Take a look inside Brisbane bar Maker

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Address: Fish Lane, South Brisbane
Hours: Tue – Sun, 4pm-midnight
Instagram: @maker.bne

Brisbane bar Maker isn’t much like other Brisbane bars. For one, in a city that is long on generously sized bar rooms, Maker is tiny; you’d be hard pressed to squeeze a dozen people in there. And it’s different in the way the bar is laid out, too: down one end is little prep area for a chef (to actually put flame to food, he’ll disappear out the back), and the bar is one piece of oxidised brass, that stretches some seven or so metres along the narrow room (the space used to be a parking space that would have trouble fitting more than one car).

But it’s the ever-changing, always refining nature of the product they serve — much of which is made in-house by bar manager Edward Quatermass — that marks Maker out in the Brisbane scene, and it’s proved to be a draw for their customers.

“We didn’t really put [the bar] out there or advertise, so it doesn’t really draw a lot of everyone,” Quatermass told us when we visited in May. Instead, “it’s spread by word of mouth and by people who are like-minded in what they like, and it’s worked out really well. Everyone who comes in wants to try something a bit different; they’re open to trying things as opposed to being like, ‘I want this and if you don’t have it, it’s shit.’”


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First and foremost, Maker is produce-driven. They’re not just paying lip-service to the idea, and it’s one championed by the bar’s owner, Jerome Batten, who also owns Sourced Grocer (a cafe and grocer in Tenerife where, as you might guess, a big emphasis is placed on the produce), and Maker’s sister restaurant Gauge.

That produce focus is evident at Maker from the first glance at the drinks list: it does away with cocktail names, preferring to list the flavours of the drink.

“It’s partly because I hate coming up with cocktail names — because I think they’re pretty irrelevant, and [when] people choose something just off the name, it’s pretty stupid,” Quatermass said.

“It’s more relevant to have the main flavours going on. A lot of it is produce-based cocktails based on what’s in season, so part of it is that. It’s not that we’re not supporting brands; because everything here is a one on one interaction it’s never like people order something from the menu without talking to us.”

When we visit, one of the drinks is listed simply as Tequila, Artichoke, Watermelon, Pomegranate, based on a drink made by Kitty Gardiner of Melbourne’s Black Pearl.

“Most people don’t know what Cynar is,” Quatermass said, “and if you wrote Cynar on a menu it means nothing; if you write artichoke it means a lot more.”

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And there’s a solid reason behind that decision to list flavours rather than brands.

Quatermass said the cocktails are approachable, and that they’re “trying to get people away from the idea that because the drink is tequila based it tastes just like tequila, and people who don’t like tequila are not going to like the drink. Everything is balanced and approachable, nothing’s too crazy or super boozy.”

While the menu may strike some as esoteric, there’s a distinct lack of pomposity when it comes to Quatermass’ demeanour at the bar.

“As soon as people come in we want to make them feel comfortable,” he said, “[and] we do a lot of things to do that — I’m not going to be dressed up in suspenders and vest and tie, it’s all pretty casual. We’ve got XXXX Bitter on tap still and we sell Bundaberg, so people can drink whatever they want and I’ll happily make it for them.”

The bronze bar itself is flat, with the service side of the bar one level with the guests’ side of the bar — “it’s that Japanese, open set up, keeping everything clean. If you watch any japanese chef work, they’re always really clean,” Quatermass explains. And it allows the bartenders to talk through what they’re offering, which when you’re making your own vermouth on site is probably a useful thing.

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“It’s not a classic vermouth because we haven’t aged it in barrels or anything like that,” Quatermass explained.

“We’ve experimented with different wine bases; white wines, red wines as well for sweet and dry’s, then it’s just steeping all the ingredients in it, vac-packing and rapid infusing with a water bath. We throw a lot of native botanicals in as well and they’re sort of seasonal, so we throw a lot of fruit, whatever is going out of season. Towards the end of summer we had heaps of mangoes in it, and we’ve done ones with figs and quince.”

It’s this creation of their own ingredients which give Maker its uniqueness: they offer something their guests won’t find anywhere else.

And it goes further than the cocktails on offer, with their own beer available — like their Maker Saison, brewed by Gavin Croft from Newstead Brewing — and each brew as produce-driven as the harder stuff.

“We’ve done two runs from him, eight kegs at a time, and the first one was strawberry, lime and quandong as a saison. Then this one was hibiscus and some citrus peel as well — it’s really tasty,” Quatermass told us (and having tasted it ourselves, we happen to agree).

With all this experimentation going on, Quatermass is chasing up the drinks on a regular basis, too.

“Every two months the drinks will change completely, but every two weeks I’ll change one or two of them out. Sometimes we build on a drink because we really liked it and change an element; using the same format but with something that’s in season,” he said.

Quatermass is a big wine fan, (“there’s so much good wine out there,” he said), and Maker offers him the chance to indulge, taking the same ever-changing approach here as well.

“I usually just buy a dozen of something and rotate them through as well.”

Speaking with Quatermass it’s clear that he relishes the role and what they’re building at Maker. But one question we had to ask was, given the small scale and the prep-heavy, labour-intensive drinks menu, do the economics stack up?

“It was never made to be a big moneymaker,” Quatermass said. “I mean, it covers itself, quite comfortably, but it’s never been [Batten’s] intention. It’s the best thing you want from an owner.” With drinks this smart — and a recently launched food offering (the veal tendon crisps are possibly the finest drinking snacks we’ve had) — we suspect Maker may have the stuff to make it the distance.

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