Vancouver has no shortage of destination cocktail bars, from the laid-back cool of The Keefer Bar to the speakeasy elegance of Prohibition. Then there’s the hotel bar. Fairmont Pacific Rim was already known for its sushi/raw bar and Japanese-influenced cocktails, but now it has unveiled a new concept: Botanist. Located on the second floor of the hotel, Botanist is the Swiss Army knife of F&B venues: a restaurant, cocktail bar and lab, Champagne lounge and garden all in one—all inspired by the principals of botany.
The team includes general manager Shon Jones-Parry, wine director Jill Spoor and executive chef Hector Laguna, who has cooked in Miami, San Francisco, Toronto and Vancouver. Fairmont Pacific Rim’s creative beverage director, Grant Sceney, will oversee Botanist’s bar and cocktail lab in collaboration with head bartender David Wolowidnyk.
From the modern lobby lounge, head upstairs to the bar, which runs through to the entrance of the dining room and is anchored by the cocktail lab. Kitty corner from the bar is the Champagne lounge decked out in shades of dusty rose, soft pinks and neutral tones. Across from the bar and lab is the garden, enclosed by glass walls and lush with plant life. The dining room is open, somewhat triangular with cloistered areas offering intimate escape.
The cocktail menu showcases Pacific Northwest ingredients rendered with an eye toward the postmodern. Cocktails like the Can’t Beet A Root pairs aged rum with carrots, yellow beets, ginger, lemon and kale. In the Yes Whey, rum and brandy are mixed with Chinese five-spice, lemon and stout beer and given a silky texture with clarified milk.
The cocktail lab takes things even further, featuring drinks that aim to represent natural elements like the forest floor, ocean or Pacific air. Cocktails are served in bird glasses or terrarium-style lanterns or as a partially melted punch bowl perched on driftwood. “We are very fortunate to have a diverse climate,” says Wolowidnyk. “There’s literally inspiration all around us.”
Though Botanist is stocked with the same rotary evaporators and centrifuges you find in cocktail temples like London’s Drink Factory or or Dallas’ Midnight Rambler, don’t call it molecular. “I wouldn’t necessarily classify the drinks we make as molecular, but we will sometimes use advanced techniques to further the guest experience when it makes sense,” says Sceney. “To state the obvious, if people weren’t testing the limits of what we all do, we would never advance, and we would be boring.”
The goal, says the Botanist team, is for drinks to look artful but also taste fantastic. “The overall guest experience is extremely important,” says Wolowidnyk. “One of the first promises we made is that flavor wins every time. Sometimes, we will work on a drink and its presentation simultaneously to ensure harmony between the flavors and the experience. Other times, the inspiration to use a flavor profile or particular serving vessel will inspire the direction of the cocktail. In the end, it’s the balance between the two that matters the most and they must be equally strong.”