Words by: Ashley Pini
Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, in 1985 by a single mother Rhys explained: “My mother, along with my older brother Luke are by far my greatest influences from my younger years. My parents split when I was five, and we always said no matter what it will always be the three of us.”
Rhys has fond memories of his upbringing. "Sydney is an incredible place to grow up; it has the outdoor lifestyle, and a relaxed mentality combined with all the perks of a large and beautiful metropolitan city."
Of travelling as a family throughout his younger years, Rhys said "this has shaped who I am today, and what I do. I have lived in five different countries, including Spain, Indonesia, Scotland, and England. And this year will bring a sixth."
The other element of his childhood that Rhys credits to influencing the man he is today is performing. Starting out on the stage when he was 14, Rhys went on to study Creative Arts at the University of Wollongong. It was here that he landed his first job as a bartender at the Four Seasons Hotel, Sydney.
He soon realised "my talents were not best served pursuing two different industries, but instead harnessing the aspects that both of them shared. I recognised that the stage I would best serve my audience was on the stage of some of the best bars in the world."
Today, Rhys is hugely grateful for his career: "I love so many aspects of my job; managing a team, running a business, developing and supporting talent, taking care of guests, seeing them enjoy what we create, and catering for them."
"Above all I still love the show. I love when it gets to 5pm, I get dressed up, dim the lights, put on some music, take a station, and be a part of the performance," he added.
Rhys's passion for his job is clear "We treat the bar like our house, and everyone is our best mate coming around. We want them to feel comfortable, and drink something delicious."
He continued "Within the bar, it's my job to maintain that atmosphere every day. On top of this, we don't want to ever be complacent with success, but rather keep pushing boundaries, and ourselves to keep striving for better, both inside the bar, and within the global industry."
Throughout his extensive career, Rhys has had many mentors: "To me, a perfect mentor or influence is someone who inspires you, but at the same time guides you to be yourself and create your own path to your goals."
Rhys continued "A bar to me is about escapism, so I always want the conversation topic to be light and relaxing, nothing too intense. I want to talk about how many kms you ran today, why you have a tattoo of a snowman, which awesome drink you had or how lucky we are to have access to interesting ingredients. I believe we can have intelligent conversations, whilst keeping it fun."
Of his bar, Rhys commented "We try to always keep a balanced menu, and being quite classic in style allows us to recreate drinks from our past as well, so we always have plenty to draw on to get our guest their perfect drink."
"We of course have our hero cocktails like Tokyo Collins, Perfect Storm, and Jerezana, and gin is still as popular as ever amongst consumers. Our international clientele are from the US which leads us over to the American Whiskey shelf, but I have also noticed the continual rise of agave spirits, and we are always looking for unique ways to showcase them, making them accessible to first time drinkers."
"A big part of Happiness' success is the support of regulars and locals, and we forever have people coming back to drink drinks that were on our menu years, and years ago."
Rhys chose the year 1863 for his cocktail after taking the time to research lesser known Australian history. He explained "I wanted to focus on something a little different, that most people around the world wouldn't know about, whilst at the same time tell an interesting story about the history of our country."
For this he settled on the comical tales of Ben Hall the bushranger: "They reminded me of being a little brother playing tricks on my older one."
"For the cocktail itself, I wanted it to relate to what the people of 1863 may have drunk. The rural areas back then were populated by poor and oppressed Irish families, so I created a drink that replicated a glass of Irish whiskey, stirred down with some added elements to heighten flavours for a tasty serve.," he finished.
Garnish: Lemon zest twist (discard)
Method: Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into frozen Sazerac glass (no ice).
50ml Irish Whiskey (Green Spot)
10ml Cherry Heering
15ml Freya Birch spirit
7.5ml Sweet vermouth