Skip to content

On the road to Paris at Q Bar

Bar manager Julian Dobko tells the stories behind his drinks

On the road to Paris at Q Bar

Our pre-Christmas cocktail rendezvous spirited us away to Victoria’s noble lady, the Fairmont Empress. Legendary around the globe, at 113 years old, she holds court at the base of this city’s inner harbour in regal splendour. One cannot deny that the old gal outshines, outdoes and puts on “the ritz” like no other…not even The Ritz, come to think of it.

After all, where can one order up a truly special libation for $399? Yes, the Last Train to Paris cocktail adds a little “shock and awe”—exactly what its creator and bar manager Julian Dobko planned.The Last Train launched at the hotel’s Q Bar in November and plays homage to the famous Sidecar cocktail at Harry’s New York Bar located in (wait for it)…Paris.

Served on a gold tray with a side of strawberries and macarons, it’s a mix of Hennessy Paradis, Grand Marnier, Veuve Cliquot Champagne, Armagnac reduction and lemon. Quite the mouthful, but then at that price, it should be. Topped with an Eiffel Tower spoonful of the most exquisite honey pearls, the drink is presented on a road map coaster of Paris.

It’s unlikely you’ll order a double of this showstopper, but we’re happy to report you don’t have to exceed your credit limit to enjoy the Q. The cocktail Finding Neverland is made for the rest of us, using pisco, chartreuse, Cannonball Chardonnay, bell pepper, black salt and gold flakes. It’s served up in a matte black goblet topped with a gold flake encrusted black cherry.

The Monday Magazine tasting team also went for the Royal Daiquiri, which Julian describes as the grownup version of the frothy frosty daiquiris found at beach resorts. Grownup indeed with Brulé-torched banana and medjool date powder, maple syrup, Angostura bitters and pineapple rum.

Finally, the team tucked into the famous house specialty, the Empress 75, so pretty with the purple Empress 1908 Gin produced by Victoria Spirits. With Prosecco, lemon and delicious grapefruit pearls, it is master Julian’s take on the French 75. There’s also the maple chai lemonade (virgin or spirited), but you’ll have to test that on your own and report back.

But for now, let’s hear what Julian has to say.

Claim to fame/best up the sleeve trick or technique: Being well-travelled has allowed me the opportunity to learn from a lot of fantastic bartenders around the world. People always want to try thing that are being served in different countries around the world. The fact that I’ve been to 34 countries is a great trick up my sleeve, allowing a simple question…where do you want your drink to take you this evening?

What’s hot right now? Spirits. There has for a long time been a passion and love for wine and there still is; however, people are starting to take spirits way more seriously than ever before. Having a wide variety is one of the keys to a successful bar.

What are the traits of a good bartender? Telling the story behind the drink. If it’s a classic cocktail, people love hearing about the origins. If it’s an impromptu, people love hearing why you chose to build their drink that specific way.

What is your signature drink? I would have to say one of my current cocktails on the Q Bar menu is the Royal Daiquiri. The fall flavours of maple syrup, Brulé banana, Angostura, Plantation pineapple rum, lime juice and medjool date powder blend very well together.

What are you drinking these days?

Canadian whisky. We have now stepped onto the world whisky stage. The Chronicles lineup from Canadian Club, the cask strength Alberta Premium, and the single malt from Macaloney’s here in Victoria are absolutely outstanding pours. People associate us with rye, but truth is we incorporate four main grains—wheat, corn, barley and rye. We also usually distill them separately (unlike our neighbours to the south) and our versatility makes us strong and unique. I am looking forward to increasing our Canadian whisky offerings here at the Q Bar.

What’s your best memory from behind the bar? Working at Gin Lovers in Lisbon for a shift. While my Portuguese might not be fluent, the owner didn’t mind and helped translate while I worked behind that beautiful bar, which is home to over 90 gins from around the world.