Interview with Sabrine Dhaliwal

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Bartender | UVA| Vancouver

Canadian Belvedere Brand Ambassador

Sabrine started off her career in the hospitality industry as part of the team that opened Reflections rooftop lounge at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia in 2011. From there she ended up working for Bittered Sling and then through them a connection was made where she ended up going to work as a Bartender at West Restaurant in 2012. In 2015 Sabrine became the new bar manager at Uva Wine & Cocktail Bar in downtown Vancouver.

You can follow Sabrine Dhaliwal on twitter and instagram @SabrineDhaliwal

How did you end up becoming a Bartender?

I had been in the industry for quite some time before I stepped behind the bar, I had been serving, supervising and studying wine when I met one of my mentors Lauren Mote while working at the Hotel Georgia. She and her business partner (now husband) Jonathan Chovancek were looking to hire servers for their then catering company, I had then started to explore my curiosity of cocktails, Lauren opened a door I never could have imagined walking through. It was while working with both of them that the opportunity to step behind the bar at West came up; naturally I was ecstatic about it and phone David (Wolowidnyk) and asked for an interview. Needless to say the interview went well as did my observational shift and I was a new apprentice under David.

Have you competed in any bartending competitions? If yes, then What are your top 5 Bartending competitions you have placed in the top 3?

I have entered a few competitions in the past; I have done well in most. One of the highlights of my career has been winning the Global Belvedere Challenge 2015. I also won the inaugural Molinari Sambuca March 2015 and placed second in the Bulleit Bourbon Cocktail Jockey Competition July 2015.

Tell our readers about your recent trip to France and the visit to Grand Marnier

Wow! #LeGrandSling was an absolutely incredible trip! It is very difficult for me to put to words that could summarize that week in France. Bittered Sling and Grand Marnier organized a trip for 17 bartenders across Canada to visit Paris and Cognac; we dined, we drank Champagne, we visited landmarks in Paris while zipping around in a vintage  2CV Citroen, ate more foie gras than I’d like to admin, all this before heading out to Cognac for a few days.

Once we arrived at the Chateau Bourg, we were greeted by Grand Marnier Master Blender Patrick Ragenaud; shortly after our arrival we started our tour of the ageing houses, macerations rooms and still houses. The facilities are state of the art, truly beautiful, modern technology while still staying true to the tradition of producing Grand Marnier.

What are some of the unique cocktails your customers have asked you to make?

I’ve been asked to make a wide array of cocktails; I’d say some of the more unique cocktails have been ones with blue cheese shaken into the drink, crushing apple seeds (Cyanide! I wasn’t sure how to go about that one!) and cracking open an Durian fruit (also declined that request).

What goes into creating a new cocktail? What inspires you?

I find inspiration everywhere, the sites, smells, and sounds of wherever I am. The Matinée Marnier was inspired by the sunrise over the castle one morning while in Cognac- I was unable to sleep, so I took the opportunity to sit outside on the moat with a coffee and watch the world come to life- it was truly one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve witnessed. In short, there isn’t one source of inspiration; it’s everywhere, everyday.

Tell our readers about your love for the Bittered Sling line of bitters

I’ve worked with Bittered Sling products for as long as they have been available. I guess you can say I’m one of the original Bitter Babes that’s worked with them. I remember labeling mini sample bottles with Lauren for Tales of the Cocktail on Tour, so you can say I have a very strong love for Bittered Sling. Their flavour combinations are unique and fill a void. The versatility of the line up creates endless possibilities, which is something every bartender is looking for.

What is your philosophy on food and drinks?

Keep it simple- allow the ingredients shine for themselves. Spirits were put in the bottle the way the distiller/blender/producer intended for it to be showcases, it doesn’t need much more manipulations. As for food, it also doesn’t need to be over manipulated, starting with great quality product will aid in having a great finished product.

What are some of your favourite foods/dishes?

I’m a huge fan of west coast style- food that is very much light and fresh, tons of vegetables and fish. When I’m in the mood for something heavier I tend to gravitate towards Indian dishes that are a bit heartier, I’m very lucky that my mother-in-law is a great cook and sends authentic Indian food our way.

Where do you get your inspiration to create your cocktails at UVA?

I find inspiration everywhere, walking around Granville Island, the local markets, etc. I’m looking forward to when the farmers markets start up again, who knows maybe we’ll do a daily feature cocktail using something we find at the market.

What type of drinks do you like personally?

I generally like spirit forward cocktails- I tend to have either a Belvedere Martini with a grapefruit twist or I’ll have a rye manhattans or bourbon old fashioned.

What are the most unique ingredients you have used to create a cocktail?

I do tend to stick to ingredients that most consumers know; I want to create an environment where if something in unknown to the guest that they feel they can ask questions – I generally won’t use more then one obscure ingredient per cocktail.

What is your favourite cocktail personally?

I get asked this questions often, and I always have the same answer- I don’t have a favourite- there are far to many to choose from to narrow it down to one cocktail. I generally gravitate towards spirit forward cocktails.

What is your favourite dish or dishes that you like to eat with a cocktail?

I really enjoy having cocktails with Spanish tapas- I love how the spice and deep rich flavours of the food play off the different textures and notes in spirits. The gin tonic is a hit in Spain for a reason 😉

By: Richard Wolak