Words by: Hayden Wood
As the owner and operator of iconic Sydney gin Mecca The Barber Shop, Mikey stays at the sharp end of the industry through innovation and the ability to diversify his brand to areas that compliment his style and the ever-changing nature of the drinks game.
Mikey chose 1901 – the year that King C. Gillette and William Emerson Nickerson founded the American Safety Razor Company to begin mass-producing safety razors.
You need to be as sharp as a razor to stay ahead of the game in the bar industry. Mikey has added shaving accessories, an actual barbershop or two and a traditional British boozer to his bow in recent months and his embracing of the latest technology in a Rotary Evaporator is testament to a mission to offer his guests something different.
“They're not cheap. So, it's a $15,000 plus piece of kit. Generally, what you use them for is to extract the flavour and turn it into a distillate. So, we use it for a whole range of things - to do all our distillates, which essentially are our tinctures - we've got like 25 different tinctures that we can add to Martinis in The Barbershop. With Cherry Heering, I wanted to recreate a Gimlet, you know, going off The Gillette Cocktail, Chicago style. So rather than using cordial, I’m using lime and sugar. I wanted the natural cherry notes the Cherry Heering deliver but rather than using just Cherry Heering, I Rotary Evaporated the liqueur extracting the colour to transform it into a clear liquid. It pretty much tastes the same and even the sweetness carries through the process.”
While embracing cutting edge technologies and techniques, Mikey is adamant that without a solid foundation of core bar skills and knowledge the danger of over complicating the customer experience is very real.
“I actually think you need a good six months to a year as a bar-back first. And then you need two years, definitely of cocktail bartender experience. I personally think that you need to work in quite a few different types of bars. You know, work in a good restaurant bar, a large-scale hotel bar, beach clubs etc.”
“You know, the experience you get out of all those different styles of bars, I think rounds you as a career bartender. Moving forward I also think it’s a huge advantage to try to move into management before you kind of go past your sell by date. In terms of, you can't bartend forever. So make sure you make the transition into management sooner, rather than later in your career. I think that's a good thing because you get real good knowledge of the business side. This is especially important if you potentially want to open your own venue. That's the next step really - opening your own venue. That's the real challenge I think. It's always a funny story listening to young bartenders saying, 'Oh I'm gonna open my own bar next year.' And they've been in the industry for like two years. And you’re thinking wow. I love your style, I love your enthusiasm, but that's a big call.”
Regardless of his extensive experience in the industry, Mikey felt like he was starting again from scratch when he opened The Barber Shop. His mission of constantly evolving and innovating classic ideas closely resembled the Cherry Heering story. His bicentenary cocktail exemplifies this marriage of old ideas executed in a modern technological way – bringing the past into the future.
Glass: Vintage Coup
Garnish: Fresh cherry soaked in Negroni
Method: Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with cubed ice, shake and strain
45 ml Bombay Sapphire Gin
15 ml Cherry Herring Distillate (made by Rotary Evaporated Cherry Heering)
20 ml Lime juice
10 ml Sugar syrup
3 drops Lemongrass tincture
1 drop Saline