If Tony Huang, bartender at Soleil Pool Bar were a cocktail he would be an Old Fashioned. Not because his methods aren’t modern – they most certainly are – but because of the sheer respect he has for the traditions and history of his bartending position… And the fact that it’s his favourite cocktail to make.
Tony is one of the lucky bartenders nominated for the Australian Bartender of the Year Award. Style asked him to create a cocktail inspired by our mag – the Signature Style – and were thrilled (perhaps a little too thrilled!) with the bubbly pink result. This month the drink is available EXCLUSIVELY at Soleil Pool Bar, or you can DIY with the secret recipe. We sat down with him recently – or rather, stood up with him behind the bar – for a quick cocktail class and a chat.
What inspired you to become a bartender?
My inspiration came from working with other world-class bartenders when I first started at the Bacchus Bar Restaurant. All I was doing at first was looking for a job, and then I was able to work with the top ten bartenders in Australia. Through just watching their craft, I was interested. I had no idea there was so much to bartending. From then on I just loved it.
What’s the worst thing someone can do at a bar to get your attention?
Things like clicking your fingers, or reaching over the bar to serve yourself. Some people have not very well developed bar etiquette!
What’s your favourite drink to make?
My favourite drink to make would be something strong so that you can actually appreciate the spirits themselves, so it would probably be an Old Fashioned. It’s very basic; just two shots of spirits, most of the time dark spirits like rum, bourbon or scotch. Stir down with bitters, a bit of orange zest, ice and enjoy!
And to drink?
Probably also the Old Fashioned! I do enjoy the Manhattan as well, which is just adding a bit of sweet vermouth to, well, traditionally rye whiskey but you can also make it with any dark spirits and the vermouth really satiates the dark spirits of the drink.
How do you feel about the movement of calling bartenders mixologists?
I prefer bartender. The industry went through a phase where they tried to make bartender “extra special”, giving them names like mixologist and stuff like that, but I feel like traditionally back in the 1800s and 1900s they were called bartenders, and it was a really well respected profession back then so why change something that’s not broken, you know?
How do you feel about being included in the Bartender of the Year awards?
I feel very privileged. We have a strong force of well-skilled bartenders in Australia, so it will be really nice just to go there and pick each other’s brains and to compete with the best in the country, and that really motivates me in my job as well.
What’s great about working at Soleil?
I love working there because we get a wide range of customers. We have people coming for cocktails, beer or spirits. It’s also a really unique venue… It’s indoor/outdoor, kind of like half and half. So if you want to enjoy the sunshine you can be out there sitting by the pool having a drink. Or we have this really nice indoor section where there is a custom-made $100,000 TV on the ceiling. We are such a unique rooftop bar. There’s nowhere else in Brisbane that has such a large rooftop area. And we cater for the younger crowds to the older crowds depending on what night. If you’re looking for a party, we do a Sunday session which is quite popular, 3pm ‘til late. If you’re after cocktail nights, Fridays and Saturdays are perfect. And throughout the week there’s a great atmosphere for date nights.
Watch our exclusive video above for the rest of the interview and to learn how to create your own Signature Style cocktail. Or head to Soleil Pool Bar this month to order the Signature Style and tell them we sent you!