Words by Jane Ryan
Photography by Supplied
Profession: Founder of Australian Cocktail Month
Penny Sippe is launching the first ever Australian Cocktail Month this May which will see Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide bars putting on discounted cocktails and great events for ticket holders. Here she answers all our questions about the event and her favourite spots and people across hospitality after a decade in the industry.
What inspired you to start Australian Cocktail Month?
Australian Cocktail Month, to be held in May 2021, will champion the Australian cocktail industry and support bars and bartenders as they welcome guests back into their venues following Covid-19 closures and restrictions. I was made redundant after nine and a half years and whilst it hit me pretty hard - it was very clear that I didn't want to leave the hospitality industry. I also wanted to do what I could to support the industry that has brought me so much joy, fulfillment and friendship.
I am proud to partner with the best local and international spirits, liqueurs, and mixers – everything required for an unforgettable cocktail occasion. Low and no alcoholic options will also feature allowing consumers to partake without compromising on what makes Australian bars great: the cocktail experience (and loads of flavour).
What do you hope the general public discover during ACM?
I hope the general public discover new flavour combinations, new bars, new brands and new cocktails. But most of all I hope Australian Cocktail Month attendees discover (and appreciate) what goes into creating an amazing cocktail experience at a venue. Having a cocktail at home is great and we are lucky with all the services that enable us to do so but nothing beats enjoying a cocktail in a bar... with your friends, great atmosphere, being served by professionals who want to welcome you into their venue, their home.
How big do you hope to grow the festival over the next few years?
Planning is underway for our inaugural year, however the list of possibilities for the future of Australian Cocktail Month is growing by the day! Once 2021 is done and dusted I will see where we can develop - options include adding more cities to the program (venues in Darwin and Newcastle are already expressing interest), hero festival style events and international guests.
Whatever happens over the next few years I want to stay true to our mission of encouraging Australians to visit and explore the amazing bars that Australia has on offer.
Why do a nation-wide festival as opposed to a geographically centralised one such a Sydney or Brisbane for example? Nothing like setting yourself a challenge! The cocktail bars we have in Australia are world class and I didn't want to limit the offering to just one state. Australian Cocktail Month is all about encouraging consumers to visit bars and experience what they have to offer - it wouldn't be the same if we focused on just one market. It also would have been a little cheeky calling it Australian Cocktail Month whilst just executing the program in one city.
Who have been your mentors over your career?
•Kay McMahon was a charismatic teacher during my fashion studies (20 years ago) and always encouraged me to strive for excellence and whatever I wanted. Nothing was to be seen as a limitation.
•Lucy Bennett managed me during my 'first dream job' at Selfridges in London. She provided guidance and support that allowed me to flourish in the marketing and event management industry. It was an amazing time that I remember fondly.
•Anastasia Rose and I worked together at Myer back in its heyday. She taught me about business relationships and how important they are, how beneficial they can be and importantly how they add another personal (and enjoyable) level to business.
•Sam Bygrave has been my speed dial mentor over the last few months of Australian Cocktail Month planning. If I need some guidance or reassurance that I am making the right decision (or being told I should reconsider) he gets the call or text.
Who is your favourite bartender in the business right now?
Ohhhhhh this is impossible to answer - it is definitely the bartenders that make me keep going back to bars. I love their creativity, their friendship and how they support each other. That said, my favourite bartender on social media has to be Charlie Lehmann! He constantly makes me laugh.
Who is inspiring you lately (in or out of booze)?
•Tash Conte - What a powerhouse of the industry! The way Tash lead and supported her team during Covid-19 really was inspiring. It is clear the Pearl team consider each other family and that is very special.
•Nick Miles - The way he has stayed strong after his recent injury is amazing. And not just staying strong but being so honest and open with his emotions and in turn helping others during his recovery.
•The Barber Shop and Maybe Sammy crews inspire me - they are always planning and plotting their next great move. I can't wait to see what they magic up for 2021.
Hangover cure? Macaroni and cheese and a sneaky Ribena - it has been my go-to for many years and will no doubt continue for many more.
Do you have a guilty pleasure drink?
Big glass of rosé with ice. Nothing better that enjoying one or two on a summer evening with my friends outside the Barber Shop or on the rooftop at Old Mate's.
What does a typical day look like for you at the moment?
At the moment I am still trying to get into a routine - redundancy, Covid-19 and Christmas have made it tricky. After nine and a half years of working out of the same office (and only moving desks once) I am enjoying the freedom of being able to work and plan Australian Cocktail Month from wherever I am. My plan for 2021 is to implement a little structure and strive for the elusive work/life balance. I have always struggled with this but if I can introduce a few areas of balance I will be happy.
Tell us your top venues in the country right now for the following:
A classic cocktail: The Everleigh or Above Board for sure.
A great glass of wine: Tipo00 always wins, especially when paired with their delicious pasta.
A decadent meal: I always enjoy Fred's (can we class it as relaxed decadence).
An innovative cocktail: Australian bars are consistently serving innovative cocktails - Maybe Sammy, Black Pearl, Maybe Mae and The Gresham would be my picks of the moment.
A cheap feed: Bar Reggio is always a winner.
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