Melbourne Cocktail Festival

Words by Jane Ryan

Photography by James Morgan

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Melbourne is to host its first ever cocktail festival this February 26 – March 1, putting the spotlight on its renowned bars and hospitality community.

The five-day festival is to include a line-up of workshops, seminars and tastings as well as a bar safari, with 24 of the city’s top bars offering $15 MCF cocktails for the duration of the event. Black Pearl, Byrdi, Capitano and Mjølner are among the venues participating in year one. Drawing inspiration from similar global events, the festival aims to raise Melbourne’s status as London Cocktail Week does for the UK capital, BCB does for Berlin and Cocktail Spirits does for the Paris scene.

Launched by World Class 2018 Global Winner Orlando Marzo and his colleagues at Worksmith, a hospitality industry hub, the programme is aiming to appeal beyond the trade’s borders and engage with keen consumers, visitors and locals alike. “After winning World Class I was able to travel to some many great cities doing amazing things on the cocktail scene, places like Singapore, Tokyo and Berlin,” says Marzo, “and it made me appreciate what Melbourne has. I want to put the spotlight on Melbourne, and its hospitality but most of all I want this to be a fun, interactive festival.”

Year One Headline Speakers from The Connaught

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Marzo and the team have already scored a big international name to headline the talks with both Agostino Perrone and Giorgio Bargiani from The Connaught Bar in London flying over.

“It is an exciting opportunity for me to spotlight the work we’ve been doing at The Connaught, our dedication to hospitality and, above all, to meet new and old friends and experience the evolution of the industry since I last visited,” says Perrone. “We are privileged to work in an industry made of a supportive community of people, connected across the entire world and always willing to be collaborative. Events such as the Melbourne Cocktail Festival are a great driver of this sort of connections and cultural exchange.”

Those keen to hear from The Connaught Bar team can catch Perrone and Bargiani at the MCF Symposium on Wednesday 26th, where the full-day programme of speakers, panels, workshops and discussions will also include fermentation experts Sandor Katz and Sharon Flynn and Tyson Koh of Keep Sydney Open on the future of Australian Bars. “The symposium won’t just be drink related – it will look at subjects such as using PR, what is it to be a bartender, what different career paths look like, etc,” explains Marzo.

With a strong eye to engage consumers for the bar safari, Marzo says including people from outside the trade is essential if Australia’s bartenders want to keep pushing the envelope. “If we don’t keep them [consumers] up to speed, we are constantly going to detach, and we won’t have a market for all these amazing new techniques and drinks being developed. We want to upgrade consumer knowledge as well as our own.”

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Looking forward, the MCF are optimistic this will become an annual event and the symposium will grow to cover more days for the festival. “Not everyone can commute to New Orleans to hear all the seminars at Tales so hopefully Melbourne can bring the education home,” says Marzo.

To see the full line up of events and purchase tickets, see the MCF website.

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