Restaurant Awards 2024: Bartender and Sommelier of the Year

Max Curzon-Price is our Bartender of the Year, and Kristi Linneboe is our Sommelier of the Year for 2024.

Vancouver magazine’s Bartender of the Year for 2024 is… Max Curzon-Price

Max Curzon-Price, bar manager, Suyo

There’s creativity, and then there’s creation. The former allows a bartender to make a unique cocktail for an established bar program. The latter sees said bartender—in this case, Max Curzon-Price—charged with crafting an entire bar menu to elevate an already ambitious new opening in Vancouver’s tough restaurant scene. And the kicker: his inspiration will have to come from a country that 99 percent of the world equates with a single drink, the pisco sour.

Max Curzon-Price (left), pictured with our Sommelier of the Year, Kristi Linneboe. Photo by Tanya Goehring.

It’s a challenge that would be daunting for even a seasoned pro, but the UK-born Curzon-Price handled the task of creating Suyo’s award-winning drinks menu with the confidence of someone well beyond his youthful 31 years. It helped that he had inspired assistance from fellow Suyo barman Andrew Kong. And it also helped that, prior to Suyo, he honed his craft at Botanist, home of two now-fellow BOTY winners and one of the most dialled-in bars in North America. There’s also his history of killing it at cocktail competitions (most notably representing Canada at Bacardi Legacy in 2021); he thrives under pressure. According to Curzon-Price, he and Kong rigorously analyze the aroma, structure, palate and finish of every drink—”Once we honestly feel that it’s the best cocktail we can provide, it’ll make its way on to the list.”

Ultimately, it comes down to taking all those elements—plus a vision that translates the varied culinary and cultural themes that are Peru—and distilling it all down into 14 distinct drinks (his version of the pisco sour is there, of course), served with precision and a smile by this year’s Bartender of the Year.

Vancouver magazine’s Sommelier of the Year for 2024 is… Kristi Linneboe

Kristi Linneboe, wine director, Banda Volpi Group

The dining public likes to think of sommeliers as artists, landing in a restaurant, treating the wine list as a blank canvas and ready to bestow their grand vision of imbibing upon the assembled masses. And while there’s no doubt that inspiration plays a key role in the modern somm’s job, the reality is that crafting a wine program is more akin to being a vinous CEO than a lone genius. There’s existing stock you have to work with, there are touch points and price points that the patrons expect, there’s figuring out how to work within our archaic liquor laws and there’s a constant need to help the restaurant’s bottom line—and in every one of these tasks, ego is an impediment.

It’s that balance of passion with practicality that makes our 2024 Sommelier of the Year, Kristi Linneboe, a true pro. Given her tenures at Maenam, L’Abattoir, Como, Elisa and now the Banda Volpi group (Savio Volpe, Pepino’s, Caffè La Tana, Elio Volpe), it’s unlikely there’s a local contemporary somm whose decisions have impacted more patrons than Linneboe. If you’ve switched from sauvignon blanc to Lugano—or have even heard of the grape pelaverga—it’s likely because of her, whether you know it or not. Outside of her restaurant work, Linneboe finds time to recharge her batteries… working harvests at wineries in Oregon, the Jura and the Okanagan. And that she accomplishes all this with a humbleness that belies her deep knowledge is the real edge that makes her 2024’s Sommelier of the Year.

Find more of the best Vancouver restaurants on our list of 2024 Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Award winners.