I owe everything to Tom Cruise. I’m not even joking. When I first saw Cocktail in 1992, I was hooked. First on Elizabeth Shue and then on this crazy profession we call bartending. Okay you can all stop laughing now please. From the get-go I was making cocktails for my mother and her friends and I remember clearly that the first cocktail I ever made was a frozen Strawberry Daiquiri. Hey, I said stop laughing. She then bought me a bunch of terrible cocktail books (responsible parenting, I know) and so I became a keen student of cocktail recipes from early on at the tender age of 16. I didn’t know the fascinating history of the Gimlet or Tom Collins yet, but I could make one. Probably not a very good one either.
Straight out of school I was working in a liquor store and soon after that, bars. I started at a very famous, awful and often dangerous pub in Sydney (remember The Orient Hotel? Anyone?). I was told I made the best blended Pina Colada in town. Awesome. Then it was all uphill from there, moving onto The Monkey Bar and then the more high profile joints around town: the iconic Grand Pacific Blue Room, Middle Bar, Lotus and finally finding my spiritual home at the legendary Bayswater Brasserie. Oh, how I miss you.
Without doubt the best bar I’ve had the pleasure of being behind, the ‘Bayz’ was the stuff of legend and won about as many awards as U2. Its reputation over that time spread around the world to a point where Drinks International magazine in the UK listed it as their 4th best bar in the world. Pretty amazing. The place was a real bartender’s bar and many of the world’s finest barkeeps often found solace at its zinc-topped back bar, either in a perfectly made Manhattan or some friendly banter without all the cocktail pomp and ceremony.
In between all that somewhere I did a spell in London, working very briefly at The Atlantic Bar & Grill and for the Match Group. But New York was – and always had been – calling my name. It was time to hit Gotham and I have since worked at Public, Pravda, Bar Marche, La Esquina, the Pegu Club and Bobo. From October 2009 I was in charge of the cocktail program at Locanda Verde, a loud, funky, crazy, stupidly busy Italian restaurant in Tribeca’s Greenwich Hotel where Andrew Carmellini is the chef and owner. I then moved over to the hopping Soho joint, The Dutch, which opened to enormous hype in April 2011. I did some pretty cool things with the drinks there but not as cool as my current post at Saxon + Parole, an incredible restaurant owned by the Avroko design firm and led by the very talented chef Brad Farmerie. I am their official ‘cocktail guy’, with Madam Geneva, Public, The Daily and The Thomas (in Napa Valley) now under my leadership.
I’ve also been invited to god knows how many cocktail competitions I can’t even remember. It’s never really been my thing though. There was one, however, that interested me in 2006 and I entered only because a good friend of mine in South Africa nominated me. It was the Bols 200, a classic cocktail competition that ran over six months and through several tough elimination rounds. The final was held in Amsterdam in front of world media. I ended up winning, which was pretty cool, in retrospect. I was crowned World Cocktail Master (ok now you can start laughing) and given a blue trophy. It still sits on my dresser. No, seriously it does.
I have judged a bunch of competitions, though, which is also pretty cool. I love a free trip anywhere, especially if it involves drinking fine hooch made by a professional. I also get taken out to fancy dinners. Sometimes I have to wear a tie. And shoes. Over the last decade I’ve judged cocktail competitions in New Zealand, Dubai, Rome, South Africa, United States, Venice, London and of course Australia.
All this time I’ve been a professional journalist. While working at the Monkey Bar, my friend David Spanton and I launched Australian Bartender Magazine, a high gloss trade publication that has
revolutionized and elevated the Australian bar scene to one of the most progressive in the world. I was the Editor in Chief for its first five years, then becoming its U.S Correspondent and until recently I continued to contribute to every ongoing issue. I now work as a freelance writer, specializing in and deeply passionate about food, travel and drink. Some of the publications I have written for in Australia include: GQ, Gourmet Traveller, Gourmet Traveller WINE, Metropolitan, Barfly, Black & White, Oyster, Ralph, FHM, the Jetstar in-flight magazine and Sommelier. I was the cocktail columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Living dining section as well as the restaurant critic for the Sydney City newspaper. I am currently the international drinks correspondent for Men’s Style, Australia’s leading men’s fashion magazine. I’ve also written a whole lotta stuff for the Yanks, namely: Cigar Aficionado, Cheers, Edible Manhattan, Beverage Media, Tasting Panel, Manhattan and Santé; in the United Kingdom with Conde Nast Traveller, Class, Imbibe and the Whisky Magazine; as well as Mixology in Germany.
Television is a medium I would like to work more with. I’ve been on a few shows in Australia such as Mornings with Kerri Anne, Fresh and The Morning Show. No prizes to guess what I did. Yes, I made cocktails, once with an all-mighty hangover and no sleep. I wrote, produced and hosted a pilot called The Happy Hour a couple of years back in Brazil that was favourably reviewed in New York Magazine and most recently I was an expert guest on two shows on The Cooking Channel: Foodography and Drink Up. I’ve also been the lead guest on Martha Stewart and shaking it up on NBC’s The Today Show. Well there you have it. My adult life, distilled down to a few great drinks in many far flung corners of the globe. And far too many hangovers than any human being could possibly count.