An Ode To Bartenders
There are days for everything. Days to celebrate drinks, days to acknowledge spirits, and on 24 February - World Bartender Day - a day to pause and celebrate bartenders.
Bartenders are very important members of society who possess some very specific skills. From their encyclopedic knowledge of cocktails and spirits to an ability to keep everyone amused - the musical skills to know just when to up the tempo on a Friday, and the psychological insight to empathise with our latest heartbreak. A great bartender is an important part of life.
Here at Archie Rose we have a team of great bartenders that we extol every day. However, for World Bartender Day, we wanted to look at a few others Sydney is lucky enough to have watering us.
The CBD of Sydney is not a large place, but it boasts some of Australia’s greatest bars. We picked three of our favourites that you can tick off in one eventful bar crawl - drinking responsibly of course.
115 Harrington Street, Sydney
What these people don’t know about hospitality doesn’t exist. They define it to such a degree that last year the World 50 Best Bars list awarded them the “Art of Hospitality” award - it goes to the bar they believe best embodies hospitality, globally. They also secured the number 11 spot on that list.
Sure, the greetings are warm, but more importantly, they’re utterly sincere. And it doesn’t matter who serves you - they’re all perfect specimens of servitude. On the day we visited, we were lucky enough to be served by Andrea Gualdi. Andrea moves with extreme grace, his elegant hands magically turning out drinks. They simply appear in front of you - for us an Archie Rose Signature Dry Martini (a natural choice for a bar that boasts an old school Martini Trolley) and an Archie Rose Manhattan materialised in front of us moments after sitting down. He’s the kind of bartender that you can’t help but watch work. It’s just so perfect.
Within the first ten minutes of stepping foot in Maybe Sammy you will realise that you are not in any ordinary bar. For us, that realisation came when we were piled with bubbles and a pink flamingo, and later challenged to a wind-up toy bar top race. Owner and frontman Stefano Catino - who after dazzling us with some very loud, very Italian, running commentary - disqualified our wind-up duck by pushing it off the bar top. Apparently, if you own the joint you can cheat in a wind-up toy race and no one can do anything about it.
So, while they’re cheaters, they are also the biggest purveyors of fun, delicious drinks, and great music. Absolutely worth ignoring the cheater stuff.
Level 1, 10-14 Bulletin Place, Sydney
This bar was started by a small group of bartenders who originally tended the bar every night. They were the best in the game at the time and each time the bar team has changed the new guard does not fail to honour the original team.
Currently at the helm is Alex “the Gonz” Gondzioulis. Last year’s winner of Australian Bartender Of The Year, the Gonz is no fool, and he’s surrounded by extreme talent. When we visited his partner in booze was Jeffry “heffe” Santony. Their approach to everything is original. They change their list weekly, depending on whatever is good in the market at the time, and instead of having a wall of bartenders making drinks, they have one - and another on garnish, and one person working the floor. The drinks are so good, and the team so small, it really boggles the mind as to how they turn the quantity out without missing a beat.
They also have jive. Bulletin is one of the few bars that I love drinking alone in. I know that I’ll get great service, and perfect drinks, and a properly good time. A funny thing about the four stools at the bar is that every single time, without exception, there is either another bartender, rep, chef, or someone in the know sitting there. When international travel is legal there’s also a high chance of someone sitting there with a tatty piece of paper. The tatty piece of paper is a list of bars that someone else has given them - a list of recommendations of bars not to miss. And Bulletin is almost always the very first bar on the list. If you haven’t been, don’t hang your head in shame- just stop what you’re doing and go. Consider this your tatty piece of paper.
Alex Gondzioulis (left) and Jeff Santony.
Level 4, 199 Clarence Street, Sydney
This bar is ridiculously good at remaining hidden. It has a nondescript doorway in a white office building that leads to a weird lift - and up you go to the 4th floor. It doesn’t look right, but when you open the door to Old Mate’s Place you find chandeliers ready for swinging off, accompanied by a few sultry booths dripping in mahogany. It’s a great room - but that’s just half of Old Mate’s Place. The other half is up another flight of stairs. Yes, it’s a rooftop bar. In Sydney!
The rooftop is full of good times. The bartenders are working at a frenetic pace, but like a swan they look effortless - you don’t know they’re paddling like mad under the surface. People are drinking a lot here, and they’re drinking well. When we popped in I asked for something fresh and fun, and Ruth Rei, rising star of the bar world, served me a bloody brilliant East 8 Hold Up. It’s not the most well known cocktail, but it’s a modern classic - and if you like ripe, tropical fruit and clean vodka to enforce it, this is your jam.
The chat at Old Mate’s is mint. They’re genuinely some of the funniest humans in the bar scene, and if you’re lucky you might be served by one of the old guard; Dre, Nobes or Corky. These boys may well veer you off the straight and narrow, but even if you don’t catch them there, one thing’s for sure; whoever serves you, you are going to enjoy it.
From left: Oscar Smith, Ruth Rei and Michael Perelini.
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