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Best Hospitality Staff in Canberra

By j from the block - 12 August 2009 22

Upon hearing of the passing of a old bartending peer of mine over the weekend, and having seen some exceptionaly good and poor service and products of late, I got to wondering where the greatest hospitality staff in Canberra are found?

I have my own ideas, but on behalf of some of those who try to give you all a good night out, and those who try and keep us going through the day, who are those doing it best? Best coffee, best pint, best cocktail, best service?

*As there isn’t really a normal category for best surly bartender, I humbly step out of the race.

What’s Your opinion?


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22 Responses to
Best Hospitality Staff in Canberra
MuddlingStick 1:29 pm 14 Aug 09

Just thought i’d wade in with a perspective from the other side of the bar. Background, i’ve 5 years experience in Canberra’s lounge and cocktail bars, and chances are if you’ve actually sipped a decent Manhattan or Martini in Canberra, you’ve most likely seen my work.

I’d like to suggest, as a bartender, nothing is more exciting and encouraging than customers that engage with a bartender, communicate and use the bartenders experience and skills to their advantage. We spend untold hours playing with alcohols and mixers and methods, and tend to develop our own suite of personal signatures and specialties. Thus there are certain cocktails that I personally can craft better than any bartender in Canberra, and others which I concoct to a far inferior standard. Every bartender in the city follows this basic mould.

Consequently, I see all too often the classic ‘customer who thinks they know the be all and end all about cocktails’ swan into a bar, order a Terrace Manhattan or Whisky sour or Negroni or some such, to very precise specifications, and then completely write off the bartender and indeed bar if it fails to meet their pre-established conditions. That bartender might mix the best Hendricks Martini or Hemmingway Daiquiri in the world, and you’ve now written them off as amateurish. A good bartender will never serve you a bad product, they will seek out knowledge to ensure you get what you’ve asked for, but might I suggest, that if you are inanely anal about your Manhattan… buy yourself some spirits and kit and stir it up at home?

I would suggest that next time you are in a lounge/cocktail bar, ask this question just once – “What do you make well?”. The bartender can then share with you some of their own personal passion and interest, and skills. I personally would rather drink an excellently made cocktail reccommended by a bartender, than a satisfactory one to my own specifications.

Happy drinking!

My personal opinion of the canberra scene (if only it compared to Melbourne or London!);

Best Bar Team: Knightsbridge Penthouse
Best Individual Bartender: Charlie @ Knightsbridge, also worth getting to know Timmy @ The Lounge on a quieter night.
Best Venue (overall): The Lounge @ Unipub
Best Lounge: The Bah
Best Cocktail Bar: Knightsbridge Penthouse
Best Environment: Hippo (When they have good live music on)
Most Enthusiastic Bar Team: Trinity @ Dickson

j from the block 1:00 pm 14 Aug 09

Oh, and just a couple of friendly suggestions from the other side of the bar 1)if you don’t like gin or vodka, don’t order a martini, I know you want to look cool, and in the same vein, 2) if you come into a bar and want to impress someone by asking for the best thing we have, with no knowledge of what we actually stock, you will normally get the most expensive thing we have. And rarely is that the best. Johnnie Walker Blue isn’t bad, but at around $30-40 for a nip, you can do a lot better.
Ask them what they drink, or what they might recommend, you will get something much nicer.

j from the block 12:50 pm 14 Aug 09

Jim Jones said :

Not true, CK. Makers Mark makes a really really good Manhattan.

Although I usually go 1:1 with the sweet vermouth, j from the block is sounding like my kinda bartender.

Cheers. Manhattans, like most cocktails, tend to fall into the category of “but I always have it with x and y, never z, you can never put z in”. I always used to suggest to any of the bar staff I trained to use the line “here we make it with vodka is that how you like it” when confronted with a cocktail they were unsure of, or a customer who knew exactly what they wanted.
Essentially, I always try to make it the way the customer wants it, but if you want to mix a top shelf spirit with coke, I will ask if you are sure. Really, really sure you want to say mix a 16 year old single malt with cheap post mix. Urgh.

VYBerlinaV8_the_one_ 12:47 pm 14 Aug 09

Best food: Central Cafe Queanbeyan
Best Service: Kingston Maccas
Best Coffee: Barton RUC

j from the block 12:43 pm 14 Aug 09

Would Canadian Club pass? Or does it have to be American Rye?
I can see your problem though. Good (see very knowledgeable / well trained) bartenders are not the easiest thing to come by, and then they need to be in a place that stocks all the required tools / potions of the trade.
Alternately, if you can’t find anywhere to get one, wait until I open my own place and come on by. Sometimes if what you want isn’t there, you just have to do it for yourself.

Jim Jones 12:31 pm 14 Aug 09

Not true, CK. Makers Mark makes a really really good Manhattan.

Although I usually go 1:1 with the sweet vermouth, j from the block is sounding like my kinda bartender.

Clown Killer 12:19 pm 14 Aug 09

It sounds great in principle, but for one problem. You simply can’t make a Manhattan with Bourbon – it’s far too sweet, and far too vanillery.

No amount of fannying about with the bitters or the vermouth is going to make it taste good. It’s Rye Whiskey or nothing at all, and if the bartender can’t tell the difference between Bourbon and Rye, then they’ve got no business being behind a bar.

Hence my problem in Canberra.

j from the block 11:40 am 14 Aug 09

Clown Killer said :

I have not yet come across a bar tender in Canberra who knows how to make a Manhattan. When I do, they will – with apologies to The Iron Chef – win my praise and adulation forever.

First find a bar that stocks decent bourbon (I used to use makers mark in my manhattans), sweet vermouth, and maraschino cherries that are not from some archaic jar at the back of the fridge.
Then, politely, ask the bartender if they know how to make one. If they don’t, and are receptive (they should be).
Then, not knowing how refined you are, or your preference, I normally shake, with a 2:1 bourbon to vermouth, and do the orange twist. Or you can mix it in a mixing glass (don’t bruise the bourbon!), or, as I used to if rushed, just build it in a rocks glass (only if extremely busy, and after you have already tried a few).

T 6:02 pm 13 Aug 09

best steak – Kingsley’s steak and crab house
Best bar food – Lighthouse belconnen
best cocktails – muddle bar

Clown Killer 5:34 pm 13 Aug 09

I have not yet come across a bar tender in Canberra who knows how to make a Manhattan. When I do, they will – with apologies to The Iron Chef – win my praise and adulation forever.

Best Coffee: Essential Ingredient, Kingston.
Best Pub Meal: Zierholz, Fyshwick
Best Sommelier: The Ginger Room (it hurts to, but he really is that good)
Best Wine List: Anise, City (despite the fact that the Ginger Room just picked up a gong for Best Wine List);
Best Steak; The Charcoal Grill

j from the block 4:48 pm 13 Aug 09

best coffee, deli marco dickson, tonic civic, and kingston grind,

j from the block 4:46 pm 13 Aug 09

will have to go and check them out. always interested to see good mixologists at work.

AlpineViper 4:37 pm 13 Aug 09

I highly rate a couple of the staff at Kremlin for cocktails. Not all of them, but a few know their stuff well and will happily bend away from the menu.

layne 11:42 am 13 Aug 09

coffee – Ona Manuka
cocktail – Hippo
service – First floor?

Friska 10:11 am 13 Aug 09

Best Coffee and Service = Cafe on Chandler (Belconnen Labor Club)

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