Vancouver’s cocktail scene is brimming with amazing bartenders crafting delicious concoctions behind bars all over town. Many of the city’s top mixers have been traveling the globe to represent Vancouver and Canada in all kinds of high-profile global competitions, and it seems lately that it’s the ladies who are taking home the big wins.
One of Vancouver’s most esteemed bartenders is Sabrine Dhaliwal, Bar Manager of West Restaurant, who recently shook and stirred her way to the top of the Belvedere Vodka’s “The Challenge,” an international contest for Martini cocktails, held in London.
Dhaliwal is passionate about her craft, and hopes to inspire more women to learn more about mixing drinks. We asked her to tell us about her experience as a women in the cocktail scene, and what tips she had for those looking to up their home bar game.
How did you become interested in cocktails?
Sabrine Dahliwal: I became interested in cocktails shortly after moving to Vancouver six years ago. From there, my curiosity grew when I started working at the Hotel Georgia alongside Robyn Gray and the late Derek Vanderheide. We had extensive training before the opening of the hotel, we spent a lot of time talking about the different cocktails, ingredients, etc.
In your career, has it ever been particularly challenging because you are a woman? Do you get treated differently by colleagues, customers, or employers?
I don’t think being a woman has impeded my career at all. If you put in the hard work, time and dedication it all pays off in the end, regardless of gender. We are very lucky in Vancouver to have so many amazing women bartenders and a supportive network.
While I was in London for a competition I was the only female competitor and after speaking with the others, having so many women bartenders in Vancouver is an anomaly; I wouldn’t change it for anything, there is something sexy about a women who can tell you the history of the Manhattan.
What do you think of the notion that certain drinks are “girly” or for women only?
I don’t believe that there are genders in drinks or spirits. Some cocktails and spirits are definitely geared towards the more seasoned drinker but saying one is more “girly” than the other is irrelevant. I’ve served many pink drinks to men and they like them just like I’ve served many women who enjoy a heavily peated whisky.
What are the advantages for everyday women–not food or drink business pros–to learning about spirits and drink-making?
The more you know the more you can appreciate and enjoy a spirit or cocktail. Knowledge is power. There are many great books available with recipes, history, technique tips etc. If you could only have one cocktail/spirit book on your shelf I’d recommend The Bar Book by Jeffery Morgenthaler. He talks about essentials for you home bar, technique tips and a few great recipes as well.
Tell us a little about what spirits you recommend we try out at home, and what you love about working with them.
I’ve selected the following spirits because they are versatile. You can use them in many different combinations.
- Gin is a must have staple in every liquor cabinet; it is the one of the most versatile spirits to use for cocktails. Walk into a liquor store and you will see numerous different gins to choose from. I enjoy working with Broker’s because it has a lot of character, and not overly dominated by juniper.
- Domaine de Canton (ginger liqueur) is a great addition to the home bar because it is great in a cocktail before dinner as an aperitif or on the rocks after a beautiful meal as a palate cleanser before dessert.
- Giffard Crème de Peche (peach liqueur) is another gem to have at home. It does fall into the cream category of liqueurs (meaning it is fairly sweet) but with a touch of lemon; it is a nice addition to many spirits. Don’t be shy about adding it to a glass of bubbles either!
Here’s a recipe Dhaliwal has created to showcase these three spirits:
Recipe by Sabrine Dhailiwal
- 1.5 oz Broker’s Gin
- 0.5 Peach Liqueur
- 0.5 Domain de Canton
- 0.5 Lemon Juice
- 2 dashes Lavender Bitters
Combine all ingredients in shaker, add ice. Shake hard, strain into a coupe, and enjoy.