Multi-award winning Darwin bartender Anneliese Grazioli had been working with the team at Hot Tamale for nine years when she realised it was time for a new challenge. Her dream has now been realised with the opening of her very own cocktail bar, Hanky Panky Lounge in Darwin.
The Hanky Panky is a famous cocktail created by Ada Coleman. Clearly you knew this when you named the bar. What does Ada (and this drink) mean to you? And why did you name your bar after it?
I really struggled with naming the bar; my business partner and I were sitting on it for over six months but for the last month it got intense. Texting each other random names constantly throughout the day. Hanky Panky was one that was suggested earlier on but we weren’t completely sold on it. As I started work on the actual idea of the bar – what it would be like, the atmosphere and the style – the name kept popping back into my head. The excitement of designing and organising a bar from scratch, I felt like I was very heavily inspired by Ada Coleman and the drink itself. Bartenders create their own original drinks everyday for guests; the experience of the visit is something that they remember. The Hanky Panky is a tasty drink but I believe Ada’s personality and hospitality equal parts why the drink is what it is today.
You have teamed up with your bosses from Hot Tamale to open this bar. How did that happen?
I have loved leading the team at Hot Tamale for the past nine years, but in around 2019/2020 I was ready for a new challenge. David Robinson (Hot Tamale owner) and I had floated the idea of a bar a few times but I wasn’t sold as I couldn’t think of a great location. At the end of 2019, we actually got a walkthrough of where we are now located. At the time though there were too many hurdles. When COVID hit it was a whole new challenge to be a part of, not just Hot Tamale or Darwin but Australia itself. By the end of the year, things were running well and the conversation of the bar started again. Luck would have it that this same spot became possible. It has felt like a very natural progression going into partnership with David and Kellie (Robinson). All together I have worked with them for nearly 13 years, which is close to half my life. I couldn’t imagine two better people to go into this next stage with.
“I have loved leading the team at Hot Tamale for the past nine years, but in around 2019/2020 I was ready for a new challenge. David Robinson (Hot Tamale owner) and I had floated the idea of a bar a few times but I wasn’t sold as I couldn’t think of a great location.”
Tell us a little bit about the process of opening your own venue?
I was obviously very lucky to have David and Kellie for any questions but to be able to go through all the learnings was great, even the not so great bits. David entrusted me with most of the responsibility for Hot Tamale so I was very comfortable in that side of the set up. Being in charge of a build/reno and the organising of trades was probably the biggest challenge but I was very lucky with the team. Run down old venues always have issues, and when no one else could help, my Dad was with me doing the impossible, solving issues I didn’t even know I had.
Tell us a little bit about the ethos of Hanky Panky. What can guests expect to be drinking? Is it a big move away from Tequila?
Definitely a big move from the ethos of Hot Tamale, running a full table service restaurant with 220 seats, a team of 30-40 staff was an amazing challenge and I learnt so much but moving to 100 seat venue with a team of 8 it is definitely what I wanted. I love the intimacy of a small team. We are currently offering a list with about 80 cocktails. A majority being classics or classic twists. Darwin doesn’t have a bar focused on classics and already I have seen so much excitement from guests being able to try drinks they have heard of but haven’t had the chance to try.
What’s the bar itself like? Classic? Contemporary?
I would describe it as classic relaxed, the bar itself feels quite stylish with big booths, velvet couches and seats, marble tables and décor of jarrah wood and polished brass. We don’t take bookings or have a host, we want all guests to be relaxed and entertained.
“Being in charge of a build/reno and the organising of trades was probably the biggest challenge but I was very lucky with the team. Run down old venues always have issues, and when no one else could help, my Dad was with me doing the impossible, solving issues I didn’t even know I had.”
Who is working for you?
I am very lucky to have such a great starting team. Riley Landini is one of my head bartenders, originally from NSW, travelled through Europe bartending most of his adult life. He came through Darwin on a road trip, then never left. Sandra Lorena, started bartending with me at Hot Tamale over a year ago and her skill and passion have just soared, I was very happy when she expressed interest to follow me over to continue her training. Joey Folkersma recently traded in his hospo career for a 9-5 but missed being behind the sticks so jumps in for a shift or two when he can. Pravin Phuyal, current bar manager of Hot Tamale missed me too much so jumps in for a couple of shifts after he finishes up at the restaurant. Then I have a few barbacks who are very excited by the industry and can’t wait to train them up to be our next head bartenders.
What are some of the things you love about the Darwin bar scene?
It’s absolutely the people. As a scene we still have so much growth and that will come as more of the passionate people get opportunity. I always knew the people were great, but the support and love I have received through this process has just made me appreciate them all that much more.
It’s International Women’s Day this month, are there any women in the industry that really inspire you or have helped shape your career?
There are so many, but a couple that have definitely stood out, Kellie Robinson, my business partner – she took me under her wing when I was 14 and really inspired my love for hospitality and management. Penny Sippe, I have never been so awe struck with someone’s skill in everything they do. She can literally do it all.
What are your hopes for 2022?
A successful year for Hanky Panky would be great, learning and growing my team. I want to see everything become more easy with travel, I definitely want to get back around Australia to all the bars I have missed for the past two years.