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Team Spirits

The drinks at top-rated Vancouver restaurant Published on Main are a tribute to the hometowns of each member of the bar staff. Could they be Canada’s most heartfelt cocktails?


If you happen to be in Vancouver and looking to book spot at the Michelin-starred Published on Main, you’re probably tempted to go for a table. And that’s a strong choice; the dining space is sleek and bright, with curved cream chairs and tangles of greenery cascading from the ceiling. But the smart money picks a seat at the bar. You can order from the venue’s drinks list anywhere in the room of course, but the bar is the place to be to swap quips with genial bar manager Dylan Riches, and dig a little deeper into the stories behind Published’s clever and curious cocktail menu which, in its present form, is much more than a list of drinks. It’s an exploration of Canadian neighbourhoods, told through the voices and talent of each member of the Published bar team.

But before you get there, start with one of the permanent house signatures or what the menu calls ‘Classics, Our Way’. Perhaps it’s their raindrop-clear take on a pina colada, which sits in a Collins glass speared by an oblong of ice, so colourless and pure that you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a glass of spring water. Despite appearing to contain none of the usual fruity suspects – there’s no sign of pineapple or coconut anywhere, and don’t even think about a maraschino cherry – it tastes exactly like the Caribbean classic. Exactly how Riches pulls that off is a trade secret but he will confess it involves a blend of citric, tartaric and lactic acids which do a remarkable job of mimicking the tartness of the fruit and the creaminess of coconut, nudged along with pineapple rum.

Ordering a familiar drink and getting something that looks completely different is a cool trick but it’s not the coolest trick in Riches’ bag. That belongs to the six cocktails on the current ‘Hometown’ menu, which have each been designed by – and credited to – different members of the bar team, as homages to their various childhood homes around Canada. “It’s the first time we’ve given part of our list such a strong identity,” Riches says. “But in terms of the collaborative process and getting people to showcase themselves, that’s something we’ve been doing for many years. Whenever we bring someone new onto the team it’s with the expectation that they are going to contribute and be part of the creative process.”

One example is the ‘Still In Touch’, created by the other Dylan on Published’s bar team – Dylan Zrobeck. It’s a tribute to his hometown of Edmonton in the central province of Alberta, and specifically one of its most cherished natural features: the North Saskatchewan River. Served in a fluted glass and coloured a soft pea green to resemble the river water, Zrobeck says he loved the chance to put an inviting spin on a city that Canadians can sometimes malign. “The river is actually pristine but because it’s a soft bed river it looks really murky and silty,” he says. “People think it’s nasty, much like a lot of people think Edmonton’s a nasty city built on extractive capitalism and backwards politics. But Edmonton actually has a lot of culture and arts and political resistance to the overt conservatism that is Alberta. So what I wanted to make was a juxtaposition of beauty inside what looks like a gross exterior.”

The flavour profile hints at Vesper martini, with a concentrated and rehydrated dry vermouth at its core, along with Reyka Icelandic vodka. Then, Zrobeck adds apricot chai, which is built on two of his strongest Edmonton memories: the ‘Aprikat’ Apricot Ale from local craft brewery Alley Kat, which was the first craft beer he remembers tasting, and chai tea from popular chai chain Remedy (“Everyone goes there on first dates,” he says). It’s finished with a mist of juniper to evoke the dense, wet pine forests of the river valley, and a disk of ice that resembles the river cracking and splintering as it thaws in spring. “Everyone teases me about always talking about Edmonton so any excuse to include Edmonton is a fun time,” Zrobek says of creating the cocktail.

Another crowd favourite is ‘Into The Mist’, a whisper-soft gin-based sour presented in a coupe glass, that’s designed to mimic the thick mists of Lake Thomas in Nova Scotia, where another team member Liam Hatton grew up. “Liam was a rower and on track to go to the Olympics so mornings for him were all about rowing in the fog of Lake Thomas,” Riches says. It includes locally foraged kelp that speaks to the maritime spirit of this far eastern Atlantic province, along with floral notes of lavender and Earl Grey tea.

Then there’s the Bodeguita from bartender Camilo Romero who created his cool spin on a margarita to honour the old school mom and pop bodegas that used to be a common sight in East Vancouver before gentrification took hold, and where he’d regularly spend his allowance as a kid. “This cocktail is my homage to the many shop-keeps and their families who welcomed the community into their spaces with gusto and joy,” he writes in the menu blurb that accompanies his drink. Along from the usual margarita touchstones like tequila and Cointreau, Romero also added the fresh zing of retro American orange juice brand Sunny D, and a rim made of sour Pixy Stix candy. It is, writes Romero, “the core of what I consider my childhood home.”

Of course the most important element of every one of these lovingly-curated cocktails is taste: if customers don’t like what they’re drinking they’re not coming back for seconds. But Dylan Riches says that nurturing his team’s talent and their personalities is just as critical to Published’s ethos. “I’ve worked in so many bars where you put something on the menu and no one knows who made it. It goes uncredited,” he says. “If I can help the team shine and explore the creative process, that really brings me a lot of joy. It’s not just about sharing their drinks. It’s about sharing their stories.”


Words Alexandra Carlton, photography Sarah Annand.

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