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Dylan Riches wins the 2023 Bartender of the Year award from Vancouver magazine.
Everyone has made a cocktail at some juncture. A few have worn the mantle of bartender for a spell; fewer still have crafted drinks with a high degree of precision and rigour. And at the top of this mixology pyramid are the chosen ones who had a light-bulb moment, realizing that their true passion lies in the lifelong pursuit of the perfect drink.
Published on Main’s Dylan Riches has made all of these stops in his career. First, slinging basic drinks and shucking oysters at Whet and the Fish Shack, then at a higher level to the well-heeled clientele of Coast and Black and Blue. And then, a step up again to the more rarefied aesthetic of Yaletown’s Brix and Mortar. But it wasn’t until a yearlong sojourn to Hong Kong (and a prominent role at that city’s legendary The Old Man) that Riches ascended to the peak of the pyramid. The quest to dedicate himself to the craft became a single-minded focus, and a night at work might mean hand-making 250 cocktails for the waves of aficionados who make the reverential journey to experience that world-famous bar. For Riches, working at The Old Man felt like “you and 40 of your best friends are in a room together for the evening.”
But home called—and then, serendipity. On his first night back in Vancouver, Riches found himself eating at Main Street’s Old Bird with a friend who suggested they amble over to some new place called Published for a nightcap. Walking in, he felt that vibe of camaraderie that he’d experienced in Hong Kong—and they were looking for someone to tend bar.
That was three years ago, and the ride for both Published and Riches has been… ascendent. His drink program mirrors the ethos of the restaurant. “We try to deliver a sense of home—a place to be comfortable,” says Riches. He aims to craft drinks that are either “very familiar in an unexpected way” or “something entirely new, but approachable.” He runs a bar staff that strives for personal growth with each menu, with a focus that never loses its sense of playfulness. For example: the cult fave pina colada, which melds nostalgia and experimentation in equal measures. It’s this balance—in outlook and in cocktails—that has elevated Riches to our 2023 Bartender of the Year.
Looking for more of the best restaurants in Vancouver? See all 70+ restaurants on the list.