ndy currently heads up the drinks program for bar legend Sven Almenning’s Speakeasy group and their incredible suite of influential bars and restaurants. Having plied his trade in Melbourne for years as a slightly eccentric yet stylish man, Andy has shorn off his trademark double Mohawk in exchange for cuffs and collars. His drinks have always been on point and this year he is making his first appearance in the T25.
CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT OLMECA ALTOS TEQUILA AND THE INSPIRATION BEHIND YOUR COCKTAIL? I love the ethos behind the production of Olmeca. Sustainability should obviously be a big focus for all bars as well as spirit companies, and they work quite hard to minimise their carbon footprint. I wanted to use the spent celery leaves from the kitchen, so keeping them stable by making a shrub was ideal. The bright herbal and citric notes lend themselves perfectly to a vegetal inspired concoction. A touch of soda and egg for texture and you get a decidedly moreish fizz. I lightly smoked some Meredith’s Goats cheese with spent thyme stalks for garnish as the cheese not only works well with the savoury aspects of the drink, but also the brand’s ethos of sustainability is very similar to Olmeca’s. YOU’RE VERY WELL RESPECTED IN THE INDUSTRY BUT A FIRST TIMER ON OUR T25 LIST. CONGRATULATIONS! CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY IN BARTENDING SO FAR AND A HIGHLIGHT TO DATE? 18 years so far and still loving it. I started out studying as a chef in my hometown and quickly fell in love with both back of house and front of house. Despite this training, I’ve ended up being behind the bar for most of it. There are almost too many highlights to name, but becoming a Chartreuse Chevalier and getting flown to France to be surprised at the distillery by Dom Benoit and Frere John Jacque (the only monks who know the recipe and make it) was absolutely amazing.
HEADING UP THE SPEAKEASY GROUP’S DRINKS PROGRAM, HOW DO YOU BALANCE WORKING ACROSS A RANGE OF VENUES? Thankfully we have an amazing group of managers across the venues, so dealing with them is always a pleasure. Also, having a pretty strong back of house reporting structure means I can follow what’s going on everyday across the group pretty easily. WHEN YOU’RE OLD AND GREY, WHAT’S THE PLAN AFTER BARTENDING? I’m already old and going a bit grey.... Not sure just yet though, there’s a few ideas floating around but I’m sure anything I get involved in will be linked to hospitality in some way or another. IF YOU HAD A TIME MACHINE, WHICH COCKTAIL ERA WOULD YOU GO TO? Definitely to the late 40’s when Tiki was truly in full swing. I would love to sit at the bar and watch Don the Beachcomber and co. shake up some mysterious concoctions. TELL US AN INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOURSELF THAT NOT MANY PEOPLE WOULD KNOW. When I was growing up, my family lived on site at a boarding school as my Dad was a ‘housemaster’. We actually had Prince Edward come and live in our house for a term while he did his tutorship. It was pretty amazing for such a small town in New Zealand. Charles and Diana came for a royal visit, and there’s a pretty cool photo of a tiny white haired me shaking Diana’s hand.