By Nikki Bayley
Vancouver’s cocktail scene is currently going from strength to strength, with innovative bartenders shaking up delicious drinks in bars and restaurants across the city. Vancouver bartenders love to push their creativity by entering –and often winning –tough cocktail contests, vying to be the best with a unique creations.
Although several bartenders across the city have locked down nationwide titles (for instance Grant Sceney at the Fairmont Pacific Rim, Lauren Mote at Uva, and Kevin Brownlee at AnnaLena), two bartenders in the city can make you drinks that are officially world beaters: West Restaurant’s Sabrine Dhaliwal and Cin Cin’s David Wolowidnyk have both placed first at international cocktail competitions, showing up all other competitors from around the world. All you need to do to taste a world class drink is take a seat at their bar.
Sabrine Dhaliwal won the 2015 Belvedere Challenge to Create the Next Legendary Martini in London. She recounts:
“It was amazing; it was a surreal whirlwind experience to be number one in the world. Just incredible. All the other competitors were so friendly and everyone had great cocktails, it was inspiring to be with them. I think that cocktail culture thrives in Vancouver because there are so many high caliber bartenders and we all push each other to be better. Typically, we think out of the box here in Vancouver; behind the bar we do what other people aren’t doing, but it’s always nice to see what other cities are doing and then bring that back home.
My martini is called Pink Skies; I created it from stuff I had at home in the fridge! Some cucumber, grapefruit peel, Belvedere vodka and Lillet Rose; it had to be for the ‘next legendary martini’ so I thought it needed to be easy –yet unique. Just as I poured it out, it looked just like the sky outside, hence the name. It’s all about the timing!”
David Wolowidnyk won Bombay Sapphire’s 2012 “world’s most imaginative bartender” contest in Marrakech, Morocco. Despite that, he remains very humble:
“I don’t think that anyone is ever ‘the best’ but in that one competition in that one moment in time, then you can be recognized for your hard efforts that have been a long time coming. Winning was a very special feeling, finally putting that feather of accomplishment in my hat. The rest of the competition was screaming with talent; I was proud of what I did but it could have been any of us.
I think here in Vancouver, the bartending community thrives because we recognize that if we share ideas we grow faster as a community. We’re lucky in this industry that we do share so much; sure, we’re technically competing bars and restaurants, but I think we see each other as comrades and peers. We’re collaborative because we’re in it together. You can try my award-winning Beldi cocktail, which was inspired by the sights, sounds and flavours of Marrakech at West, where it’s still on the list there. I recently moved to Cin Cin and my new classic is the Sgroppino; it’s festive, fun and refreshing, yet it’s a little something different. It’s rather a classic rustic Italian drink and we’ve refined it. We decided to scoop the sorbet on top, so you can drink through it and you get that experience of frothiness coming through the bubbles, it’s already one of our best selling drinks!