Frank Mac’s: A new gin bar in The Rocks from the team behind The Doss House

Frank Mac’s Interior. Photos by Steven Woodburn.

Frank Mac’s, 83 George Street, The Rocks, Sydney

Story by Jono Carr.

Jono is one of our regular Drinks Writers. He is also co-owner of Sydney bar, About Time @abouttimesydney. You can reach Jono at drinks@spantonmedia.com

“It’s such a picturesque precinct filled with history and heritage, which is what first drew me to it when we opened The Doss House,” says co-owner Ciara Doran. “Over the last couple of years, it has become a destination for unique, character driven venues so I’ve always seen it as the perfect destination for Frank Mac’s.”

Gin and cocktail bar, Frank Mac’s, has opened located at 83 George Street in Sydney’s vibrant The Rocks district, offering one of the biggest botanical collections in Sydney. The bar is the second for co-owners Ciara and Eoin Daniels who also own Doss House. The bar is a nod to Ciara’s great uncle Frank Mac, a colourful character full of stories and cheek, always to be found at the centre of his local village bar.

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The team. From left: Alex Rogerson, GM, and co-owners Ciara Doran & Daniel Strahand. Photos by Steven Woodburn

Walking into the space you can see how much effort has been made in the build to ensure it’s a comfortable space despite its original 1840’s sandstone surround. It’s reminiscent of a pub I frequented in Dublin down to the ‘Snug’, a room just behind the bar. It’s a place that was reserved exclusively for ladies back in the day but been repurposed into a room for hire or bigger groups.

The generous space also hosts a back courtyard and a comfy downstairs section with its own balcony. The architects, Buck & Simple, who designed The Doss House as well as other Sydney bar favourites, The Rook and The Winery, and Top Knot Carpentry & Joinery, who have brought their plans to life.

In the main bar upstairs over 100 juniper blends have been sourced from all corners of the globe with the list including international award-winning favourites through to smaller boutique distillers and collaboration releases. As expected, the cocktail list is predominantly gin-based and any ingredients which can be produced by the bar team, will be.

For anyone feeling particularly baller the Frank’s Last Drink ($100) made with Monkey 47 Distiller’s Cut and vintage 1970s Carpano Dry Vermouth, served in a crystal glass and paired with a 10g serve of Ossetra caviar will certainly give that experience.

“The silver lining from the last three months of lockdown is that we’ve been able to use the time to really refine our cocktails,” said Frank Mac’s Beverage Manager Daniel Strahand (Mary’s, Spice Temple). “I’ve spent days perfecting syrups, cordials and bitters, infusing spirits and even developing our own clear version of a Worcester sauce, which we’ve used in a really light, summery version of a Bloody Mary called the Mary Magdalene.”

The cocktail list isn’t just Gin based however and a House-made Irish Coffee ($9): Made with ST. ALi Orthodox coffee, Slane Irish Whiskey, a house-made syrup of smoked cascara husk and dandelion tea and topped with Frangelico cream. Served chilled, is summery twist on a beloved classic.

For anyone feeling particularly baller the Frank’s Last Drink ($100) made with Monkey 47 Distiller’s Cut and vintage 1970s Carpano Dry Vermouth, served in a crystal glass and paired with a 10g serve of Ossetra caviar will certainly give that experience.

The drinks sit alongside a short food menu featuring shared snacks such as burrata with warm sourdough, cherry tomatoes and walnuts; smoked mozzarella and basil arancini. Alongside more substantial items such as two pies created for Frank Mac’s by Infinity Bakery – beef and Guinness pie with stout gravy, and roasted vegetable pie with traditional Irish curry sauce

“Many of our village bars in Ireland also double as general stores so they’re at the centre of the community. They’re the kind of place you might pop into once or twice a day and are so familiar to locals, they’re like an extension of your home. We used that concept as inspiration for Frank Mac’s, so it has the playful spirit of my uncle Frank and the warmth of hospitality you’d expect from somewhere you’ve been frequenting for years, housed in a really gorgeous, modern bar,” said Ciara.

Q&A with Alex Rogerson, GM, The Doss House & Frank Mac’s

For those who haven’t been there, can you describe what Frank Mac’s is all about?
For me it is a homely venue that gives our customers a look into what pub/general stores are like in small country towns in Ireland. They are places where you know everyone and can feel relaxed when buying household goods and also feel comfortable as if you were drinking in your own home. We also specialize in Gin with over 130 gins on our back bar.

You now are GM across both the Doss House and the newly opened Frank Macs, how is two venues compared to one?
In our industry when you feel like you don’t have enough hours in a day, well now I have no hours in a week! Hahah But I love it and the more time I get to spend doing what I love is a joy

What have been the challenges of opening a new venue in this time?
Staff and product. As an industry I think we are all struggling with these issues. But opening a new venue is a great challenge and very rewarding thing to have done in this career.

Tell us a bit about how you got started bartending?
I hated my day job working construction and a girl I was dating at the time, her housemates all worked in hospo, and I used to wake up at 3am to get ready and they would be coming home still partying and having a great time. So, I guess it was a mixture of being a social person/ liking to party and jealousy haha.

What have been the challenges of opening a new venue in this time?
“Staff and product. As an industry I think we are all struggling with these issues. But opening a new venue is a great challenge and very rewarding thing to have done in this career.”

How far along in your career did you make the transition from bartender to GM?
Well, when I started actually taking my work seriously about 11 years ago it was a transition of about three years. Which to be honest I have probably done a lot more growing in the past three years than the last 15!

What do you think are the skills that are needed for a bartender to move into upper management — is there a different way of looking at things?
Commitment to the cause! That’s the big one for me. You need to start looking at things from an owner’s point of view but still need to remember your roots and that you were once in your staff’s shoes. I strongly believe that you must do all aspects of the industry, so you not only understand every facet of the business, but you know how to communicate, educate and execute your staff int he right direction that ties everything together.

How would you describe your management style?
Relaxed, direct and educated. You need to be flexible and understanding as we always have staff that are different in personalities so I try to be as open as I possibly can.

What advice do you have to rookie bartenders starting out in their careers? Were there any big mistakes you made you’d like to see others avoid?
Don’t take things to heart or too seriously. Listen, be open to different opinions and advice and always trust your own gut. The biggest mistake you can ever make is not trusting yourself and learning from things you go through whether it ends up being the right or wrong way, you can always learn!

When you walk into a bar, what are you looking for? What makes a great bar experience?
Service and atmosphere, for both questions. I don’t need the most knowledgeable staff to talk to me, but a friendly smile and some good tunes will keep me coming back.

2020… 2021. How has it changed you?
I have learnt that always expect the unexpected! We have no control of what happens in this world so don’t dwell on the things you can’t. Moving forward in my own directive has been the biggest learning curve from the past two years.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
On holiday haha I want to have a monetary stake in a few venues and to still be doing the things I love in life!

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