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?
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.
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.
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