Bombay Sapphire’s World’s Most Imaginative Bartender – David Wolowidnyk (Cocktails at West)

Follow Me Foodie to the World’s Most Imaginative Bartender

Ricky Martin shakes his Bon Bon, but Bartender David Wolowidnyk shakes his Bombay!

In his award winning Bombay Sapphire cocktail he actually stirs it, but that doesn’t work with my Ricky Martin catch phrase. I’m not comparing them, but I know Dave so he won’t be offended, and even if he is, the worst would be getting cut from his cocktails… which is actually a horrible punishment. Sorry Dave! Just to clarify, we appreciate your shaking more than we do Ricky Martin’s.

Anyway the man behind this prestigious award is David Wolowidnyk! Don’t worry, only he knows how to say his own last name, to almost everyone else he’s known as “David W.”, or I guess now the “World’s Most Imaginative Bartender”. That’s quite the title and quite the last name! Although compared to Thai last names Wolowidnyk looks as easy to say as “Smith”.

David W. is one of Vancouver’s best bartenders, and many bartenders consider him a mentor in the industry. Based on word of mouth I would say he is “Vancouver’s Best Bartender”, but I’m no cocktail connoisseur and “best” anything is so arguable. However I can tell you that his name comes up in almost every cocktail conversation I have with a cocktail enthusiast, and it’s always in a glowing way. If you’re a “real” or expert cocktail drinker he needs no introduction, but for everyone else, I introduce you to the “World’s Most Imaginative Bartender”.

For once it wasn’t about being “the best”, but about being the “most imaginative”, which I think is even cooler. Technique can be taught albeit hard to master, but creativity and imagination is something that works best when you naturally have it. It’s not something you can really train and these are the minds that excite me. To get into the mind of this cocktail guru was more rewarding than the cocktails themselves, although his cocktails were amazing.

This was the first ever BOMBAY SAPPHIRE® World’s Most Imaginative Bartender competition and Dave kicked some butt. He beat out thousands of applicants and 7 finalists from around the world. Part of the competition included taking the top 8 mixologists to Morocco, the birthplace of one of the Bombay Sapphire botanicals – coriander. It was in Marrakech, Morocco that Dave was inspired to create the Beldi, which is the cocktail that won him the title.

This is his shrine and also where you have to sit. David W. is the bar manager at West Restaurant in Vancouver, BC, which is also one the top rated fine dining restaurants in the city. I was invited on behalf of Bombay Sapphire to check out Dave’s award winning cocktail with a few dinner pairings from Executive Chef Quang Dang.

Whether you’re one or two, I recommend sitting at the bar even if you don’t have to wait for a table. Talk to Dave! That’s part of the whole experience and if you’re a culinary geek like me then you’ll get it. Besides he’s the “World’s Most Imaginative Bartender” and he’s not even charging for lessons yet, so you can ask him a million questions and he’ll be happy to answer all of them. I did. He’s incredibly knowledgeable and considered one of the cocktail educators and major influencers in Vancouver’s cocktail scene.

It’s truly a reward and I appreciate things on a whole new level when I know the history and background of them. With Dave’s cocktails, each one has a story which he’ll be enthusiastic to share. The restaurant can sell itself just on their cocktail program alone and I said that before this experience. We have a lot of great bartenders in Vancouver, but it’s his honest approach, genuine passion and dedication to crafting his cocktails that is worth returning for.

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6FMF Must Try!

On the table:

**Kakkoii Cocktail – 6/6 (FMF Must Try!)

  • G’Vine floraison gin, ume plum wine, cinnamon syrup, fresh lemon $12
  • This was the cocktail that got him to the semi finals and I actually liked it more than the award winning cocktail! It was just more for my palate.
  • “Kakkoii” means “cool” in Japanese and this drink was inspired by his honeymoon in Japan.
  • It uses ume plum wine which is a Japanese sour plum wine, and G’Vine floraison gin which is a speciality gin from France.
  • Ume wine is sweet and dangerously too good, but the one Dave uses for this drink has a lower sugar content than most. Hapa Izakaya also has a nice selection of it.
  • It was clean, well balanced and refreshing and served with a large round ice cube that melted slowly which is ideal.
  • It was tart like lemonade, but sweet from the plum wine and cinnamon syrup and it was a perfect starter drink.
  • It’s not boozy and it makes your salivary glands go even after your sip is gone. The sour and sweet are equally strong.
  • Even if you don’t like cinnamon, there is a chance you’ll like this, because the cinnamon doesn’t bring spice as much as it does sweetness.
  • It led me to believe that he was using Mexican cinnamon and I was right!
  • Mexican cinnamon is sweeter and I tried the syrup plain and it is indeed sweet without that warm spicy heat.

Half way through my Kakkoii Cocktail he ended up adding a bit of this! It’s his own version of St. Germain. I know! What the heck!? Who makes their own St. Germain? It’s an elderflower liqueur and I had it in so many cocktails in Follow Me Foodie to New Orleans, but it was only introduced to BC just over a year and a half ago. Dave uses elderflower from local BC farmers and I tried it neat and this stuff is potent! I guess it’s like making your own apple infused vodkas, but the effort is always admirable.

Strawberry Jalapeno Fizzle Cocktail – n/a

  • House made strawberry Jalapeno liqueur, tanqueray gin, fresh lemon and strawberry balsamic $11
  • I’ve tried this when he used passion fruit, but since it’s strawberry season he changed it.
  • I haven’t tried the strawberry version, but I loved the passion fruit one which also had some coconut.

Raspberry & Champagne Cocktail – 4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)

  • This was a house made raspberry liqueur and he topped it off with champagne.
  • Actually it was more like champagne that he topped off with raspberry liqueur.
  • The raspberry liqueur was potent so a little went a long way and it wasn’t syrupy, but thick and almost creamy like puree.
  • It was made from local raspberries and the flavour was so concentrated and natural.
  • It was a very basic cocktail that I wanted to wake up to and I think they should serve it for brunch. It would give a Mimosa a run for its money.
  • This isn’t on the menu, but you can ask for it and he’ll make it for you.

Complimentary Mixed Nuts

  • They bring in raw cashews, raw Marcona almonds, raw pumpkin seeds and raw peanuts and toast each variety individually.
  • It’s very lightly candied with honey and cinnamon, but the cinnamon is barely detectable.
  • These are nuts you need taken away if you’re planning to stay for dinner.

Complimentary Bread & Butter

  • This is always important to me especially at fine dining restaurants.
  • The mini bread rolls are made in house and served warm with high quality butter and extra virgin olive oil.
  • It was Pumpkin Seed Whole Wheat, Caraway Rye, and Potato Chive and Olive, and the one with olives was my favourite.
  • The butter was good quality butter and it was salty with a grassy flavour without being greasy and oily.
  • The olive oil was intense and potent, fruity initially, and then lingered a spiciness in your throat.
  • That peppery spice is a sign of really high quality olive oil with high antioxidants.
  • I was almost using a 1:1 ratio of bread and butter as well as bread and olive oil.

Chilled Cucumber and Spring Onion Soup – 4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)

  • Salmon Tataki, compressed cucumber, spring onion, radish (from Tasting Menu)
  • I know! So pretty right?! The colours!! I want them all in nail polish for my toes… except for the green.
  • This is basically gazpacho, but instead of tomatoes it was with cucumber.
  • It was a very delicate salad with 2 thin slices of salmon tataki, thinly shaved radish and thinly shaved cucumber.
  • I think there was parsley and mint gel (dark green dots), but it was very little and I couldn’t really taste it.
  • The red pieces were pickled pearl onions perhaps stained with beets. They actually didn’t taste pickled and were’t sour though.
  • The pairing wasn’t planned, but it worked amazingly well with my Kakkoii cocktail.
  • Both were refreshing and cucumber and gin always work well together. The cocktail brought a nice sweetness to the chilled soup.

  • It was a very light soup that was cucumber and olive oil forward.
  • I could taste the cucumber more than the spring onion, but it wasn’t watery and there was a nice fruity aspect from the olive oil.
  • With most chilled cucumber soups I’m used to having a dairy component like yogurt, but I couldn’t taste any apparent dairy in this.
  • It was a great summer time soup and the richness and texture seemed to be developed with olive oil instead of dairy or starches.
  • It was very natural and pure tasting and I wouldn’t have minded a bit more acidity and mint.
  • I wouldn’t mind some Ikura on top too just for those juicy bursts of salt which would have extended the salmon flavours beyond the 2 pieces.
  • Other excellent chilled soups I’ve had was the Green Almond Soup from Diva at the Met and the Melon Canari from Van Horne.

Sablefish Steamed in Ras el Hanout – 5/6 (Excellent)

  • Steamed sablefish in Ras el Hanout infused with olive oil, olive oil pea sauté, pea purée and pea chips (from Tasting Menu)
  • It’s culinary art! It really showcased the beauty of the sweet pea.
  • Adding edible flowers and micro herbs to a plate is like adding tinsel on a Christmas tree. Such a simple thing, but it makes such a difference.
  • I’m a sucker for sablefish. It’s such a forgiving fih that’s impossible to mess up because it’s super buttery and oily. I love it for those reasons too!
  • This was the dish that paired with the Award Winning Bombay Sapphire Beldi cocktail.
  • They went super light with the fish because the cocktail was so strong on its own. The cocktail is really what they wanted to highlight.
  • I prefer food and drink pairings to complement rather than contrast, and this wasn’t a bad contrast, but it was a contrast.

  • I always like my fish to come with a nice crispy skin, but this one was skinless. It had a Ras el Hanout crust to mimic one though.
  • I’m not familiar with Ras el Hanout (“Top Shelf Spice”), but it’s a Moroccan spice that’s comparable to Indian garam masala.
  • It’s pretty much an all purpose Moroccan seasoning made from lots of spices – this one was made from 40 spices.
  • It was a very light sprinkle and I could only taste it on a clean palate without the cocktail.
  • I could taste cloves, nutmeg, coriander, and cinnamon and it’s a very aromatic blend of warm spices, but it wasn’t necessarily spicy.
  • The spiciness came from the cocktail more so than the Ras el Hanout.
  • I think I waited too long to get to the dehydrated green pea crisps because they were soft, but it would have been great for texture.
  • The sweet pea purée tasted very natural and I expected some underlying mint, but it actually tasted more basic than it probably was.
  • Underneath the sablefish were fresh green peas that were just cooked.
  • The olive oil pea sauté was sauteed with fresh herbs (perhaps basil), minced pickled red onions, and minced preserved lemons.
  • There was a good amount of olive oil as a sauce along with the pea purée and it was a very fresh, light and delicate dish.
  • The sablefish is so naturally oily that it was flaking apart on its own.
  • It just melts in you mouth like slippery egg whites and that’s the beauty of sablefish.
  • Again the flavours are very mild and even the acidity and sweetness were down played. I missed that savoury umami flavour in the purée.
  • I wouldn’t mind stronger flavours, but I see what they were trying to do with the pairing and it was still beautiful to look at and very pleasant to eat.

**Beldi Cocktail – 5/6 (Excellent)

  • Winner – Bombay Sapphire’s “World’s Most Imaginative Bartender” 2012.
  • Bombay Sapphire infused with saffron + ginseng martini bianco cold steeped with green tea + mint, cinnamon syrup, ‘Lem-Marrakech” bitters by Kale & Nori, toasted coriander mist + lemon zest $13
  • This could be a meal in itself.
  • It was such a complex drink with so many flavours and if I didn’t know what was in it I would have guessed wrong.
  • In a blind tasting I would have thought it was gin, ginger and coriander syrup, a bit of orange juice, Habanero peppers, and a bit of chilli. Only 2 of those ingredients are actually in the drink.
  • It was a very strong and boozy cocktail which is why it was a 5/6 for my personal tastes rather than a 6/6.
  • Based on the description I would never really consider ordering it, but I enjoyed it much more than I expected.
  • It’s not a fruity sweet drink and it’s very gin forward.
  • I prefer most gin to vodka anyway, but you have to really like gin to appreciate this… obviously. It’s Bombay Sapphire.
  • The word “ginseng” makes me cringe a bit and I think of “healthy soup” my mom would make, but this one didn’t even taste like ginseng at all.
  • It wasn’t woody, herbal or bitter, but spicy and that’s why I thought it was ginger.
  • Even though I was told it was ginseng, I still feel like it was ginger and I could really taste ginger in this cocktail.
  • The spices not only lingered, but they were tingly although not hot.
  • My whole mouth was tingling from spices, but it’s not overkill and it was a nice tingle.
  • The spices were so well developed and it wasn’t just that hard dash of hot sauce, but there was a good depth and layered flavour of spices.
  • The Moroccan flag made from lemon peel was the garnish and the oils from the lemon even played a role in the drink.
  • The lemon oils seeped out and brightened up the spices and helped with aromatics.
  • I could smell the lemon along with the coriander which is a very complementing flavour combination.

Award Winning Bombay Sapphire Beldi Cocktail Recipe

By David Wolowidnyk Winning

• 45ml Bombay Sapphire infused with Moroccan Saffron and Ginseng
• 20ml Martini Bianco cold steeped with 1 tsp Moroccan Mint Tea and 6-8 fresh mint leaves
• 15ml Cinnamon/Cassia Syrup
• 2 dashes Lem-Marrakech Bitters – exclusively produced beforehand by “Kale & Nori”

• Toasted Moroccan coriander tincture

To garnish
• Lemon zest, with the star from Moroccan flag cut into it

• Combine Bombay Sapphire, Martini Bianco, Cinnamon/Cassia Syrup and Bitters
• Stir with ice in a mixing glass
• Mist the Toasted coriander tincture into the chilled glass
• Strain into a chilled glass, garnish with a lemon zest and mist tincture again over the surface

Almond Frangipane Filled Crepe – 4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)

  • With bayleaf roasted cherries and honey lemon mascarpone $13.50
  • I love the desserts here. They’re a bit pricey even for fine dining, but last time I came we ordered two rounds of desserts they were so good.
  • It was a de-constructed cherries jubilee and it would have just topped things off if they flambléed it at the table.
  • I loved every ingredient in this dish and especially almonds, so naturally I would like this. If not almond, then pistachios.
  • I was infatuated with the roasted cherries because the skins didn’t split and they were still plump and juicy which is surprising for being roasted.
  • I thought they would be sour Amarena cherries which come preserved.
  • The sour cherries were served room temperature and they would have been great served hot.
  • I actually couldn’t taste the bay leaf, but the cherries were nice and sweet in a cherry syrup.
  • The syrup was either au natural or reduced from some cherry liqueur which was well cooked out if used at all.
  • The honey lemon mascarpone was almost all mascarpone and I loved that.
  • Mascarpone is the next best thing to serve with cherries jubilee if it’s not vanilla ice cream.
  • I like mascarpone in most desserts and it’s better than whipped cream or chantilly.
  • It was creamy and fluffy and just toned down the acidity and sweetness in everything else.
  • There was a sour cherry sorbet which sat on an almond custard that was quite mealy from the ground almonds.
  • It was a bit eggy too and it was like a hybrid of egg tart custard and marzipan without the heavy sugary aspect. I love marzipan so I liked it.
  • The almond custard was likely there to hold the raspberry sorbet in place and keep it from melting.
  • The raspberry sorbet was tart and refreshing and it would be great as a dark chocolate gelato too… it would put Black Forest Cake to shame.
  • The yellowish sauce in the back tasted like a caramelized creme a l’anglaise meets a buttery salted caramel sauce.
  • It was a bit salty and infused with vanilla bean seeds for sweetness and fragrance.
  • I loved that sauce, but I couldn’t taste it once I ate everything together.

  • The Almond Frangipane Filled Crepe was a first for me and it’s not a typical crepe at all.
  • The crepe is very dense and it comes across as a very thick and doughy crepe. It was rolled up like a cinnamon bun.
  • It was a chewy and caramelized crepe and it almost reminded me of how one would make a canelé.
  • I wouldn’t even mind more of a caramelized crust if possible.
  • The inside was moist, a bit springy and sponge like, but not cakey.
  • Although I love almond and frangipane, the dessert worked together as a whole rather than as separate components.
  • The crepe I would actually consider a bit acquired for people who enjoy the texture of their traditional crepes, but that almond and nutty flavour is something I really like.
  • I did miss a hot and cold contrast in this and something crispy or crunchy, but I did enjoy the dessert very much as a whole and I almost licked the plate.
  • I ended up putting some Marcona almonds from my complimentary nuts on this which was delicious.

Complimentary Banana Rum Truffle

  • Rolled in lemon wafer crumbs.
  • Forget the mints and pate de fruit and give me chocolate!
  • These were delicious truffles and the inside was super thick and creamy like peanut butter, but the thickness was from real banana puree.
  • The filling was well salted too and it was a fantastic chocolate.
  • The rum was mild, but I’m not keen on super boozy chocolate either so I liked it!

**YA MON Cocktail – 6/6 (FMF Must Try!)

  • Organic banana, Goslings Black Seal rum, Navan Giffard caramel and pineapple $12.50
  • It’s obviously a Jamaican inspired drink, but it’s funny because Jamaicans actually hate it when ‘we’ say they say “Ya Mon”.
  • They say “ya man” all the time, but they refuse to believe they say “mon” despite what ‘we’ hear.
  • I actually had this on a separate occasion, but I have to mention it again.
  • I’ve tried maybe 7-8 cocktails here now and this one is my favourite!
  • I freaking LOVE this cocktail and it goes down way too easily.
  • It’s definitely appropriate as a dessert and it’s pretty rich.
  • This cocktail makes me salivate just thinking about it and it was like a Banana Julius, but 100 times better.
  • It was creamy with bits of fresh banana smashed in during the shacking process and it was like a breakfast smoothie.
  • I honestly didn’t want to swallow each sip because I was savouring every moment of it.
  • It’s a textured drink with bits of creamy banana, but the flavour is smooth and it’s so well balanced with a bit of acid from the pineapple.
  • I’m more of a dessert person than a cocktail person and I would never say a cocktail would be my dessert (and mean it), but I actually felt that way about this one.
  • It was that amazing that I really would be satisfied having it as my dessert.
  • This and that chocolate banana rum truffle together would be a divine pairing and ending to any meal.

This was a bonus, but I got to sample this amazing maple syrup from Quebec. I’m sure Dave could make you a cocktail with it if you asked. I tried it plain and it made every other maple syrup I’ve tried taste like crap… and I’ve been to the maple sugar shacks in Quebec. This was crazy though. It’s bottled immediately by hand one at a time after coming out of the evaporator and it’s only single pressed (filtered once) so it’s potent and very rich and intense with flavour.

Maple sap is super dirty though so I’d be curious to know their filtration process and how they can meet health standards with a single press. It would be a very costly process and I don’t even think you can buy this very easily even if you’re in Quebec. Luc Bergeron maple syrup which is available in Vancouver likely comes from the same sugar shacks, but it’s not single pressed which really makes the difference.

It tasted like nutty caramel with a bit of smokiness and it was quite thick and viscous. It made grocery store stuff look like water. It was of course very sweet, but the quality was undeniable and it just makes you question every “No. 1 maple syrup” you’ve ever tried. It just coated your lips and the flavour lasted long after the syrup was gone. The “2011 label” made it as valuable as a wine, but it’s not alcoholic. I poured a bit of this on my crepe too and it really set the bar high for any other maple syrup I’ll try.

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