We often hear the same names of Vancouver hospitality titans in local media. They do very well to represent and have done so for years. We work up thirsts and appetites following their exploits and look forward to trying whatever it is they come up with next, but we seldom consider the individuals who toil in relative anonymity alongside them, and we’re often late in introducing those destined to join them in their starry pantheon. This series of short interviews looks to introduce our readers to this new breed, one blossoming talent at a time.
I was a big fan of Olivia Povarchook’s back when she was at Uva, so imagine the thrill I got when her resume showed up in my inbox one morning at Juniper. Her dry, witty sense of humour behind the bar makes her an entertaining personality, but she also has a killer palate — two things you can’t train into a bartender. Olivia is also deeply immersed in the nuts and bolts of her trade; if there’s a tasting, competition, or brand ambassador in town, she will most likely be present and soaking it all up. You can find her working at Mosquito in Gastown, where her style blends seamlessly with that of the sparkling cocktail-forward bar.
Current Bar: Mosquito | Previous Bar: Homer Street Cafe, Juniper, Uva | Years in the Game: 3.5
Career Highlights: Being nominated for the board of the CPBA; any competition I’ve been lucky enough to compete in or place in; every inspiring bartender I’ve met; every incredible drink I’ve drank.
Your first bartending job? Go big or go home, I started at Uva Wine & Cocktail Bar. I started out bussing and serving, and pushed to get some bar time.
What was the moment that bartending went from a part-time “gig” to being a career for you? As soon as I picked up a shaker.
Favourite cocktail? Aviation.
The three bartenders you’ve most enjoyed working with? Ben De Champlain, Martin Corriveau, and Lily Duong.
The three bartenders you’d most like to work with? So hard to choose! I’ll say… Robyn Gray, Kaitlyn Stewart, and Matthew Benevoli. Three people with unshakable enthusiasm for what they do.
Your guilty pleasure in the beverage world? Vodka cranberry. Shh, don’t tell.
If you could be a Brand Ambassador for any brand, which would it be? Aperol. Delicious, iconic product that I love working with, and, you know… those Aperol vespas tho.
Your favourite city in the world for food and drink? Portland, Oregon – it’s a mix of dedication and goofy fun.
What’s the local dive bar you love the most, and what are you drinking there? Revel Room, whatever sour is on tap.
Beer or cider? Cider, hands down.
If you could stage at any bar in the world which would you choose? Aviary in Chicago. It’s the place to be if you want to get weird with cocktails.
Favourite local Instagram feed? Field House Brewing. I think it’s my favourite BC brewery, and their tasting room is incredibly photogenic.
Your biggest fear? I wish it was something a little deeper or profound, but it’s fish. Keep them and their dead, unblinking eyes away from me!
The one trend that should have been 86’d a long time ago? Fat washing. I get it, it’s inventive and interesting, but am I going to enjoy a drink that tastes like pork fat for more than two sips? Probably not. Also, I’m willing to bet that many new bartenders who are excited to dip their toe into ‘mixology’ aren’t considering the issues of food safety with fat washing.
Bartender or Mixologist? Bartender. Mixologist makes me think of the Magician’s Alliance in Arrested Development. “We demand to be taken seriously.”
Best skill outside of work? Side eye.
Sazerac or Old Fashioned? Sazerac. Bonus points if Janette Desautel throws it in my face.
Good service or speedy drinks? Definitely good service. If good service was optional for me, I’d be in a different profession.
Dog or cat? I’ll stay loyal to my current fuzzy friend — cat.
Favourite Vancouver neighbourhood? Strathcona or Mount Pleasant. They’re both great in their own ways. I can’t decide.
Jigger or free pour? Free pour. Speed Rack (Cocktail Competition) awakened something in me.
Favourite local chef? There’s a lot of talented chefs in the city, but I’d have to go with the one who also makes me dinner every night.
Blue drink or slushy cocktail? Both!
Favourite ingredient to work with? Honey. It’s my favourite sweetener for anything. It adds a beautiful earthy complexity to anything it touches.
Your go-to bar for a “cheeky”? I’ll split a Lonetree cider with the boys at Bao Bei anytime.
Facebook or Instagram? Instagram. Facebook has far less pictures of cute cats and goats.
Favourite Vancouver season? Spring. Winters are so long and dark here. By the time Spring finally rolls around, the city is crying for vitamin D.
What’s your typical day off like? Sleep late, drink lots of coffee, run errands, then fun time. Hopefully enjoy some sunshine, make irresponsible purchases, go to some breweries, bar hop… lather, rinse, repeat.
Good customer who tips bad, or douchebag who tips huge? A good customer, sans tip. I’d much rather have someone sit at the bar for a few hours, enjoy themselves, and engage with their bartender as opposed to someone who doesn’t know their basic bar etiquette or how to treat other people, even if it means my wallet’s a little lighter.
Break-up bar or Tinder date bar? Tinder date bar. For some reason I’ve had a lot of break-ups go down at my bar lately, and I’m still at a loss for what to do when someone’s quietly crying at my well. Tinder dates make for some great stories though, like the time I heard someone tell her date about how she was a plus one for someone’s iowaska ceremony.
Bar tool you can’t live without? Shaker tin. You can MacGyver anything else.
Post-work drink. What is it, where is it and who’s making it? A dry cider, on my couch, if it’s been a good night I’ll even pour it into a glass.
Cocktail | Hornet’s Nest
1.5 oz Sid’s Vodka
0.5 oz Akvavit
0.5 oz honey syrup
1 dash Scrappy’s Firewater Bitters
Method: stir ingredients with ice in a mixing glass, strain into a chilled cocktail coupe. Garnish: twist of lemon.