Sydney born and raised, Dulcie’s Bartender, Thomas Joseph, was convinced he’d end up working in the public service. After studying a Bachelor of Economics and Social Science whilst working as a bank teller (which is “the worst kind of customer service”), Thomas was soon confronted with a life-changing decision: take up a postgrad degree and try to land a job or broaden his horizons and go overseas.
With a bustling desire for adventure and his heart frenzied for change, Thomas decided to move to Canada where he settled in Vancouver for nearly two years. It was here where his bartending journey began.
Sipping on a house classic – The Pretty Dulcie – Thomas talks about the wows and woes that come with working in an Australian Spirits bar.
What inspired you to take up bartending?
I definitely realised I had a passion for bartending when I was in my early 20s. I’d go to bars, try these amazing drinks and want to be able to make them myself so I’d find out the recipes, buy all the ingredients and try to recreate them at home. When I did start doing it professionally it was really that moment where my passion became my job. I wouldn’t say I expected to be a bartender, but I can definitely say that it’s one of those things that have fallen into place and its been a very natural and organic shift and I am really happy with it.
How do you find working in an all Australian Spirits bar?
One of the most phenomenal things about working in an all Australian Spirits bar is getting to experiment and appreciate all the points of difference and similarities between what you’d traditionally use and how you’d replace it. The great thing about Australian Spirits right now is that they’re doing something differently and when you acknowledge and recognise that you are at your best. It’s defining and it’s great.
Would you say there are many challenges when it comes to chopping and changing drink recipes?
There is difficulty in being an all Australian Spirits bar in the sense that Australia doesn’t make everything. I like to think of this as a positive though and as much as it is a challenging place to work, it is also an exciting place to work because there are so many opportunities that come along with it. We also get exposed to a lot of things we usually wouldn’t like Old Young’s Pavlova Vodka – which is just heaven in a glass*.
*We can vouch for this. Get yourself down to Dulcie’s and try it.
What would be your biggest bartending f**k up?
I remember once I was opening up a shaker – it was a Boston Shaker, so it was glass as well – and it was really stuck in there. I was getting increasingly frustrated and angry then at one point I kind of lost it and tried to pop it against the bar… right above the ice well. As you can imagine the glass just exploded and shattered amongst all the ice. You only have to do that once.
Favourite Aussie Craft cocktail to make?
This really depends on my mood, but I love to make cocktails with a story behind them. I like making good drinks and I don’t like making ordinary drinks. In general I love a good smoky whisky so a Penicillin could never go wrong, it’s probably also my favourite one to drink. I also love a good stir down and take a lot of pride in my martinis however I’m not the biggest fan of making espresso martinis. If I’m going to be making one I want to be making the best version I can, for example, we do it with Mr Black and Cape Grim 666 Autumn Butter vodka… there’s so many good spirits you can do it with these days so for me its just about doing it right. The best is when people ask you to recommend something and help them choose a drink, I also love it when people ask to have something explained to them. I’m always willing to help people find something they like and learn new things about spirits and the bartending scene.
Do you have any pet hates when it comes to drink orders?
Probably when people are super unadventurous with their spirit choices. This mainly happens when people ask for just a plain vodka martini. Why would you just want plain vodka when something different could make it so much more interesting? My term for those people would have to be “bad in bed”, it would even be wrong to call them vanilla because even that has a flavour. Another thing I always hate is when people ask me for no sugar as it completely changes the flavour of the drink. It wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t needed! Sugar is essentially salt pepper for the drink – the reason we put it in is because it needs it.