What’s on the bartenders bar cart?

Verbatim by Benjamin Thomson

Behind every great cocktail is a creative and highly skilled bartender equipped with an arsenal of essential tools, because the art of mixology hinges on more than creativity and craftmanship, it relies on having the right equipment and ingredients at your fingertips.

This week on Bars and Clubs, we speak to some of Australia’s leading bartenders about the staples in their bartending toolkit, and even their home bar carts.

For award-winning Darwin bartender Anneliese Grazioli, batch bottles are a bartender’s best friend. Co-Owner of Top End bars Hanky Panky Lounge and Bar Kokomo, Anneliese is committed to delivering high quality bar experiences in Australia’s most northern city, and batch bottles are one of the tools she couldn’t live without.  

“My bars are very high volume, and we want to be able to offer a great experience of good chat and speedy service,” she says.

“Batching cocktails is a fairly old technique and I know many bars who turn their nose up at it. If I can give my guests a great drink, with great chat, faster than normal and be able to offer a larger range to suit more guests tastes, then why not?

“At home, or going to friends’ places, you often get the job of doing cocktails when you just want to be relaxing. I always bring a fully batched cocktail and take the opportunity to show people how to stir or shake, then they can just help themselves after that and I can chill out.”

Over in the sunshine state, Bar Soma is an intimate neighbourhood bar perched on Hervey Bay’s esplanade. Like Anneleise, Bar Soma Co-Owner Timo van Hest brings a new and elevated drinking experience to one of Australia’s beautiful regional towns.

Perhaps Timo’s toolkit has been influenced by his time spent in the sub-tropical town of Hervey Bay, because when it comes to crafting cocktails bursting with fresh flavours, pink grapefruit holds a special place in his heart.

“I love pink grapefruit. It’s a total snack in its own right, and its aroma and complexity lend a lot to drinks. Less sour than the popular lemon and lime but with a real pleasant bitterness,” he says.

“It makes for a really neat twist by swapping or splitting the citrus in a cocktail with grapefruit. Add to that the aromas of the peels, which work so well with mezcal, tequilas, rye whiskey, bitter aperitifs, all the things we love making drinks with, and you’ve got an accessible, aesthetic, and delicious addition to your bar cart.”

On the western coast of Australia, #JustAddRhubi cocktail competition winner Benjamin Thomson believes that no bar cart is complete without Cognac. According to Benjamin, who is the Beverage Manager at Perth’s heritage hall venue The Rechabite, the spirit is often neglected today, but he’s urging bartenders to change that.

“My must-have in a bar cart has to be Cognac. It’s my favourite spirit hands-down. Complex, versatile, sophisticated, and full of potential for use in a variety of styles of cocktail. Rich and full of depth, it is my absolute go-to when trying to create something spirit-forward and bold,” says Benjamin.

“Pairing it with fresh bright fruits, earthy wooden notes, herbaceous and vegetal tones, or sweet confectionary can all work in your favour. 

“From what I’m seeing currently, a lot of bartenders shy away from cognac because they either don’t love it or haven’t given it a chance. I’d recommend changing that, it’s a beautiful category of Brandy and I can’t write a menu without utilising it. Its gorgeous colour and spiced fruit flavours give you a fantastic foundation for a really special cocktail that can be harmonised with pretty much anything in your bar with the right balance.”

Verbatim by Benjamin Thomson

For Rezon Juliodionko of Rude Boy in Hobart, the cocktail drinking experience is about much more than the drink itself. While it might not be a tangible tool like those above, music is Rezon’s indispensable secret weapon, and its crucial role in enhancing experiences shouldn’t be ignored.

A well-selected playlist, or even better, live music, has a subtle influence over the mood of an establishment, and whether he’s crafting cocktails for customers, or savouring a moment alone, Rezon believes the transformative power of music can turn a good experience into something exceptional.

“It’s the beat that resonates beyond the glasses clinking and becomes the invisible force connecting moments of joy and camaraderie,” he says.

“In my bar, I’ve witnessed the enchanting effect of carefully curated playlists. People, initially just looking for a quiet drink, find themselves so captivated by the music that they abandon their original plans for the night. Spontaneously, they gather others to join, creating an impromptu celebration centred around a shared love for the music.”

Rezon believes that it’s never just about mixing drinks, it’s about orchestrating an atmosphere that fosters connection and communal celebration.

“To my fellow bartenders, I suggest giving it a try – a simple shift in the musical ambiance can breathe life into a dull party or infuse fresh energy into the bar team on a busy night. The music becomes a dynamic force, drawing in curious onlookers, setting shoulders in motion, and sparking a contagious vibrancy throughout the entire establishment,” he concluded.

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