aaron-gaulke-bennelong

Meet the Bartender, Aaron Gaulke, Bennelong

I first met Aaron at a Hendrick’s event hosted by Leslie Gracie. This involved gin, racing beetles and wearing tribal headdresses. I have a picture somewhere, but I’m not sure he’d thank me for sharing it!

Where do you work?

Bennelong restaurant at the Opera House

How long have you been mixing drinks?

11 years and the previous 10 working as a chef.

Tell me a bit about your bartending journey

I started  as a 14 yr old bakers assistant before getting an apprenticeship at 16. I worked in hatted and Michelin-starred restaurants, then got an opportunity to move behind ‘the pine’ to learn the front of house side of the business.  It helped me understand what takes numerous items on a plate, to be distilled into one mouthful in a glass and still hit a harmonious balance. From there I spent time in a true modernist cocktail bar, distilling tinctures, bitters, and spirits, using Adrian Ferrian and Harold McGee as inspiration.
Since coming back to Australia I have worked with the truly gifted Eau de Vie (Sydney) team, before opening the Intercontintal Double Bay and now Bennelong.

What is the best thing about your job?

The nuanced, numerous and varied world of flavor, balance and texture, plus the wide-range of bars and the drinks within.

Who/what inspires you?

Drinks-wise it doesn’t take much to get inspired. It might be a key ingredient, a flavour, a sight, or a sound. Often smells, conversations, or a memory are trigger points for getting the creative juices flowing.

In life- good times, good food, good conversation, good humour, and of course good drinks inspire me!

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Aaron behind the bar at Bennelong. Look at the view!

What’s your favourite gin and why and how do you like to drink it?

Currently something like Ferdinand’s Saar gin or The Botanist.

If I’m at home in the backyard, it’s 3 fingers of gin to 3 fingers of Mediterranean tonic and a herb like rosemary, sage or mint. If I’m out and about, it’s a Last Word.

A customer has never tried gin before, what gin-based drink would you recommend?

A South Side.. or an East Side.. both are refreshing, safe combinations that a non gin drinker can enjoy and appreciate gin’s versatility and character.

Your favourite gin cocktail, and why?

The Last Word, gin, chartreuse, maraschino and lime!

Which are your favourite bars (anywhere in the world)?

Employees Only, Dead Rabbit, Experimental Cocktail Club, Boilermaker House, The Everleigh, Trailer Happiness,  Eau De Vie Sydney, Henrietta’s, Baxter Inn, The Barber Shop… to name but a few!

What’s next? Any future plans?

Finish the end of month stock take!

Rich-Woods-Ducks-and-Waffle

Meet the Bartender: Rich Woods, Duck and Waffle

Rich Woods was recently included in the London Evening Standard’s list of 1000 most Influential People in London and it’s easy to see why. As the man behind the beverage menus at Sushi Samba and Duck and Waffle, Rich continues to push the boundaries of cocktail and blurs the lines between chef and bartender. He also came up with the Nutella Negroni. Enough said.

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Nutella Negroni (image by Duck and Waffle)

Tell me a bit about your career so far?

I’ve been in the industry for 18 years, but more from the operations and bar management side of things. I loved being in bars but wasn’t really a bartender.  It was only when I was at Floridita  bars as operations manager that I threw myself in the deep end and got shaking again. I became really embedded in it and stayed there for 7 years.

Then the opportunity came up to work with Sushi Samba and I was very keen to work with an American brand. Duck and Waffle came along in 2012  and I was given carte blanche on the drinks menu. The chef team are young, very open to ideas and collaborations and I just naturally evolved my approach to cocktails.

Some of your drinks are extremely complex to create, do you have background in science?

No! I’m creative and I’m willing to learn. I probably have ten times more cookbooks than I do bar books at home and I certainly use them more.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Everything! Just being out.

You run a 24 hour bar! How do you get time to go out!?

Well I’m here all the time, but I take myself out for walks. I’ll have a think and I’ll write something down in one of my many notebooks.

One of the drinks the blue cheese and chocolate martini which was my winning cocktail (alongside Mind Your Peas and Q’s) from the UK final of the Bombay Sapphire World’s Most imaginative Bartender Competition.

One night I was getting a late night cab ride and ended up falling asleep before I got a chance to get some food.  All I had at home was some blue cheese in the fridge and a couple of chocolate digestives. So I just ate them together. It was like a scene out of Ratatouille as I realised how delicious it was.

The next day I fat-washed Bombay Sapphire with blue cheese and then made a dry chocolate cacao vermouth and so the Blue Cheese Chocolate Martini was born.

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Blue Cheese and Chocolate Martini

It all sounds very labour intensive?

Yes, it is!

But that doesn’t come across on the menu?

We just list the ingredients because I think sometimes people are put off by long descriptions. I don’t want people to look at menu and think “oh god I’m going to have to wait half an hour for that”.
It’s like a wine book, I’m lost after the first two pages. I don’t care, just tell me what I should be drinking.

Besides, if two people sat down and read a detailed description of a cocktail, both of them would imagine something completely different. When the drink arrives, at least one person will be disappointed because it won’t be how they imagined it. This way, no one really knows what to expect and hopefully there is a wow factor when the drink arrives.

For example we used to have a nitro G&T on the menu (it came off as it was too popular!)

It was nitrogen frozen Hendricks and elderflower lime sorbet served in a champagne flute with tonic water and a yuzu foam. We listed it as gin, tonic and yuzu, It looked nothing like a regular G&T and people loved it!

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Gin, Tonic and Yuzu Duck and Waffle (image from Duck and Waffle)

How long does it take to get from crazy concept to being ready for serving to a customer?

Never! {laughs} I am my own worst enemy. I’m a nightmare to work with. I’m never happy. The drinks continue to evolve. I’m always looking at new ways to serve or deliver on flavour.

What’s the best thing about your job innovation or the service?

I’m all about front of house. We don’t differtitate here between bartenders and floor staff. Everyone here serves and makes drinks. Everyone is a bartender. They rotate.

No server in a restaurant can describe a dish like the chef that created it, so the same is true of a bartender.  I’m trying to create a flow of service that is uninterrupted. Our menu is slightly out there but we’re here to answer questions and help people choose.

What’s your favourite thing to drink?

Beer! {nervous laughter from me}. Someone once said that their favourite drink is whatever is in their hand at that time and to a certain extent that’s true. At one point or another these drinks on the current menu will all be a favourite.

If I ever have an evening off (a rare occasion) my first drink would be G&T then a beer, but I always end my night with a martini.

Do you have a favourite spirit?

It probably is gin.I find it very easy to mix as it goes so well with so much.

For instance, a Negroni is a rich drink, but you still get the gin. Gin and an olive is my favourite martini.

If I think I need a spurt of creativity. I’ll play with something and then give it to the guys to try, and they’ll say “it tastes great, it’s gin again isn’t it?”

I recently made a Pink peppercorn lemonade….clarified lemon with peppercorn gin, pine needle and rosemary and I thought, OK I’ll try it with vodka, but it just didn’t work. Gin gives something extra.

Where are your favourite bars?

White Lyan, definitely. And then the Artesian. I think Simone and Alex have done a fantastic job of creating a welcoming, non-pretentious bar in spite of its 5 star hotel setting.

What’s next?

The pipe-dreams change daily but I’d like to open a place of my own one day.

Follow Rich on twitter and instagram.

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Meet the Bartender: Nick Tesar, Lûmé

I first met Nick Tesar when I moved to Melbourne and he was working at Gin Palace where I always enjoyed his slightly left of field garnishes and behind-the-bar experiments (chocolate gin anyone?).

Where do you work?

Lûmé

How long have you been mixing drinks?

I started bartending when travelling. I was kind of running away after finishing university, as I wasn’t sure what to do next, I was just sure it wasn’t going to be sitting behind a desk. After getting back to Australia four years ago, I began to take bartending as a serious career. I was really enjoying hospitality, and still am. I worked at the casino in Brisbane for a couple of years, before making the decision to chase a more developed industry in Melbourne and landed the dream job at Gin Palace. I loved it. I was a great network and learning experience and I was there for two and a half years before making the decision to take the next challenge in getting on board for the opening of Lûmé, a highly ambitious restaurant in South Melbourne, with a bar/à la carte room at the front.

What is the best thing about your job?

I get to play around (nerd out) with products and people who I truly respect and admire. Plus, the aim of my job is to make people happy and have a good time and realistically there aren’t too many jobs like that.

Who/what inspires you?

Anyone who truly enjoys what they are doing and are willing to embrace risk to further that. I have been lucky to work with Shaun Byrne (Maidenii and Gin Palace and now FIFO bar consulting through Good Measure), who has taught me a great deal but also taken that leap to business owner.

What’s your favourite gin and why and how do you like to drink it?

This is a tough question. It really depends how you are drinking it. My favorite Negroni is made with a gin called Cadenhead’s Old Raj (55% and made with saffron), I really love the Australian gins in Gin and Tonics, particularly those with a bit more kick. Four Pillars Gunpowder Proof and West Winds Cutlass. But then head back to a London Dry style for a martini, particularly Tanqueray No. 10 and Sipsmith.

A customer has never tried gin before, what gin-based drink would you recommend?

A gimlet. I think that it is an incredibly approachable drink that still allows the juniper to shine through.

Your favourite gin cocktail, and why?

The Negroni. Its perfect. Strong sweet and bitter. What more do you need.

Tell me a bit more about Lûmé

Lûmé has an incredibly innovative degustation menu, but with the front bar (called the front room) we wanted to create somewhere people could just drop in for a drink and a quick bite to eat. The focus is on fresh, local, seasonal produce and this is reflected in the gin cocktail on tap. We are currently serving a Rhubarb Gin Fizz, but this will shortly change to a Nettle Beer (freshly picked nettles, sugar, water, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar, fermented before blending with Beefeater 24). The cocktail menu is deliberately short as I like to chat with the customer about what they like and put something together just for them.

Rhubarb-Gin-Fizz-Lûmé
Rhubarb Gin Fizz

Which are your favourite bars (anywhere in the world)?

I think that Sydney’s Baxter Inn is a pretty special place (apart from the lack of gin), I think it’s that it smells like a bar. Gin Palace will always hold a pretty special place for me. But these days I’m finding that I am enjoying the small neighbourhood bars like Bad Frankie’s and Union Electric.

What’s next? Any future plans?

The end goal is always to one day have a little place of my own, but for now to make Lûmé’s bar a destination in itself while keeping up with what the team is doing in the kitchen.

Lûme Restaurant, 226 Coventry Street, South Melbourne.

Follow on instagram.

joe-rita-romeo-lane

Meet the Bartender: Joe & Rita, Romeo Lane

If you haven’t been to Romeo Lane, you’re missing out. Joe and Rita have nailed it as far as location, venue, drinks and insanely beautiful glassware are concerned. (And I’m not just saying that because they shared the best place to source vintage glassware from. Ssssh.)

Aside from knocking out some of the best drinks in Melbourne, Joe and Rita are a couple. A super cute one at that. I have no idea how they make it work, being together full-time, but they pull that off too!

How long have you been mixing drinks?

Joe: Like, three or four years maybe? It’s hard to be precise when you’re constantly sipping cocktails.

Rita: I’ve been bartending for about 7 years now

What’s the best thing about your job?

Joe: Getting to spend every night showing people a good time in my bar. That and having the pleasure of working alongside some of my best friends and my beautiful and talented girlfriend. There’s not many complaints really.

Rita: The best thing about working at Romeo Lane is the sort of mature interesting people who walk through our door with open minds, good palates and diverse tastes. I also enjoy drinking left over champagne with Joey after a busy weekend…

Who or what inspires you?

Joe: Lots of things really. I find the pursuit of refining how we work and what we do at the bar inspiring. It’s always a good reason to keep trying to improve personally and to learn more about everything going on around you. Then there’s a few other bartenders whose work I really get a kick out of. On a daily basis though, mainly rock n roll music and the vibe of the customers!

Rita: I feel like I didn’t start to properly create drinks and be inspired until
I started working with Joey, he has always made me want to be better at my job, and been someone equally interested in the style of drinks that I was looking to make. When everyone was infusing something or making flavoured syrups and shrubs and fat washes, we were trying out classic flavours and old european ingredients to make simple delicious drinks.

What’s your favourite gin and how do you like to drink it?

Joe: It’s a tough call. It’d be splitting hairs between Sipsmith and Plymouth, but either way, I like it in something Martini-esque. An Archangel (cucumber, gin, Aperol) or the Alaska (london dry gin, yellow chartreuse liqueur, fino sherry, orange bitters) are pretty strong contenders there.

Rita: My favourite gin is Sipsmith or Plymouth, a strong london dry flavour, in a stirred smokey style drink like a mezcal Martinez, Petruchio or smokey martini.

A customer has never tried gin, what cocktail would you recommend?

Joe : It depends. We put people through a pretty regimented line of questioning when they’re uncertain about what drink to have, so we can get a better idea of what they actually want. Just the usual stuff like ‘stirred and strong’ or ‘light and refreshing’, ‘citrus or no citrus’ and so on.

Everyone’s different, but I find that a Bee’s Knees ticks quite a few boxes for most people. It’s simple, approachable and wildly enjoyable. It also doesn’t obscure the flavour of the gin too much which is a plus for first time consumers.

Rita: If no-one has ever tried gin before I would give them a fresh juice gimlet because it allows a person to experience gin in its most basic form, without any crazy flavours obscuring the gin.

What’s your favourite gin cocktail and why?

Joe: It would have to be The Rolls Royce. It’s strong and has enough complexity to keep it interesting the whole way through. All that and it’s insanely tasty!

Rita: My favourite gin cocktail is a wet plymouth martini with lillet blanc and a lemon twist. It’s simple, a good aperitif or digestive, not too strong with a heavy vermouth component and is never a struggle to get through. Plymouth Navy is my preference, but very hard to find in Australia these days. The last place I had one was at bar Void in the depths of Mona…

Tell me some of your favourite bars?

Joe: Locally, I’d say The Everleigh and Bar Americano. I’m not so well versed in bars all over the world, but I think Attaboy and The Violet Hour are the business.

Rita: The Worship Street Whistling Shop in London, it’s dark, loud, and fun but with interesting, experimental cocktails and table service. I also like the New Sydney Hotel in Hobart, it’s warm and cosy with a live band, cold beer and a smoking courtyard

What’s next?

Joe : Very possibly another bar! Hopefully a holiday before that happens though.

Rita: Getting Romeo Lane off the ground so Joey and I can take a holiday and drink some gin in a non professional manner!

Follow Romeo Lane on Facebook and Instagram.

Meet Alan Mulvihill, Thomas Olive Bar, Melbourne

Alan is the bartender at Thomas Olive, one of Melbourne’s best kept secrets, hidden above the fabulous St. Crispin restaurant. It was Alan who came up with the Gin-ger-cillin during one of my nights there.

How long have you been mixing cocktails?

Professionally, about ten years.

Who/what inspires you?

To be honest I find inspiration for drinks from the general ins and outs of my drink laden life, be it somewhere between the first whisky of the night and the kebab on the way home or simply interacting with the, in general, so well-educated-on-booze customers of Melbourne. Divine inspiration is never far from striking me.

The main focus of what I have always tried to do however is make people comfortable from the minute they walk in the door, regardless of what they are drinking or enjoy; for that my inspiration is drawn very much from the culture back home in Ireland. There, the vast majority of people are drinking the same beers and spirits day in day out, so what separates the great bars from the rest is the service, and those little bits of information you remember about previous encounters with customers, that keep them coming back.

What’s your favourite gin and why?

I have a lot of bias toward The Botanist, as I work very closely with Bruichladdich whisky who produce that magnificent Islay gin. Bruichladdich have two local botanists on staff at all times to procure the 22 locally foraged botanicals that are added to the heshem basket that hangs in the neck of the still during distillation. ‘Ugly Betty’ as she is known, is the last Lomond still in the world. The Botanist is a complex and delicate gin from a very rugged, and at times, unforgiving place.

What gin cocktail are you asked for most?

I sell a lot of dry and dirty martinis in my little bar. We keep all our spirits, and tins and in the freezer, to deliver a super cold and crisp martini at all times.

Your favourite gin cocktail and why?

Corpse Reviver no. 2, a pretty old school hangover cure, with its heady mixture of absinthe, curacao, lillet blanc and lemon – it is clean, refreshing and boozy in all the right places.

A customer has never tried gin before, what gin-based drink would you recommend?

Would probably have to be a Southside; Mint, Lime, Gin and Sugar – the botanicals merely enhance the drink, lending it a flavorsome, rounded mouth feel, drawing out the minty notes rather than taking over.

Best thing about your job?

Everyone has probably said this but meeting different people at work everyday, sometimes it feels more like a social club than a job!

Off-duty, what’s your favourite place to drink?

Somewhere quiet and chill with a good beer and whisky selection. Like Union Electric in the city or Whisky and Alement, but after a shift it has to be the Black Pearl!

If you could work at any other bar, which one would it be?

Union Electric

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Jenna Hemsworth ~ Bad Frankie

Jenna Hemsworth works at Bad Frankie, a great Melbourne bar that only sells Australian spirits and jaffles (so good!). After watching her compete at the Australian Bartender awards, I was keen to interview her.

How long have you been mixing cocktails?

I’ve been making cocktails for 4 years, but bartending for 6. My first 2 years were working in high volume nightclubs before taking it more seriously.
It was great fun, I learnt what to expect in hospitality, how to deal with people and to be quick at making drinks.
Then a friend offered me a job, saying he’d he’d pay me more and offer me some training.

Did you always want to be in hospitality?

It was just a job to get me through uni and then half way through I just decided I really enjoyed it, I was good at it and decided to put my heart into it and get as good as I could.

Where did you get most of your training?

Each place I’ve worked at I’ve chosen in order to fill the knowledge gaps that I’ve had. So I’ve worked in a beer hall and I’ve worked at Cookie. I worked the floor at Eau De Vie Melbourne, which gave me a great insight into fine dining and whiskey. The Kodiak Club gave me my knowledge of Bourbon, while Ramsay at Little Blood taught me a lot about tequila. Now at Bad Frankie, I’m learning about the Australian side of things and distillation.

What is your favourite drink?

At the moment I’m big on vermouth, sherry or anything fortified, but my absolute favourite at the moment is Rye Whiskey.

So this year I watched you compete at the Australian Bartender of the Year, bu that t wasn’t your first competition?

No, a Disarrono competition in Sydney was my first. I had to make an Amaretto Sour and a cocktail of my own which was about 45ml liqueur and lots of sugar. I think I got diabetes just making it!

Fortunately, going to bars after work and seeing how other people work has helped me develop my palate and cut back on the excess. I’ve realized that a cocktail can be as delicious with three ingredients as it can with 7!

For World Class (International Cocktail Competition) they gave us a food dish to match a cocktail to. The dish was Kingfish with avocado. Immediately, I thought that anise, fennel and tequila would go really well, even though I hate anise. It was a great, well-balanced cocktail but something I would never drink.
As bartenders we learn to make the drinks other people want, not what we like to drink.

So, who or what inspires you?

You are expecting me to say my boyfriend aren’t you? (Jenna is dating Nathan Beasley , Australian Bartender of the Year) [Laughs].

My driving force is knowing where I came from, and how, in such a short space of time, I’ve exceeded my expectations. I never thought I would get into to a national competition. It exceeded my expectations to get to the Final. All those people I’ve been up against, have been bartending so much longer than I have, so it’s a great honour to be held in the same regard as them. Now I want to be the first female bartender to win one of these competitions.
That’s my inspiration, watching how other more experienced bartenders work and challenging myself to be better than them.

Have you got a game plan for the next 12 months?

Study! I do watch Nathan and what he does. Every morning he’ll be on Alcademics and websites looking at what’s new in the world of drinks. He has that passion naturally, I don’t have that, I’ve got to work at it. It’s time to switch my brain into “This is something that I love, even in my down time I need to work on it.” This means going to cocktail bars I don’t usually go to, reading their house cocktail lists, going where you trust the bartender and have something off their house list to see what they are doing with fresh ingredients, and different things that I don’t have access to.

I’m also inspired by watching (bartenders) who work cleanly and precisely. It makes me think about how I’m working. Everything needs to have finesse to it.

So, I obviously need to ask you about gin, what’s your favorite?

West Winds Cutlass. It translates well in G&T, a gin and soda or in a martini, especially with olive garnish. If I could only drink one gin it would be that one. I also love Plymouth, and I like the exotic flavour of Beefeater 24. I select a gin depending on what cocktail I’m drinking.

What are you asked for most here?

Martinis. Lots of people are sticking with spirits and a modifier (for example vermouth). I also get asked for Gimlets that I make with fresh lime juice, as I don’t have access to lime cordial.

What’s your favourite gin cocktail?

I like a Blue Moon (gin, lemon juice, crème de violette). It’s a delicate subtle drink that enhances London Dry with its floral flavour. The other one I like is a White Lady (gin, lime, sugar and triple sec, with or without egg white)

What gin based drink would you recommend to a first time gin drinker?

Either a gin Rickey, a Tom Collins or maybe a white lady.

What’s the best thing about working behind the bar?

Being able to read people and given them what they want without them having to ask me. Like if they aren’t into gin, figuring out something together they want just by asking questions about what they usually drink. I get my satisfaction from them saying, “That’s exactly what I wanted!”. Especially here, where I don’t have big brands to work with. Someone might say they like Hendricks so might suggest Dobson’s gin which is a light and floral and I think they would find it similar.

Do you think you have to work harder because of the parameters of having only Australian Spirits on the back bar?

It was very, very hard at the start, when I didn’t know the subtleties and differences between all the products. After working here a while and tasting them all, I made myself think of a more well-known equivalent, so if someone wanted a big heavy rum, I could tell them the closest equivalent we stock, and why.

Are your customers more open to suggestions?

We tell customers when they arrive that we only serve local Australian spirits and people are often surprised there are so many. We offer tastings or we ask people to tell me what they like and what I personally think they will enjoy. It challenges me to come up with a drink I think they will like.

What gin do you sell most of?

Four Pillars. It’s such an easy-going drink.

Where are your favourite bars?

I travelled overseas when I was much younger, so I can only tell you about Australian venues, but I love The Everleigh, Bar Americano, The Rook in Sydney and Black Pearl.
If I were taking a tourist around Melbourne, the favourites would be; Bar Americano, The Everleigh and The Beaufort. I love the way the Beaufort are doing a rock n roll dive bar in such a unique way. The bartenders there are as comfortable pouring a pint as making a cocktail.

Where in the world would you most like to work?

Artesian or Attaboy. Anywhere I could work alongside a good, large team would be inspiring!

Meet Geoff Fewell : The Lui Bar, Melbourne

The Lui Bar @Vue de Monde is one of the bars to visit when you come to Melbourne. The service, the drinks, and the view! Sublime. Head Bartender, Geoff Fewell, kindly agreed to be interviewed.

How long have you been mixing cocktails? 12 years

What’s your favourite gin and why? I have always a big fan of Martin Millers Westbourne strength. I love overproof gin, and the citrus/pepper profile of Miller’s is just what I like.

What gin cocktail are you asked for most? It varies a lot. Martini’s are very popular at Lui, that said we make a lot of Clover Clubs, Corpse Revivers and Last Words….and of course the Negroni is a constant favourite.

Your favourite gin cocktail and why?  I love a 50-50 Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength Martini with orange bitters and twist, however I am partial to a Last Word with West Winds Cutlass.

A customer has never tried gin before, what gin-based drink would you recommend? A Tom Collins is a great introduction, as is a Bramble.

Best thing about your job? Being able to make people happy with a drink and a chat. Getting to work with a passionate team here at Vue, chefs and Front of House staff that are groundbreaking in their approach to flavour and service. I am lucky to have the infrastructure and knowledge behind me here at Lui.

Off-duty, what’s your favourite place to drink? I love Bar Americano, the drinks are great, The Black Pearl is an industry favourite. I spend a bit of time at my local, The Great Northern Hotel, they have a cracking bar list.

If you could work at any other bar, which one would it be? The American Bar at The Savoy, London. The bar there has such a great history of creating cocktails and great bartenders. It would be an honour to be added to the list of bartenders that have stood behind that bar.

Hayden Lambert ~ Bar Americano

Bar Americano is like all the best things in Melbourne, secretively tucked away from the main attractions.

baramericano

The tiny room is fitted out beautifully, with varnished wooden shelves and pale tiled walls. Coffee is served through the hatch during the day with aperitifs and night caps available as the day progresses.

Bar Americano is so small any photographs taken could infringe customers privacy,  so no photos. (The ones you see here are borrowed from their Facebook page). There are other irregularities a seasoned bar fly might not be used to…

Firstly, there are no seats. Standing room only. Secondly, there are no alcohol brands visible. Everything is decanted into beautiful glass bottles on the back shelf of the bar. (I did ask which gin they were using -Tanqueray). Lastly, the drinks menu is recreated from original cocktail books from bygone eras. They strive to “serve classic cocktails in their purest form”. The Negroni I was served certainly lived up to that statement and I could see why it was a finalist in the 2013 Australian Bar of the Year.

Hayden and I only managed a quick chat while he made my Negroni, but luckily for me he agreed to answer my questions as part of Meet the Bartender.

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Name: Hayden Scott Lambert

Where do you work? I’m currently the head bartender of the tiny yet inspirational Bar Americano.

How long have you been mixing cocktails? I have been making cocktails for about ten years. I have been making good cocktails for about 8 of those years!

Who/what inspires you?  My wife and my son!

What’s your favourite gin and why? I have always a big fan of Martin Millers Westbourne strength. But I’m currently working with Tanqueray and it’s wonderfully versatile.

What gin cocktail are you asked for most? Negronis, Aviations and Sensations

Your favourite gin cocktail and why?  I’m in love with Negronis, its just a drink that I love making. It’s very sophisticated, seductive and one just isn’t enough.

A customer has never tried gin before, what gin-based drink would you recommend? I think a well made gin sour like the Aviation is a great introduction. It also allows for them to gain their confidence so I can take them on a gin-tastic journey.

Best thing about your job? The people, the atmosphere & the intimacy of the Bar Americano.

Off-duty, what’s your favourite place to drink? I don’t get out much but when I have I have enjoyed great drinks and great service at The Everleigh. I love going to the Lui Bar and watching the world pass by at Chuckle Park.

If you could work at any other bar, which one would it be? I don’t think I could work in another bar except my own.

Bar Americano, 20 Presgrave Place, Melbourne. Open Mon-Sun 8.30-1.30am

(Bar Americano was created by Matthew Bax (from the trink tank group).

Please note I visited Bar Americano as a paying customer and was not paid for this review.

Jack Sotti ~ Eau de Vie Melbourne

Jack Sotti was the superb host on the night we visited Eau De Vie for our anniversary. Jack impressed us with his knowledge and drink making skills. Since doing this interview, Jack came 3rd place in the Bols Around the World Competition.

Name: Jack Sotti

Where do you work?

Eau de Vie

How long have you been mixing cocktails?

7 years now

Who/what inspires you?

The guys and girls in the local Melbourne industry. Everyone is pushing one another and there is a great sense of community that runs deep.

What’s your favourite gin and why?

Tough one. There are always some New Western style gins I get really excited about, St. George’s Terroir being one of them, very earthy, with a massive piney juniper hit but for a good old favourite constant got to be Tanqueray 10. So juicy and floral.

What gin cocktail are you asked for most?

We sell a crazy number of classic martinis. People see liquid nitrogen and just have to have one.

Your favourite gin cocktail and why?

I love a nice savoury martini with a high proof gin, at the moment it’s West Winds Cutlass, dry sherry and pickled onions, the perfect aperitif! But also a sucker for the Hanky Panky:  Gin, Fernet Branca and sweet vermouth, three of my favourite ingredients.

A customer has never tried gin before, what gin-based drink would you recommend?

I love surprising people with a classic such as the Clover Club: Tanqueray 10, lemon, raspberry syrup, egg white(optional) shaken hard and served up. It’s fruity, floral and delicate and has such great balance.

Best thing about your job?

I love tasting and tinkering all the time, then the reward of seeing people enjoying themselves with the social lubricant you’ve served.

Off-duty, what’s your favourite place to drink?

Tough one. For a great drink with the whole package: service, location, etc, I love Lui Bar it’s just beautiful. But when you need a great drink at 2:30am with banter from the staff it’s always Lily Black’s.

If you could work at any other bar, which one would it be?

In Melbourne, I’d love to get back behind the bar at Lily’s. Or play with Lui Bar’s rotary evaporator!