Words by: Lukas Raschilla
After winning the Australian title, and battling it out at the Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge (AGCC) in February 2018, Hobart based bartender, Dan Gregory is more passionate about The House of Angostura and its bitters and rum portfolio than ever before.
At the AGCC, which was held in Angostura’s birthplace, Trinidad, during the colourful and exuberant Carnival celebrations, Dan went head to head with 10 of the best and most creative bartenders from around the world. He had seven minutes, under the competition’s guidelines, to impress the judges with two cocktails.
For his first cocktail, the rum based ‘The Williams Flip’, Dan combined Angostura 7 YO Rum with pineapple juice, apricot brandy, vanilla palm sugar, as well as Angostura aromatic and orange bitters and a whole egg.
“The inspiration for The Williams Flip was bringing together one of my favourite eras in cocktail history, the 1700s, and combining that with one of my favourite modern cocktail styles, the Flip,” said Gregory.
In his second drink, Dan used Amaro di Angostura, Oloroso Sherry, Pedro Ximinez, and Angostura aromatic bitters to create his Amaro cocktail, which he named ‘Like Father, Like Son’. “This drink was an evolution for me, in which I combined my love of cooking and food with my passion to create the ultimate digestif. I wanted to showcase the amaro and the aromatic bitters as the stars of the drink, and to have them supported with the help of a soft, sharp goats cheese and quince.”
Being in Trinidad during the Carnival festival and competing in what is arguably one of the toughest and most competitive cocktail challenges in the world is an experience that Dan will treasure for the rest of his life.
“My experience in Trinidad during the hype and excitement of Carnival, and having the privilege to compete as a finalist in Angostura’s Global Cocktail Challenge, is something I will never forget,” said Gregory.
“It was a truly life-changing experience. Seeing the passion the island has for rum and for Angostura is pretty massive. The people who live there are extremely proud of the rum and the bitters they create. It was a humbling experience for me.”
Dan was able to visit The House of Angostura, where he learned about the history of the famed bitters, rum and amaro, and to uncover some of the secrets behind Angostura from its Master Distiller, John Georges. “Angostura rum and bitters have remained quintessential and definitive elements of many a classic and contemporary cocktail,” said Gregory.
“Something I learned while visiting The House of Angostura, and meeting with Master Distiller, John Georges, was that part of its success is that the recipe has remained unchanged for the past two centuries.
“The whole of the secret recipe for Angostura bitters, which features 52 ingredients, is known by just five people, while other staff and people who work for Angostura know only portions of the recipe,” said Gregory. The persona and passion of Dan Gregory seems fitting to be not only the ambassador but also the local face of Angostura, where the passion for their products runs deep, not only in Trinidad but worldwide.
With the role, Gregory will keep local bartenders and consumers up to date with brand training, imparting knowledge and training programs, as well as designing new drinks and serves for the Angostura portfolio. He will also lead a series of events for The House of Angostura, including bar takeovers like the one at Eau De Vie Sydney last month where the original crew got back behind the stick with Dan for one night only.
With his already known status within the industry, pairing the veteran bartender and The House of Angostura is somewhat of a dream team, and the perfect person to share what he has learnt and how to utilise the Angostura range of products. Indeed, most bars around the world will stock Angostura aromatic bitters, the classic guarded recipe that is responsible for not only some of the world’s best-known cocktails but also for the Australian famed classic drink- lemon, lime and bitters.
Gregory’s passion for drinks and bartending was spawned from his first career as a chef, which he began at the ripe old age of 16. He was lured from the kitchen to the bar after witnessing the creativity bartenders have. “I saw how much potential there was, and how you could utilise creativity in cocktails and drinks.” Gregory, now in his early 30s, has embraced the role with the House of Angostura, being able to put out what he has learnt over his journey in hospitality and being able to teach and inspire young bartenders.
Throughout his career, Dan has worked at some of Australia’s most prolific and well- recognised restaurants and bars, including Eau De Vie in Sydney, The Gresham, APO and Canvas Club in Brisbane, and Black Pearl in Melbourne among others.
When he isn’t representing Angostura, you can find Dan working at the Piano Bar downstairs from Ettie’s, a restaurant in North Hobart where the upstairs French oriented restaurant has a focus on wine. Wander down the spiral staircase to the basement with no windows, sandstone walls and you’ll find a tiny little bar which is more like a bench style bar than a traditional bar, as Gregory puts it, “It’s like standing at your kitchen bench; there’s no real barrier between you and the clientele.”
The room holds a handful of people and there’s a side room with a baby grand piano that is played on weekends. What Gregory loves about his role at Ettie’s is that the menu is designed around local produce, which is some of the highest quality. “You can’t go past it in Tasmania, the local produce is readily available. You can even drive to some farms to pick up what you need. I’ve been doing a lot of fermenting as well. It’s interesting and a bit of a challenge for me as well. We show a bit of love to all spirit categories and styles of drinks and aren’t pigeonholing ourselves and people aren’t afraid to be adventurous with their drinks.
“Some of the bars down here definitely rival Melbourne and Sydney, and there are a lot of bartenders moving down to Tasmania. It’s becoming a bit of a hotspot for hospitality,” he adds.
For more information on The House of Angostura, head to angostura.com
Angostura Australia Brand Ambassador