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