Joseph Sinagra is the venue manager at the Halford Bar in Perth. He enjoys the cocktail innovation boom but has been around for long enough to know nothing beats good old fashioned service when it comes to impressing your customer.
Tell us a little about Belvedere and the inspiration behind your cocktail?
It’s everything you want in a vodka; clean and textural, lending a great base to cocktails and great on its own.
I wanted to do very little to the vodka to showcase its texture and subtle floral notes. Also reading up on the Lake Bartezek region where the rye grain for this single estate release comes from, inspired me to create a warm cocktail. The region is known for long, cold and snowy winters.
How do you motivate and inspire your team?
I’m lucky to work with some amazingly passionate younger team members. They’re all relatively fresh and still have a lot to learn to develop a long-term career. This is great for me as I love to pass on knowledge and skills. Being in an environment where they’re learning from me and loving it is hugely satisfying for both myself and the team. They are great sponges for information.
As a venue manager – how do you stay current in the growing F&B scene?
I’ve been around for a while now so staying current is more about adding to my knowledge base as opposed to having to build it entirely from scratch.
With access to the internet and social media it has made life easy when it comes to staying on top of everything. I can see a post from a new bar about a new cocktail technique and within seconds pull up articles about the bar, the bartender, or the technique and be pretty across all of it very quickly. That doesn’t take away from the need to go out and experience these things, but it certainly takes the pressure off having to be out all the time. I’m getting too old for that (laughs).
Share with us the good, the bad, and what is exciting about the current scene in Australia.
Everything is moving at lightspeed when it comes to bar innovation. There are so many things going on right now in so many different parts of the country, all creating new trends and consumer interest. For me it’s got to be focused around the customer experience. The longer I’m behind the bar, the more I appreciate that the best and most successful people in our industry aren’t just making great drinks but are the best at hosting and interacting with people.
You can rotovap, ferment or milk wash whatever you want but if it can’t be used in a tasty drink and delivered to the customer in a warm and friendly way, what’s the point? My favourite bartenders are the ones who are the best at hosting and giving the guest an amazing experience. It’s something that a lot of bartenders miss, but it’s also something
that Australian’s, in particular, have a
natural affinity for.
Sustainably is a hot topic at the moment. Do you feel it’s a trend or practice here to stay?
For me sustainability is just a catchphrase for what kitchens have been doing for many years, making the most out of everything and being smart about how you use ingredients to get the most value out of the investment you put into purchasing them. Sure it’s been brushed with a modern concern for the environment, but at the end of the day, it will benefit your bottom line. It doesn’t take much to be smart about a lot of these things, but it does take some thought process and skill to make it tasty and something worthwhile for guests. One of my pet hates is seeing “sustainable” ingredients that have a negative effect on the guest experience either through low quality of flavour delivery or bartenders just using something to say it’s sustainable when another product would do a far better job. The bars and bartenders doing it well are the ones who are smart enough to know when to re-use or up-cycle an ingredient and when to let it go and put it in the recycling, compost or trash.
What’s next for Joe?
If I knew I’d tell you. There’s always stuff going on in the background, but I’m pretty focused at the moment continuing to build Halford and the team into their full potential.
60ml Belvedere Single Estate Lake Bartezek Vodka
15ml Spiced honey syrup
20ml Hot water
Garnish: Star anise pod
Method: Combine the vodka, honey and hot water. Stir to combine and then pour warm into a cocktail glass
Glassware: Nick & Nora