THE WATCH THAT ENDS THE NIGHT

Air Canada enRoute - - MONTRÉAL -

NEAR THE DART­MOUTH WA­TER­FRONT, ABOUT A 10-MINUTE WALK from the ferry that chugs over from down­town Hal­i­fax, squats a soli­tary mid-rise condo build­ing. It’s an in­nocu­ous lo­ca­tion for a trans­for­ma­tive ex­pe­ri­ence, but that’s ex­actly what’s in store at the Watch That Ends the Night, Canada’s best new bar.

It’s early evening on a Satur­day when I start my jour­ney back in time. Cana­dian au­thor Hugh MacLen­nan’s 1958 novel is both name­sake and time-stamp for this retro-chic room. The warm space is out­fit­ted with low-slung, colour­ful mid-cen­tury seat­ing, deep-blue wall­pa­per in a hyp­notic wave-and-hour­glass pat­tern and a mini-li­brary of cock­tail guides and cook­books lean­ing com­pan­ion­ably against a wall op­po­site the huge front win­dows. The look is very old-boys’-club drink­ing den, but all are wel­come here – I’m shar­ing the bar with young pro­fes­sion­als, older cou­ples and a hip, friendly clique of mid­dle-aged women whose laugh­ter car­ries across the bar.

The sun pours through the pic­ture win­dows that frame the Hal­i­fax sky­line across the har­bour. I’m sip­ping a woodsy take on rum and Coke, punched up by bour­bon, amaro and cher­rycedar and lime bit­ters, with a Ti­tanic-size ice cube to keep things bal­anced. (An­other CanCon alert: It’s called the Ju­lian,

named for the Trailer Park Boys char­ac­ter, who’s al­ways slug­ging back a rum and Coke.) I hold up my glass for a bet­ter look at the am­ber elixir; the light cuts through the ice. “Every­thing okay with your drink?” the bar­tender asks, gen­uine con­cern in his voice, a horse­shoe ring on one fin­ger. “Every­thing is great with... every­thing,” I re­ply.

The rest of the drinks list leans equally on rum, a wink to Dart­mouth’s sea­far­ing his­tory, so next I try the Big Lift, a sweet­savoury cock­tail shot through with prickly-pear eau-de-vie. It’s a tangy off­set to the del­i­cate scal­lop kokoda, a Fi­jian ce­viche made rich, bright and al­to­gether trop­i­cal with a cit­rus and co­conut-milk broth. For a night­cap, my date and I share a com­bi­na­tion of corn­flake ce­real milk, Ital­ian bit­ters, cof­fee and rum that tastes like break­fast in bed on a lazy, boozy Sun­day morn­ing. It’s called Ryan Gosling Won’t Eat His Ce­real, which makes it the very finest cock­tail named af­ter a vi­ral video series – and the per­fect end to a night that man­ages to wrap its arms around the past while stay­ing rooted in the present.

BE­LOW, FROM LEFT TO RIGHT Bright af­ter­noon sun­shine in Dart­mouth casts a new light on pol­ish­ing bar­ware; seafoam-green seat­ing is a throw­back to the ’50s, when The Watch That Ends the Night, Hugh MacLen­nan’s CanLit clas­sic, first pub­lished; dark rum and Grand Marnier com­bine for a highly crush­able Mai Tai. OP­PO­SITE PAGE Ri­ley Maggs looks af­ter the bar.

BE­LOW, FROM LEFT TO RIGHT The Big Lift, a project to re­place the sus­pended spans of the Macdon­ald Bridge, has been a three-year-long headache for Dart­mouthi­ans, but The Big Lift, with two kinds of rum and Nova Sco­tia honey, lends a lit­tle re­lief; a pair of first-timers find prime seats at the wood-pan­elled bar.

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