This is Blake Hall. Blake enjoys long strolls down Chapel Street and Japanese Slippers. Blake also has the air of "Mr. Popular" in the Melbourne hospitality industry. Perhaps it has something to do with how charismatic he is. Maybe it's his expansive knowledge about EVERYTHING (ask him for life advice, he's a great psychologist). I think it's just the fact that he always has the time to talk shop with everyone. Blake is one of the most entertaining bartenders out there and I thought y'all should hear what makes him tick.
Photo Gorge Camorra
MTS: How many years have you been in this fine industry?
BH: I've been in the industry for 5 years. It's not long, but I've seen some things...
MTS: Where did you start your journey?
BH: I started as a banquets waiter doing a hospitality course in a casino. It was an interesting job with a lot of transferable skills, most notably the ability to build static charge when removing nylon tablecloths and unleashing it on unsuspecting waiters.
MTS: Where are you now?
BH: I'm working at an amazing little whisky bar called The Woods of Windsor. It's a great spot that is full of passionate staff that are all better looking than I am. I'm super proud to be a part of the venue, it's the kind of place that pushes itself to be hospitable, we want everyone to have a great time and try a new experience. The whole venue just feels great to drink in but most importantly every single team member brings something new to the table. It's a huge pleasure to work so closely with them; we all inspire each other to better ourselves and our customers experiences.
Photo Gorge Camorra
MTS: What's you favourite spirit?
BH: Whisky. It's incredibly versatile and driven by people who live and breathe it. It's such a rapidly growing category with new people who are excited to learn more about it every time they drink.
MTS: Cocktail of choice?
BH: I'd love to say my favourite cocktail is a dry gin Martini with a peated whisky rinse, but I'd be lying. It's probably the tastiest, but I still have to go with the Japanese Slipper. It's one of the first great cocktails I learned to make, it's colourful, balanced and just damn fun. I make no apologies.
MTS: Why do you do what you do?
BH: This is a complicated industry. There are a great number of people who pour their heart and soul into what they do, they have the knowledge akin to a scientist, labour on their feet with the hours of a tradesmen, smile and chat and move products like a travelling salesman and work the late night hours of an international liaison. Except we have the pay packets of none of them.
In order to do our jobs with the utmost effectiveness we spend our time off at tastings, industry events or studying. It's a lifestyle fuelled by passion that is full of rewards, challenges and shots of Chartreuse. You have to love what you do, and reap the rewards of your good customers leaving your venue smiling and you laugh about the bad ones with a beer at the end of the shift. And when you love what you do, is it really work?
Photo Adam Bothwell
MTS: What inspires you as a bartender?
BH: There are 2 main things that inspire me. Products and people. I love learning the story behind a brand of booze, learning the flavour profile and building a drink around it.
The second is people. You can learn something new from everyone. Whether it's watching one of your waiters topping up water at the table instead of pouring glasses at the station so they have some time to break the ice, discovering new ways of delivering drinks by watching other bartenders, competitions or the mysterious Array or my boss Adam telling me my orange twists suck.
MTS: How do you want your career to evolve? Got any amazing goals?
BH: As much as I like putting things in cups (and that is an awful lot) the dream job is to work with a spirit or portfolio that I'm passionate about and run around the country talking about it. Those jobs are few and far between but I would happily take any position that would allow me to help shape the industry, specifically the young minds shaping it.
There are a lot of people who love sharing their knowledge and experiences out there, and they're outnumbered by the waves of people who are willing to listen and learn. I want to be a part of that.
MTS: If you could educate your clientele on one thing, what would it be?
BH: If I could educate costumers in one thing it would be to put faith in the people looking after them in their venues. The mentality is that we all want to squeeze the largest amount of money out of our customers as possible, but this doesn't always work for every business model. I love chatting to a guest and discovering their preferences, then offering them a new experience within their budget. Sure, they may have never had a beer with a straight single malt or tried some obscure forgotten cocktail from the back of an old dusty book before, but when a venue does what they do well it's always great to see customers enjoying the absolute best experience that has been tailored exclusively for their tastes. This is the hospitality industry, you're in our home now and by God are we going to look after you, you're going to leave watered, fed and with a smile on your face and we'll see you at the same time next week. That's what we do and we do it well so get amongst it.