Kevin Brownlee at AnnaLena

October 19, 2016
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Ink & Drink

The craft cocktail scene in Vancouver is off the hook. We truly believe that. Our favourite place at any restaurant or bar is, well, at the bar. Chatting with bartenders, learning about what inspires them and how that translates into the ingredients and spirits they use — it’s all part of the experience. If there is one thing we’ve noticed about Vancouver’s bartenders is their passion for crafting exceptional cocktails. If there’s another thing we’ve noticed about Vancouver bartenders is their tattoos.

Ink & Drink is a new Like Vancouver series featuring the bartenders who are are at the forefront of the city’s craft cocktail scene. They share with us the stories (and recipes) about the ink on their bodies and the drink in front of them.

Ink & Drink: Kevin Brownlee
Ink & Drink: Kevin Brownlee

The Bartender
Kevin Brownlee, AnnaLena

I got my first tattoo in China when I was 21. The most recent one [pictured above] is a work in progress. I wanted to incorporate two major points in my life. One was spending time on the trains as a kid. My father worked at CN so we spent a lot of time traveling across the country, and my experiences on the train are so memorable. And I also wanted to portray my time in China, where I lived for a year in 2003. So I wanted to have a dream sequence and a Chinese ghost train. This is an old steam locomotive, and the front engineer department is where the pagoda is. The tattoo stars up in my armpit and works its way down my arm, sort of from out of space into a Chinese garden.

The Tattoo Artist
Stace Forand is the name of the tattoo artist, and he was recommended by my good friend Dan Fletcher, a tattoo artist out of Winnipeg. He said this guy in Steveston was doing great work so I went in to check him out and meet with him. Like with any big tattoo, you are spending a lot of time with one person. So you want to pick someone not just for their artistic ability but someone you get along. Stace is such a wonderful human and we have a really nice relationship. So far I’ve spent about 14 hours with Stace, and we’re about half way through.

The Ink
I went in to Stace and mentioned that I wanted to incorporate these things in my life. And I wanted to have it coming down my arm. He came up with the idea of having it rotate around from my elbow to my forearm so it looks like the train is actually moving.

I started this tattoo in May 2015 and I’ve had four sessions. Every four months or so I go in and have a session. I find that my body can tolerate about four hours per session. The line work is very intricate on this tattoo but it’s the shading that really hurts. It’s one needle doing line work and five needles doing coloring, which is basically scraping along the skin to get the ink in there. It will probably take 12 more hours to complete this tattoo, so maybe three more sessions.

I’ve got tattoos on my chest and my shoulder. I have a candle down the back side of my arm. I have a bar spoon with some wrought iron on my biceps, which I got done in New Orleans when I got my start in bartending. I have a sun on my shoulder. I have a tattoo that I designed on my back. I have some on my calves. I have seven tattoos so far and some ideas for the next ones.

The Drink
Los Mariachi  (aka the Like Vancouver cocktail)

  • 60 ml (2 oz.) Reposado Tequila
  • 30 ml (1 oz.) 10 year Tawny Port
  • 30 ml (1 oz.) fresh lime juice
  • 7.5 ml (.25 oz) simple syrup

Combine all the ingredients into a mixing tin. Add ice.
Shake for 20-30 seconds and then dump into a chilled rocks glass that has been rimmed with sea salt. Hawaiian black sea salt was used for this drink.

How to make a simple syrup
Bring 200 ml of liquid to boil and add an equal measure, by weight, of white sugar.
Stir to dissolve and let cool before using. 

Go Taste It
Like it? You won’t find it in the cocktail menu at AnnaLena but sit at the bar and ask for the Like Vancouver cocktail. Tell Kevin we sent you. Cheers!

Ink & Drink: Los Mariachi, AnnaLena
Ink & Drink: Los Mariachi, AnnaLena


Photos: Allison Kuhl