Front of the class

From East and West, bartenders move on to the regional finals of the Diageo World Class competition

Chris Enns, bartender at Vancouver’s Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel, is the World Class Canada Bartender of the Year 2018. Photo courtesy of Diageo World Class Canada

Since the beginning of January, Canada’s bartenders have been perfecting their recipes, practising their techniques and preparing for their moment in the spotlight at the Diageo World Class Canada cocktail competition.

On March 1, 13 bartenders from Eastern Canada and 13 from the West made it through to the Regional Finals, which will be held in Toronto and Calgary in late March. From there, five winners from East and West will go on to the National Final in June. The winner of that event will compete in the global final of the world’s biggest, most prestigious bartending competition, which will be held in Glasgow at the end of September.

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H Tasting Lounge takes flight

Globally inspired cocktail program soars at the Westin Bayshore

Chiara Fung and Dylan Williams behind the bar at H Tasting Lounge. Dan Toulgoet photo

Bright, airy and colourful, with a contemporary design that embraces both mid-century and Art Deco motifs, H Tasting Lounge at The Westin Bayshore, Vancouver, is certainly one of the city’s most elegant cocktail spaces.

But its beauty goes far beyond plush pastel furnishings and dramatic crystal chandeliers.

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Bags of quality

Aunts & Uncles and Brooklyn Clothing believe in durable fashion that only gets better with age

In this increasingly fast-paced, disposable society, quality products that are crafted to last are a reassuring reminder of how things can improve with age. It could be a single malt whisky maturing for a couple of decades, a carefully cellared Bordeaux, or that go-to pair of jeans or bag that never lets you down.

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Spring sings

Seasonally-inspired cocktails at Chambar

Running the ever-busy bar at Chambar isn’t an easy job, but it’s one that bar manager Yacine Sylla and team embrace with enthusiasm. Constantly re-inventing the menu and updating old favourites, Sylla aligns himself with the restaurant’s focus on local, seasonal and high-quality ingredients.

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Fruitful endeavour

Family-owned distillery crafts world-class spirits from homegrown harvests

With its extended growing seasons and miles of fruitful orchards and rolling vineyards, B.C.’s Okanagan Valley is known best as Canada’s wine country. The site of many a weekend winery tour and the occasional fruit stand pit stop, one can hardly say “Okanagan” without also uttering “wine.” A lesser thought of connection? Distilled spirits.

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Tropical thunder

Kristi-Leigh Akister expands The Union’s bold, exotic repertoire

In Vancouver, you’re more likely to inherit an incredible cocktail program and back bar these days than have to build one from scratch. That said, there’s always room to improve.

Take Union bar manager Kristi-Leigh Akister. The vibrant young bartender stepped into the role established by Cascade bar manager Nick Devine and 17-year industry veteran Arthur Wynne just over a year ago, and has since established an innovative new cocktail menu and rotating draft list to pair with the restaurant’s Pan-Asian bibimbaps and bahn mis.

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Locovore libations

Island-to-glass cocktails rule the bar at Olo

The concept of “farm-to-table” isn’t new for B.C. restaurants. What’s served from behind the wood is now also joining the sustainable locavore movement for a more complete offering. Brad Holmes, owner and executive chef at Olo in Victoria, has long been a vocal proponent of this movement, and his cocktail program reflects that. “Our whole restaurant is seasonal; the menu changes with what’s available on any given day and season. I always wanted to bring that to the bar. And now, with all of the great gins and vermouths and other local products, we can offer something that was grown in B.C., produced in B.C. and served in B.C.”

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Dream team

Sabrine Dhaliwal takes over the guest experience at UVA

Sabrine Dhaliwal didn’t have to join UVA Wine & Cocktail Bar—with her bartending pedigree she would have had her choice of bar manager positions in this town. So why sign on to run the room that had, to date, been defined by Vancouver’s cocktail queen Lauren Mote?

“Why not?” Dhaliwal counters, with a playful smile. “I’ve known Lauren for about five years, so I’ve been fortunate enough to see how she built her cocktails and what avenues she goes in. I’m fortunate in that way to have an insight into that realm.”

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Balancing Act

Simon Ogden encourages his customers to put their drinks in his hands

Bartender Simon Ogden. Supplied photo.

Balance. Whether it’s blending the elements of the perfect cocktail or juggling work and play, balance is key.

It’s a philosophy bartender Simon Ogden takes to heart, both behind the bar and in life.

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Urban Legend

How one Okanagan man’s hobby became a serious business

Urban Distilleries photo.

Mike Urban had a booze habit. Making it, that is. After tinkering with homemade beer and wine, he felt that the next logical step could be distilling.

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