Departures - Botanist Restaurant


/ A Seat at the Bar: Grant Sceney

In conversation with one of February’s mixologists of the month

This month we spoke to Grant Sceney, the talent behind the bar at Botanist, located in Vancouver’s Fairmont Hotel.

Grant Sceney shares his personal take on mixology below.

What is the most exciting trend in mixology right now?

What I’m really excited to see is an overall push towards sustainability, in a way that has more longevity than just a trend. It’s naturally focusing on the sustainability of the environment and the ingredients used – but also the “sustainability” of the staff and guests alike.

If bartenders are taking better care of themselves, it allows them to take better care of the guests. In an industry where bartenders’ health has been a long concern – both mental and physical – it is now becoming a focus for bar and restaurant owners (and spirits brands). They are now offering yoga classes, bike rides, hikes and boxing classes, instead of the previously common ways to reward bartenders: throwing a party or just giving them free booze.

This has also transformed how owners run their bars. By offering more low alcohol or spirit-free cocktails, these options are now becoming commonly available and a focus on menus is now commonplace (rather than an afterthought) – which is fantastic to see.

Can you take us through the process behind your new cocktail creations?

The first step is to figure out what is the purpose – what do I want this drink to achieve and what journey do I want to take the guest on? What balance does the menu need, is it intriguing, does it represent the bar to the highest level.

I will often pick the name and concept, before looking at ingredients and working backwards from there. We look at using interesting ingredients that highlight the region and surprise guests with things that are “in the backyard” that they never knew about – this also has a lot of regulars who come back to see where we can take them next.

What’s the most unusual ingredient you have ever used in a drink?

Vegemite. I’m an Aussie living in Canada, and got one of my friends to bring me back some when they returned from a trip home; they dropped it off while I was at work.

The shift that day was kind of slow and one of the other bartenders was expressing how much he disliked it – so he naturally then challenged me to make a drink with it. Giving its undeniable savoury and salty element I went with a riff on a Caeser (Canada’s version of the Bloody Mary).

I was quite happy with how it turned out – I even served it with a bit of Vegemite toast as the garnish. My colleague was adamant however that Vegemite shouldn’t ever be consumed, so we agreed to disagree.

If you had to choose just one, what is the absolute can’t miss cocktail on your menu right now?

Smoke on the water – it’s quite the cocktail to entice all the senses; visually impressive coupled with an intense aroma and taste. It’s the latest addition to our lab cocktails, which are all inspired by the four elements (wind, water, fire and earth).

In this case the cocktail takes inspiration from fire – it’s presented in a box filled with cedar smoke and the warm glow of a candle. The drink itself is comprised of coconut oil-washed aged rum, mezcal, birch water, pineapple caramel and charred lemon. It is quite the journey.

In just three words, how would you describe the experience at your bar?

Don’t. Stop. Believin’. Or ‘bartenders creative playground’.

Finally, let us in on an up-and-coming mixologist we should keep an eye out for.

It used to be only the major cities where you’d find young talent but now exciting upcoming names are spread all across the country. Recently I got to meet young Will Irvine from Halifax – his energy was fantastic. He currently works under two of my good friends (and talented seasoned bartenders) Jenner Cormier and Cooper Tardival.

We also have two young bartenders Charles and Sam, both currently going through our junior bartender program and showing some good early promise.”

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