Clive's Classic Lounge, Chateau Victoria Hotel, 740 Burdett Ave, Victoria, BC
Work is the curse of the drinking classes -- Oscar Wilde
I always seem to be at the tail end of a late evening bender when I enter Clive's for a drunken nightcap. This is likely due to its convenient location, just a few blocks from home, and one of the last places on my route home to grab a drink before blacking out face-first into the sofa (or living room floor). The only reason I haven't already reviewed Clive's -- based on past visits -- is because I'd have been unable to recollect the experience for purposes of a proper non-fiction review. A visit last week to Clive's for one of those late night goodnight drinks was foggy, but memorable enough to piece together some key details for a review.
I preface the following opinion by admitting I'm not a cocktail guy. I'm much more of a beer and wine guy. If I do go harder or more exotic than that, it's usually a single malt scotch straight up or a shot of ice-cold akvivit. Having said this, I appreciate the skill set required for true mixology. There is a lot of chemistry and flavour combinations at play in the craft, and it takes a skilled mixologist to know how to make even classic cocktails. It takes an even better mixologist to create new cocktails that have the ability to evolve into classic drinks. One doesn't need to be a skilled drink-maker to be able to detect greatness in a drink, and the one thing I've always taken away from Clive's is that detection of greatness. The drinks are memorable and they have finesse, staying power, even if I can't remember the drinks' names. Whatever I had last week (and don't ask me to tell you the name of the drink, because I haven't the foggiest clue) was a sublime libational experience. I can tell you it had tequila as its base, some spices and was kept chilled in the glass by a big ball of ice. My wife's cocktail (again, no idea what the drink's name is) was a play on lemonade, or was it limonade? In either case, a far cry from that bottled toxin known as Mike's Hard Lemonade. No, this was real lemon (or lime) and had a half a squeezed lemon (or lime) right in the drink to remind us that they don't use anything but fresh-squeezed to order. It was served in what looked like a steel camping coffee mug. Brilliant, as the steel maintained a nice chill down to the last lemon (or lime) drop.
The lounge layout is dark, discreet and inviting, usually empty by the time I arrive close to last call. But this is not a place I'd recommend for anything other than the mixology magic happening behind the bar. Clive's has plenty of media accolades to support my opinion. In addition to great drinks, the bartender has carefully and thoughtfully selected a short, but very excellent beer list, which includes some exceptional Belgian ales and some good local micro-ales. The food at Clive's? No idea. Every single time I've arrived there, the kitchen has been closed. One of these days I'll try and arrive at a less respectable hour to try out the grub.
Clive's is located on the lobby floor of the Chateau Victoria Hotel, and as the New Year's parties gear up for this Saturday's pomp and ceremony, I'd say you could not go wrong by soaking up a Happy New Year cocktail or three at this lounge at some point, or at all points, during the December 31st festivities.