Sydney speakeasy Brooksy sets a new service standard


Prohibition may be long gone, but speakeasy-inspired cocktail bar Brooksy has taken on the spirit of the 1920s in an unassuming spot on George Street in Sydney CBD.

From the velvet draped curtains, marble counters and art deco interiors, to the absinthe towers and fortune telling, Brooksy has been curated to transport customers to a bygone era.

Too much is never enough at Brooksy, and just as important as the lavish interiors is the emphasis on service, with bartenders, front of house staff and tableside entertainers going above and beyond to create a unique Brooksy experience.

Leading the beverage programme is Brendon Hill, who has redefined drinking experiences in popular Sydney establishments such as The Grounds of Alexandria and Duck Duck Goose.

Building on the 1920s speakeasy theme of the venue and classic cocktails that were popular at that time, Brendon was inspired to elevate the concept by putting a riff on his own interpretation of this era.

“I did some research on the 1920s, aeroplanes were starting to come into fashion. The name Brooksy actually refers to a well-dressed gentleman or female, and back in the days of aviation, people would get dressed to the nines and jump on a plane to take a flight,” he told Bars and Clubs.

“I suggested we invite people to stamp their ticket at Brooksy and take them on a bit of a journey. I’ve travelled the world over the last seven or eight years, and I had a concept in my mind that used spirits and flavours from my personal experiences. I took the brand and created more of an experience around it.”

Taking Sydney’s sophisticates on a journey around the world, Brendon’s menu features cocktails such as Uluru, designed to reflect the untamed beauty of the outback with a blend of gin, white vermouth, Campari, green grapes and lemon.

One of Brendon’s favourite cocktails is the Wilderness Symphony – Alaska, a shared cocktail designed to serve two people, comprising vodka, elderflower liqueur, triple sec, red berries, citric acid and Prosecco.

“I was inspired by the start of spring in Alaska after I went on an ATV tour there. On the ground they had foliage, but there were splatters of red throughout the foliage. I learnt that it’s wild strawberries and raspberries, and the bears come through and eat it all.

“When I tasted them they were really sweet and refreshing, and that’s where Alaska came from. It’s like a Spritz so it has that spring feel, with a red berry syrup. That’s a standout for me.”

Perhaps even more intriguing is the signature absinthe cocktail, served from an absinthe fountain. Effectively enjoyed as a straight spirit, the absinthe tower is more of an experience than a cocktail, with cold water dripped through sugar into the absinthe.

“Absinthe towers have disappeared from bars for a long time, I probably haven’t seen one in eight or ten years. It was really important to the guys at Brooksy to execute, which was difficult because it has disappeared out of the fashion of bars, but we wanted something different,” said Brendon.

“It gives you something that you probably haven’t experienced in Sydney for a long time, it sings to the brand of Brooksy and gives you that allure of the 1920s as well.”

Bespoke hospitality

For Brendon, there is a lot to be achieved by putting emphasis on the presentation of cocktails and the subsequent service of them, beyond the taste of the liquid.

Sydney CBD is buzzing with bars at the moment, and this emphasis has helped Brooksy to create a point of difference. From a consumer perspective, Brendon says the bar adopts a hotel-based service model with doors opened for guests on arrival, and it was imperative that the drinks sang the same song.

“We wanted the theatre to be in the story, and we wanted the theatre to be wrapped around what the brand is. We built the beverage programme around the Brooksy brand experience, considering what that looks like from a staff perspective right through to the consumer,” he stated.

And the importance of service extends beyond consumer experience, it’s also a way of creating camaraderie among the staff.

“We wanted the bartenders to be excited first and foremost, because we believe that if they’re interested in the drinks and they’re trained the right way, the customer will feel that as well,” says Brendon.

“The team put a really strong focus on training. I’m a consultant, and that really helps me to fill their venue in a way that is exciting and interesting, but also has a fast service model and a really good profit model. It’s a double-edged sword, we want it to be theatrical but we also want to make sure that the venue is fast, efficient, and a little bit of fun.”

According to Brendon, the Popcorn Blazer cocktail is the star of the show, and it really hones in on that commitment to theatrics.

Popcorn Blazer is crafted with Benriach 10 Year Old Whisky, Drambuie, walnut bitters, and popcorn syrup, but it’s more than a cocktail, it’s a blazed drink, served by heating the mixture up and tossed with fire in front of the customer.

Taking the table service element the extra mile, Brooksy offers an ever-evolving bar cart of whiskies, which can be enjoyed tableside or at the bar. Available as a flight of 15ml drams, or served individually, the whisky selection sits within a chest on the cart.

“We’ll have whiskies from around the world, and they’re always going to be different. Staff are taught how to taste them and serve them, and the cart experience is about bringing something different. From one month to the next, it will be a totally different experience.

“We’re rotating spirits that you won’t typically find on back bars, available at an affordable price. We’re not trying to make a huge amount of money, we’re trying to educate people on how to drink whisky,” Brendon added.

Complementing Brendon’s beverage programme is an approachable snack menu spearheaded by Executive Chef Hemant Dadlani. Highlights from the menu include Glacier 51 Toothfish with shiro miso and cucumber salsa, salmon with pickled fennel, capers and croquant, and yuzu scallops.

Maintaining the element of personal service that is so prevalent through the drinks menu, patrons can also expect oysters freshly shucked tableside.

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