MICHELIN Guide Ceremony 3 minutes 06 October 2022

Botanist Team, MICHELIN Guide Vancouver 2022 Cocktail Award Winners

Botanist bar team Grant Sceney and Jeff Savage on coffee and tea, scotch and aperitifs, and the bar as a place for everyone.

Congratulations to Jeff Savage (head bartender) and Grant Sceney (director of beverage for the bar and the hotel, Fairmont Pacific Rim), and the rest of the bar team at Botanist! The pair are the inaugural MICHELIN Guide Vancouver's Exceptional Cocktails award winners. As part of the inaugural MICHELIN Guide Vancouver Star Revelation, we chatted with Savage and Sceney about what they're drinking (tea, coffee, agave, scotch) and how their bar is a place for everyone. 

Botanist dining room © Botanist
Botanist dining room © Botanist

What are you drinking these days?
Jeff Savage: Scotch is my first love in the spirits world. I’ve always been a massive fan of anything on the peaty side of the spectrum, but lately I am getting much more inspired by some of the more nuanced styles out there, like Clynleish, Linkwood, and Dalwhinnie. I’m also very keen on textured white wines like chenin blanc, and I’ve been constantly obsessed with the wide world of sake.

GS: Agave spirits were my go-to for a long time. After my first trip to Oaxaca I grew a deep love for the wild, unique and diverse nature of this category. It will always hold a special place in my heart, however these days I tend to lean towards aperitifs such as vermouths, amaros and Champagne.

What's your favorite nonalcoholic drink?
JS: Tea. I’m a massive fan of hojicha (roasted green tea), matcha and oolong. I’ve always been a massive coffee drinker, but I am enjoying the subtler notes found in teas – not to mention it seems a lot easier to regulate my caffeine intake with tea. I've really been enjoying cold infusing different types of hojicha to enjoy on my afternoon hikes with my pup – there’s something about Pacific Northwest nature and those warm roasty and earthy notes that go hand in hand.

GS: Coffee. Growing up in Melbourne I was immersed in a culture with a deep love for coffee and it has stuck with me ever since. The smell of freshly ground coffee beans is the perfect way to start the day.

What's your ideal meal and pairing?
JS: Champagne and a medium-rare burger. Or meat skewers and cheap beer cooked on our sailboat with people we love.

GS: Breakfast in bed on a Sunday morning with a bottle of Champagne.


Botanist head bartender Jeff Savage
© Fairmont Pacific Rim

How have your cocktail tastes changed over the years?
JS: I’ve probably gone the opposite way of many in our industry. I started my cocktail journey drinking cocktails that were extremely bitter, spirituous, and likely more unbalanced than I would admit. Nowadays I've come to understand how higher brix levels in cocktails (i.e. sweetness) can play into making a more enveloping, balanced and nuanced drink. My cocktails have evolved substantially over the last decade, and I pay much more attention to different elements, such as aroma, texture, where the drink hits on your palate, and how it evolves throughout your time enjoying it. 

GS: After tasting many spirits and cocktails over the years, my tastes have changed to taste more subtle nuances and all the elements of the drink. Aroma, visuals, temperature, texture are all elements that play into how the cocktail tastes. I now tend to lean towards lighter style drinks with fewer ingredients paying closer attention to the quality and delicacies of the ingredients used and how the drink evolves.

What’s the biggest misconception about mixology, or cocktails in general, that you’d like to dispel?
JS: I think the biggest misconception about the cocktail world is that it’s not meant for everyone to enjoy. Bars are special places, a stop gap between our personal and professional lives that allows us to meet new people, explore new ideas, and engage with different demographics in a relaxed, safe space. Everyone in our society benefits from having this space, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a novice drinker, someone who enjoys a simple vodka soda, a non-drinker, or an experienced cocktail enthusiast. Everyone is welcome at our bar, and the first thing to dispel is that it’s a space only reserved for a specific type of person. I just want everyone to enjoy themselves, be safe, be happy, and learn something new!

GS: There is still a common misconception that all cocktails are really sweet and full of sugar. While this may be true for some tiki-style bars, it's not the case for most bars. Acids, sugars, salt, spices, herbs, and bitters are all common in cocktails today. They're used for flavour complexity and balance of the drink and also to express the style of drink the bartender is creating. If you remove one of these elements it starts to throw the cocktail off balance. A margarita should have a small amount of sugar (whether from Cointreau or agave) to balance out the acid from the lime juice to make it more pleasant on the palate. It doesn’t make it a sweet drink; correctly used, it provides texture and balance.


Fairmont Pacific Rim director of beverage
Grant Sceney
© Fairmont Pacific Rim

Hero image: Botanist's Council of Trees
© Fairmont Pacific Rim

MICHELIN Guide Ceremony

Keep Exploring - Stories we think you will enjoy reading