Tim Philips, #3 on the 2015 Most Influential List, on why you should ignore trends

Photo: Daniel Boud
Photo: Daniel Boud

Tim Philips is the co-owner of Sydney bars Bulletin Place and Dead Ringer, a former Bartender of the Year winner, and pretty much the most awarded bartender Australia has ever produced (he’s also a sometime contributor to Australian Bartender). He’s also one of the smarter operators out there, which has seen Bulletin Place be named the country’s best cocktail bar at the Bar Awards three years running — these are all reasons why Tim Philips is number 3 on the Most Influential List sponsored by Angostura Aromatic Bitters.

Take a look at our interview with him below.

Can you tell us a bit about your first bar job?
I was working the floor and bar at the Bell Tavern, Belgrave. It was a cool hippy town where it was harder to get papers than it was to get weed. It was a pub with decent bistro food. Friday and Saturday nights we would have cover bands, and it would get super busy. We made cocktails every now and then, but it was mostly blended stuff. I was putting a lot of Frangelico in things back then. 

What are you working on at the moment?
A lot! Bulletin Place is entering its fourth year, and we want to keep evolving the experience our guests have. Through tweaking our service, more training, and developing the way we use produce in drinks. Meanwhile, Dead Ringer is really trying to establish itself as a good jack-of-all-trades in Surry Hills. The cocktails there are a little more experimental, but still not challenging in terms of flavour for our guests. It’s fun to have two cocktail bars doing different styles of drinks. I’m also travelling internationally about a dozen times this year, and all to work and learn off other cocktail countries. It’s amazing to see what other nations perceive as a ‘trend’. Besides that, I’m doing a little bit of work with some really exciting brands like Regal Rogue, Distillery Botanica Gin, Breville, and Diageo Reserve. Life’s busy but I’d never complain about being busy. It’s what I signed up for. 

Which concepts or trends do you think we’ll see in 2016? What do you want to see take off in 2016?
I hate picking trends, because you should never try to follow them. You should be worrying more about what your guests want, not what the guests of 28 Hong Kong Street in Singapore want. Being known domestically as a drinks ‘trend setter’ is nice, but it’s only spawned out of wanting the best for our guests, and making the most of what’s good and local. For example: Aussie produce and fortified wines are technically a trend, but they shouldn’t be. They should be staples. In fact I’d like to use this soap box to tell you what I want to stop seeing: smoking cocktails, barrel ageing, bullshit ingredients that sound gross, and house made tonic water. 

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If you were face to face with your 21 year old self, what advice would you give them?
1. Drink water during your shifts.
2. Challenge yourself in every new job.
3. Travel.

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