(Swans Pub/Instagram)

When you google what a ‘shaft’ is, one of the first answers that comes up is, “the shaft is a Victoria tradition: a shooter consisting of vodka, Irish cream, coffee liqueur and cold brewed coffee, served over ice, and consumed in its entirety as fast as possible through a straw.”

Although some vehemently argue that the drink was invented in Calgary and not Victoria.

Many Calgarians who move to BC’s capital often say they have never heard of it before they get here — yet some still think it was invented there and brought to Victoria as an Albertan export.

On Reddit, some say it was first invented at Hugo’s which closed in 2008 but was connected to the Strathcona which remains today. Some however, said that the iconic drink was invented at a place called the Living Room in Calgary which is still open in 2023, but their menu doesn’t have a shaft anywhere on it. 

Rumour has it the Living Room will still make them as an off-the-menu drink. 

One Redditor claimed that they worked at the Strathcona and had a hand in creating the cocktail back in 2001. They said that they workshopped the cocktail themselves and came up with the name independently of any existing recipe. 2001 is also the year the Living Room in Calgary opened. 

Despite this claim, one theory is that Calgary expats who came to Victoria brought the recipe with them. This theory was refuted by the individual claiming to have created the shaft.

In 2016, Avenue Magazine out of Calgary claimed that a bartender named Mark Smith came up with the libation that once dominated their menu, but he had “since moved on.” Some say he may have come to Victoria when he moved on from the Living Room.

The room still appears to be divided as the debate continues: was it the Living Room in Calgary or Hugo’s/the Strathcona in Victoria?

Either way, Victoria has claimed the drink as an integral part of their identities and they are not letting Calgary lay claim to it that easily.

Most places in Victoria nowadays serve up their take on a classic shaft, where is your favourite?

How to make a shaft:

  • In a glass combine ¾ ounces of any vodka (not fruit flavoured) with Bailey’s Irish Cream and Kahlua
  • Add 2 ounces of cold brew coffee
  • Add ice
  • Be sure to drink “its entirety as fast as possible through a straw” or else it’s not a real shaft

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