After just a few months as the bar manager at one of Vancouver’s finest contemporary restaurants, Sabrine Dhaliwal has already made a name for herself, both in the city and on a global scale.
Dhaliwal has tended bar at West (2881 Granville Street) for nearly four years. She began as the assistant to award-winning bartender David Wolowidnyk before making the leap to bar manager earlier this year. (Wolowidnyk has moved on to sister Toptable property CinCin Ristorante.)
“I was always in the service industry. I worked as a server and as a supervisor, took wine courses, and it just kind of felt like the natural progression in my career,” Dhaliwal said during an interview at the restaurant.
Before West, Dhaliwal bar-backed with mixologist and sommelier Lauren Mote of UVA Wine & Cocktail Bar. She said that working with some of the industry’s best has afforded her incredible learning opportunities, but she never expected that she would one day compete in the art of cocktail-making at the international level.
“My first week here, I was a deer in the headlights. I was so overwhelmed with all the products that we have and the knowledge that our former bar manager David has—he’s got stories about every single bottle and it was really incredible, but it was also a little overwhelming. In time, you learn little by little,” she recalled.
Now, less than six months after being put in charge of West’s extensive selection of cocktails and liqueurs, Dhaliwal has just returned from London, where she represented Canada at Belvedere vodka’s international martini competition.
In early June, despite feeling like an underdog, she went into the preliminary competition in New York City with confidence and won herself a spot in the top three. Not only was Dhaliwal the only Canadian to advance to the finals in London, she was the only woman. On June 19, after completing two separate challenges, Dhaliwal wowed judges and placed first with her James Bond–inspired martini, Pink Skies at Night.
Back home, Dhaliwal said that the people she gets to serve and work with daily are what keep her in the hospitality industry and striving to expand her knowledge.
“Every day is dynamic. You’re always learning something, whether it’s a guest asking questions or representatives coming in with a new product to try. It’s a people industry, and it’s really awesome to see people be so passionate about what they do,” she said. “It’s what keeps me excited and keeps me researching and wanting to know more.”
Below, Dhaliwal shares the recipe for her award-winning Pink Skies at Night cocktail. Crisp, refreshing, and light on sweetness, her creation would make a great addition to any summer cocktail party.
For herself, Dhaliwal’s go-to drink after work on a hot summer’s day is simple: whisky, neat.
Sabrine Dhaliwal’s Pink Skies at Night
1.5 oz (45 mL) Belvedere vodka
0.5 oz (15 mL) Lillet Rosé wine
3 slices cucumber, quartered
1.5 inches (4 cm) grapefruit peel, pith removed
1. Combine ingredients in a mixing glass, adding the cucumber and grapefruit peel first, followed by the vodka and wine.
2. Add several ice cubes and stir.
3. Remove ice and strain into a martini glass.
4. Add extra grapefruit peel for garnish, if desired. Serve neat.
Yield: 1 drink. Recipe has not been tested by the Georgia Straight.