In 2019 Belvedere started The Belvedere Collective. Bringing together like-minded bartenders from around the world that share a passion for vodka and working with fresh, natural ingredients in their cocktails. Sam Egerton was first to represent Australia in this tight group of seven and this year he is joined by Millie Tang of The Gresham in Brisbane.
Bound for Poland in April, Millie’s trip was unfortunately postponed, so we ZOOMed in with some of our local collective to chat all things iso, cocktails and Netflix addictions. We asked each bartender to dial in with a quarantine inspired, all-natural cocktail for our virtual happy hour.
On what your bar has been doing in this period?
Kate McGraw: Isabel did a huge pivot to doing food based take away and cocktails, which was enough to keep us afloat. We also looked at how we could better engage with our locals and managed to use ramen to reach a whole different demographic.
Johnny Linstead: As well as sanitizing and deep cleaning the whole venue, we’ve been adding a lot of new training to Ananas including a test on COVID-19. All staff must have passed it before stepping into service.
On the change in cocktail trends because of COVID
K: There’s been a huge boom in home bartending, with people expanding their horizons through education and research.
J: I think guests will be much pickier when it comes to their drink choices as well as understanding how they are made. Eau de Vie Melbourne have developed a virtual masterclass event programme aimed at corporate and at home celebrations.
Millie Tang: There is a huge opportunity with takeaway cocktails. Thankfully in QLD license restrictions were relaxed to allow businesses to offer this service. With venues perhaps not being able to get as many patrons in at once I hope this stays in place for bars to help supplement their revenue.
On what you have found yourself doing in lockdown.
J: I started playing music again! Got a new Bass Guitar and have been learning all the FUNK! Also running, cooking with “borrowed” herbs from neighbours’ gardens and planting a whole bunch of my own stuff too. Which has been really therapeutic and good for the soul.
M: I’ve always loved to cook but spending more time with my mum has really allowed me to perfect my dumpling recipe! I’ve also thrown myself into my photography and have even done some outdoor shoots. (Note: that’s Millie’s shot on the front cover).
K: I’ve been hustling pretty hard keeping the venue afloat, but I definitely have picked up a dirty reality tv habit. I’ve also been pouring a lot of love into my community garden. My tomatoes are looking insane and shiso has become my pride and joy.
On keeping in touch with your bar teams and customers
K: We’re super lucky that we didn’t have to let anyone go or stand anyone down. Everyone’s doing reduced hours, but I see everyone in person at least once a fortnight. We’ve been doing foraging and outdoorsy stuff together as well, which has been a good way to build that team spirit.
M: I look after all the socials for The Gresham so that has kept me very busy! We have also begun a social series called “Get to Know the Gresham” which profiles our talented team.
J: For customers we have introduced “Maison De-Vie” – daily cocktails that get uploaded onto our socials so consumers can have a crack at making them at home.
On ISO challenges
J : I cut my girlfriend’s hair really badly. Now she hates me.
M : I gave myself a haircut! It had mixed results – I’ve since had it fixed up and its now purple.
On how our industry could change for the better after this
K : I think there’s been a huge spotlight on how hard financially it is to run venues, so hopefully people stop looking at a drinks volume as its value, but rather the work, effort and ingredients that go into it.
J : There will be more focus on ethical and local consumerism which may encourage guests to think more about quality ingredients and where they are sourced. I think there will be a newfound understanding of supporting overseas workers and embracing their knowledge and diversity. Hopefully this will result in clever initiatives for keeping the visa holders working in the hospo communities. Melbourne and Sydney especially have a massive number of key workers on visas. Something that I am proud to be a part of.
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For those wanting to play along at home, throughout the month of July BoozeBud have put together cocktail packs and a series of virtual masterclasses profiling our Belvedere collective members. For every cocktail pack sold a % of sales will be put towards supporting these bartenders & their venues. boozebud.com/bestbud
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