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words Anna Christensen
Ten minutes with...
You’re a fourth generation bartender. Did you
always know what you wanted to be?
In my early teenage rebellious years I did everything
to try and forge my own path, but in the end – as
clichéd as it sounds – the apple doesn’t fall from
the tree. My parents met at my grandparents’ bar,
which was the Last Drop Tavern in Kalamunda, and
before that my great-aunt had gotten off the boat
from Ireland and had become the stewardess of the
Cleopatra Hotel down in Fremantle.
You’ve got booze in your veins! You used to work
as a lawyer – was it a challenge to drop out of the
corporate rat race and go into bartending?
It’s funny, I think most bartenders think they’re
lawyers at the best of times, and most lawyers fancy
themselves cocktail aficionados. There are innate
similarities – both talk for a living, both are immersed
in customer service and dealing with people’s
problems, they just handle them differently.
As a former lawyer and so heavily involved in
Perth’s hospitality scene, what’s your opinion
on the city’s liquor licensing laws?
I count myself lucky to have had that background
before we started our first liquor licence application
for The Classroom. I’ve probably written about four
or five applications since, and they definitely don’t
get easier. I really feel for operators who don’t have
the same awareness of the legality and potential
FRESHLY CROWNED BARTENDER OF THE YEAR BY THE
AUSTRALIAN HOTELS ASSOCIATION, ANDREW BENNETT
FROM THE CLASSROOM SCHOOLS US ON COCKTAILS,
THEMES AND THE PERTH HOSPO SCENE.
of like our version of a Lazy Susan in
a traditional Chinese restaurant.
The Classroom uses liquid
nitrogen in a lot of its cocktails.
Where did you get that idea?
At The Classroom, we had the idea
of dividing our drinks into art, history
and science subjects. History was
your classic cocktails – Manhattans,
martinis – and art was our crazy
and wacky creations, whether that
involved edible paper or painting murals on top of
cocktails. Science was the smoke and fire and flames,
and that’s where the liquid nitrogen came in.
What are other unusual ingredients have you used?
We’re currently using an old-fashioned Bunsen
burner on the bar to chargrill some peach for a new
twist on a peach cocktail. We just finished a really
popular cocktail called the Cherry Pop, which
was garnished with a small helium balloon that
was tied to the vessel. The balloon was filled with
cherry essence, so when it was popped it misted or
atomised the essence over the drink.
Let’s play a little game. I’ll tell you a famous
person, and you create a drink for them.
In London, there’s a famous bar called Artesian
that presents drinks with fabulous garnishes and
over-the-top vessels. They previously did one served
in a glass that had a small mirror set against it, with
a deliberately small straw, so you had to lean down
to drink it, and you were forced to come face to
face with your own reflection. I would do a similar
thing for Kanye, but serve it with as many mirrors as
possible, so he could constantly see his reflection.
Called... The Narcissist?
The Narcissist. That’s a great name.
What about George Lucas?
There’s a great cocktail we came up with a couple
of years ago that we served in test tubes, and
put glowing, neon completely non-toxic ice
cubes in it that glow like a lightsaber. I would
serve George Lucas a drinkable lightsaber.
The Classroom, 1/356 Charles Street, North Perth.
stumbling blocks that can present themselves when
applying for licences. It’s a truly mammoth exercise.
You have cool themes for your venues. What are
some themed drinks and food you’ve made?
Most recently, we wanted to do this shared plate
concept at (my other bar) Lucky Chan’s – a grazing
board or a chef’s selection. But a chef colleague of
ours said, ‘Why don’t you put all those dishes on
one of those mini ironing boards, you know, those
travelling ones that hotels put in closets?’ It’s kind
currently using an
burner on the bar
to chargrill some
peach for a new
twist on a peach
A liquid nitrogen-infused
cocktail from the Classroom.
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