.

Hamilton loves the spontaneous, on-the-fly atmosphere along with the people of the food and beverage industry. When it comes to working at Roar, he is quite passionate about it.

“I like the people. I liked the fact that it’s something completely different every day,” he says. “I love mixing drinks and getting to taste the finer things in life as you do working in a restaurant.”

It’s hard to choose just one piece of chocolate at Chocolate Tofino. (EDDIE CHAU/Toronto Sun)
It’s hard to choose just one piece of chocolate at Chocolate Tofino. (EDDIE CHAU/Toronto Sun)


The best way to travel in and around Tofino is by bicycle. When staying at Hotel Zed, rent a bike from Swell and head out.

Make a stop at Chocolate Tofino (chocolatetofino.com) where those with a sweet tooth can indulge in some hand-crafted, traditional European-style chocolate, gelato or sorbet. If you want to take home a mascot, pick up the Original Chocolate Tofino Bear.

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After a long bike trek, it’s best to stop for a meal and a great spot is Shed (shedtofino.com), where it’s all about the triple Bs: Burgers, bowls and brews.

There’s no better combination than a burger (perhaps the Chix Burger) and a beer (Shed beer or Tofino Brew Co. Tuff Session Ale are great). For a more complete meal, try a bowl (such as the Soto Ayam or Pachamama Bowl).

If Asian cuisine is more your fancy, head on down to Jeju (jejutofino.com) on Fourth Street. Jeju’s motto is all about sharing the memories and tastes of its food with patrons.

And Jeju’s menu is certainly unforgettable. It’s Korean fare with some Western twists. All unbelievably delicious.

One can’t go wrong with Korean fried chicken or bulgogi to start off with before moving on to main dishes such as bibimbap, japchae or kimchi fried rice.

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Compliment the food with a bottle of soju.

A bahn mi sandwich being prepared at Bahnmi429, one of the many vendors at the Richmond Night Market. (EDDIE CHAU/Toronto Sun)
A bahn mi sandwich being prepared at Bahnmi429, one of the many vendors at the Richmond Night Market. (EDDIE CHAU/Toronto Sun)


Before being whisked away to the tranquility of Vancouver Island, make a stop in Richmond, B.C.

Just minutes from the airport, the city of Richmond is a vibrant part of the greater Vancouver area and home to the famed Richmond Night Market.

Open from April to October, as the name entails this evening market features a cornucopia of international food, vendors and entertainment. There’s something to suit everyone’s tastes.

Richmond is also accessible to those looking to enjoy the great outdoors. It is home to numerous walking trails, allowing many to explore the city’s natural beauty.


BRUNO — Fresh, local ingredients are what’s going on at this restaurant.

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Connected to the Versante Hotel, Bruno (clubversante.com/bruno) takes diners on a culinary journey of flavours with each dish. Prepare your taste buds with a colourful cocktail (such as the Spiced Pina Mule or the tasty Bruno Punch mocktail) before fully embracing the menu.

Items worth trying include the Scroll Loaf (bread with rosemary and pecorino, served with a brulee foie gras butter), or the Duck and Beet Risotto (honey glazed duck breast, pickled golden beets and forged mushroom risotto).

THE STORY CAFE — The Story Cafe is more than just a cup of coffee.

While it’s great to start off the day in Richmond, The Story Cafe (thestory.cafe) also features great menus that capsulate all the main meals of the day. Enjoy your meal (whether it be a coffee and a pastry, or a Great Canadian Burger) with live entertainment in an establishment chock full of historical vibe and charm.

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The entrance to Hotel Zed, the most chill accommodations in Tofino. (EDDIE CHAU/Postmedia Network)
The entrance to Hotel Zed, the most chill accommodations in Tofino. (EDDIE CHAU/Postmedia Network)


HOTEL ZED — Once you make it to the entrance of Hotel Zed (hotelzed.com) you will be hit with a wave of nostalgia.

This accommodation is quite possibly the most chill place to be and will bring you back to the 1970s with its motif and relaxed nature. One can chill in the sunken living room (with shag carpet), have a nice meal at Roar restaurant, or unwind with a massage at Stillwater Nature Spa.

If you’re a video game nut, you can go back in time at the arcade (hidden behind a bookcase) and play classics such as 1942 and Burger Time. With a tagline of “rebels against the ordinary,” Hotel Zed is definitely an accommodation that’s unlike any other out there.

VERSANTE HOTEL — You can (temporarily) live in the lap of luxury just minutes from Vancouver International Airport.

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If you’re making a pitstop in Richmond before heading out to Tofino, crashing at Versante Hotel (versantehotel.com) may not be a bad idea. This boutique hotel boasts 100 rooms decorated with bold designs and great views of the developing area.

Pluses include Bruno, the attached restaurant, and being a hop, skip and a jump from the Richmond Night Market.

ACCENT INNS — For those looking for a place to stay before heading out to Tofino or YVR at an affordable price, check out Accent Inns (accentinns.com).

Located minutes away from YVR, Accent Inns is the cousin property of Tofino’s Hotel Zed, and offers comfortable and accessible accommodations for all walks of life. Each room is spacious and comes with lots of extras such as on-site laundry, on-site restaurant, free wifi, and taxi shuttles to and from the airport.

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STAND-UP PADDLEBOARDING — There’s no way you can visit Tofino and not enjoy the water.

If you’re up for paddleboarding, boards can be rented at Swell Tofino (swelltofino.com) and taken to the beach for the excursion. Not sure how to paddle board? Swell also offers lessons and tours on the Tofino Inlet.

STILLWATER NATURE SPA — Sometimes you need a massage while you’re in paradise.

Enter the Stillwater Nature Spa (stillwatertofino.com), which provides patrons with a holistic and relaxing experience via body massage. Located within Hotel Zed, a number of massage treatments are offered, including botanical, sea stone and lomi lomi to name a few.

TOFINO DISTILLERY — Sometimes you need your spirits lifted … with some spirits.

The tasting room at Tofino Distillery (tofinocraftdistillery.com) is a great place to relax and have conversations while sipping on either absinthe, gin or vodka.

Recommendations include the rose hibiscus gin, Beach Fire liqueur, and the jalapeno vodka.

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