Before I was a bartender I drank…

I once tried to break into my neighbours downstairs flat because I knew he distilled bottles of cumquat rocket fuel down there. He was German and 67 and I probably could have just knocked on the front door and explained my poor sober plight to him like a normal human. But hey, we don’t ask for all this teenage angst and rebellion and shit taste in clothing, do we?  No, we just get on with life and try and sneak a bit of Midori out of our parents liquor cabinets every now and then.

Even bartenders, those real time swiggers and swillers, once had a palate that could taste the difference between a Breezer drunk in a park and a Smirnoff drunk behind the toilets at the skate bowl. To prove it, I asked four of Sydney’s best drinkers what they partied on before turning pro.

Charlie Lehmann: Ramblin Rascal Tavern

charlie mtp

BEFORE: Refined drinking is something you don’t just do, it takes a couple of years of terrible hangovers from overly sugar laden drinks, falling through fences and spewing up a lung to realise that drinking a case of Smirnoff Double Black isn’t the best idea for you or for anyone. Yes, I drank RTD’s and I drank a lot of them from Cruisers to Breezers, UDL’s and Red Bears. It was a short time but one that eventually defined my drinking habits. When I first started sinking drinks in establishments I was taught the school of men of old, drink beers and a lot of them. Coopers Green was the go to advised by my eldest cousin. When out with my peers we’d usually end up downing a hundred Jack and cokes. All very arbitrary until I educated myself on the finer points of boozing.

NOW: Old Fashioneds to Sazeracs but nothing ever beats the Boilermaker which harks back to what I started drinking in the first place, a beer and a shot of whisky. Thank god I never did the classic goon bag in a park, apparently that’s a worse hangover than an RTD hangover.

Paige Aubort: Lobo Plantation

PaigeBEFORE: Coming into my drinking age I was all about the Bacardi Breezers. Anyone who knew me then knew this and anyone who knows me now still knows this. They were my first love and it was the deepest. As a testament to my strong work ethic back then what I did drink was what I wanted. No cheap bags of goon, no long necks of beer or sculling Woodstock’s behind the liquor store. I had no issue in spending money on Alco-pops, which included their ludicrous tax. The other downfall of not forcing myself through the drinking rite of passage that is goon of fortune and strawpedo-ing Passion Pop meant that my palate evolved at a much slower rate.

NOW: I’m 25 and only seriously started taking an interest in wine and champagne two years ago. Before then you could hear me making an obnoxious grating noise as I tried to “appreciate” a glass of Ruinart Blanc De Blanc. Nowadays I’m all about rum and gin, new tastes and new flavours. I’ll do terrible things for a negroni and I legitimately crave champagne on a summer Sunday afternoon. They say old habits die hard. Probably why I would sell my mother for a case of Bacardi Breezers

* *Please note this is indicative of how much I love Breezers, not my appreciation for my mother as a sign of alcoholism.

Dan Cramsie: The Baxter Inn

baxter-inn-dan-cramsie-5_740_486_85_s_c1BEFORE: My first drink was a Shandy my parents gave me and I couldn’t understand why anyone would ever want to drink it, it was horrendous and bitter. I soon progressed onto every teenage girls favorite, the Bacardi Breezer, preferably consumed in a park, before a fancy dress party somewhere. First hangover was on Butterscotch Schnapps and Bailey’s, I would generally drink whatever was on hand, either the cheapest or easiest to procure. Once I turned 18, it was generally beer, and a few rum and cokes, the pub classics. Once I became a bartender, it became the bartenders favourite, a shot and a beer.

NOW: It’s generally beer in bars with the occasional cocktail, usually an old fashioned or a Manhattan. I’ve grown in my appreciation of wine over the years, and wouldn’t drink anything else with food. Whisky also holds a special place in my heart.

George McLean: JB & Sons

jb-and-sons-1_740_486_85_s_c1BEFORE: My drinking evolution would follow my migratory pattern from Scotland to Australia I guess. It started with Laphroaig 10 used as an antiseptic when I was teething, progressed to half bottles of the infamous Bucky [Buckfast Tonic Wine] & cans of Tennents before coming to God’s Country and getting stuck right in to Carlton Draught. My back bar go-to was always Chambord, with lemonade and fresh lime [insert squeezy hand action]. Fancy bottle, delicious contents, easy to smash, it’s perfect after six beers and two cans of UDL when you were out doing laps in the Steyne.

NOW: I love beer. 4Pines Pale Ale is my go-to but I really enjoy American IPAs. I love a voluptuous Shiraz, a big oaky Chardonnay, Negronis and anything delicious really. Different drinks for different needs. 4Pines Stout is alongside the Pale Ale. Gotta give that a mention. It’s probably my favourite to be honest.

What did you drink before realising that that time you threw up on the bus on the way to Futures was probably due to your terrible taste in alcohol?

All images Daryl Kong