When it comes to top-qual cocktails, there’s been an increasing bevy of chicks behind bars showing the boys or thing or two of late, and it’s exciting. The upswing in the number of girls shaking drinks has spread from behind the bar into cocktail competitions and brand ambassador roles exponentially in the last decade, and just one example is enigmatic Brazilian bartender Thalita Alves. Based in Sydney’s Bulletin Place, a bar lauded as one of the top 50 in the world, she brings an energy and quirkiness to her drinks and isn’t afraid to fill up her own swear jar in the process, whilst winning awards and making a splash in her short time as a cocktail guru (so far). We sat down with Thalita for a quick chat about drinks, hospitality, and arrogant bar snobs.
You’ve made a pretty big splash in a short time as one of Sydney’s best behind the bar – how much do you attribute social media to your success at spreading the word about great cocktails vs just chatting from behind the bar?
Social media is like a resume. My last four jobs in bars I’ve never shown a written resume. I try to post what I’m doing and what’s important – it’s like a CV or a portfolio. I think it’s useful – a strong presence can put you in touch with a lot of people all over the world.
What was the first drink that made you say ‘fuck yeah’?
It wasn’t a drink I drank, it was one I made. It was a Bramble. It was the experience of making it at this bar on The Gold Coast I used to work in. I got to work one day and my boss used to say ‘sing’ then name a cocktail, and we were expected to name the ingredients of the top of our head. It was tense but exciting, and I just kept doing it.
What drink needs to disappear forever?
A lot of people are against creamy drinks or espresso martinis for example, but I think that every drink has its own space. If somebody likes it then that’s fine, I don’t judge orders. Some people order a really expensive whiskey with coke and ice. If that happens I give them the ice and coke on the side and tell them that if they want to kill it they can do it themselves (laughs). It’s just a joke, maybe they haven’t had the whisky on its own before and that’s their first time and they learn, maybe with coke it’s their favourite. It’s their choice, they’re paying.
What do bartenders need to stop doing?
Exactly that – judging. Judging drinks and judging other bartenders. There are so many bartenders that come in and sit at the bar and snicker with their mates and watch everything you do and you can see them judging other customers and what the bartender is doing.
Haha! So in that light what’s your advice for new bartenders?
Chill out, people. People want to put so much thought into what goes into the glass, but it’s hospitality that has to come first. Sure, you can make drinks with smoke and fire and lights, but if you’re not nice about it then it’s wasted.
What’s your favourite unconventional cocktail ingredient?
I love spices. Not just hot spice but things like cardamon. You can find it a lot in different bitters, but it’s also really nice to isolate some of those flavours too.
Best food indulgence?
Cheese. Cheese for days. I can never be a vegan.
You’re from Brazil – is there a strong cocktail culture there?
I haven’t been there in 8 years so I couldn’t properly comment. Everybody knows Caipirinhas, but the cocktail revolution happened after I left. I know that there are great bartenders there because I hear about them, but I haven’t seen it yet properly. There is a great Brazilian drink though most people haven’t heard of it called Rabo de Galo. Galo means chicken and Rabo is tail. It’s Cynar, Cinzano and Cachaça. Almost like a Negroni but it has many variations and it’s delicious.
How’s it go working at Bulletin Place, one of the best bars in the world?
I’m very happy I got a job there – Tim Phillips is a bartender I really admire. The new list every day is a great idea. It looks simple but it keeps everything fresh and they have a lot of trainings on classic drinks and that really made me step up as a bartender.
What’s Thalita doing in five years?
I don’t want to stop shaking cocktails. Some say there is a natural path in this industry, but I’d love to have my own bar one day attached to an institution. I worked in small communities in the past and I made a promise a long time ago that if I was able to leave where I was, fix my visa, get to another country – and you know this is all stuff that took four years to make happen – superstition is big in Brazil and I made a promise that if the universe would give me that then I would give something back. A bar that could donate a percentage to a kids home – probably in Brazil because it’s my homeland – with an educational focus or something – that’s what I want to do.
Thalita can be found on the tins, copping shit from nobody, at Bulletin Place, 10-14 Bulletin Pl Sydney. And don’t forget to follow her on Instagram.