During the prohibition, discrete bars could be found by those fuelled by desire or a little insider know-how. Known as a ‘speak easy’, in those days too much rowdy frivolity would alert the authorities to the illicit fun inside.
These days, having a drink doesn’t require such discretion but sometimes it’s a selling point.
The Gold Bar is part of the modern day speak easy scene. It’s a small space, tucked away from the throng of most bars and restaurants, and it has no street advertising.
“You don’t get a lot of mainstream drinking traffic. It’s perfect for people who are a bit curious and perfect for showcasing Australian spirits,” said owner, Ian Reed.
“It also makes for a venue you can be more playful with. When I was designing the space, I didn’t have to worry so much about what would put people off. I could say, ‘GOLD! GOLD EVERYWHERE! ON THE PILLARS!”
The Gold Bar has personality and it’s not just the gold walls and rich red upholstery.
Ian is keen to show us the delicious spirits being produced in Tassie and around the country and to accompany our adventure with the stories of the products.
The Gold Bar is a cocktail, gin and whisky bar, although the main focus is definitely gin.
Over Australian 100 gin bottles occupy three of the six shelves of the bar. For good measure there’s also some rum, brandy, liqueurs, and a small section of international gins.
In Tasmania, which has become synonymous with whisky, focusing on gin is more logical than it might initially seem. For example, there’s no waiting five years for a decent drop. Gin is shelf-ready in weeks. That makes it massively more available and accessible to retailers and consumers. It’s also easy drinking.
“Gin is the king of cocktail spirits. The base flavours they put in it go really well with cocktails.”
Ian has been involved with the spirits industry in Tasmania for years and found that there wasn’t anyone really promoting the diversity of local spirits and that explored how they could best be enjoyed – what tasted good and why, what would work in which cocktails etc.
It comes from his personal preferences, in this instance talking not drinking.
“I’ve worked in lots of hospitality roles, from slinging raspberry vodkas as fast as possible, to silver service. My favourite work is tourism. I used to run tours with Lark Distillery and Sullivans Cove Distillery. I like the cheeky back and forth banter. Getting to know the people you’re serving is important. That’s what I want to have here, personality and stories,” he said.
The Gold Bar comes from experience in hospitality and a personal experience with the products.
“I took time off, borrowed a friend’s van with a mattress in the back of it. I drove around Victoria, NSW and South Australia visiting lots of different distilleries so I could learn more about what they were doing and their own stories so I would be able to do them justice when I was promoting their products.
“I didn’t get a chance to visit everywhere but I’ve been in touch with others by email. So a lot of products were chosen because I tried them myself and was able to ensure they were really high quality. Others were chosen because of their reputation,” Ian said.
Ian won’t commit to a personal favourite but he is keen to introduce you to what’s new on the shelves and to respect the old timers too.
You’ll find a small discount on the weekly distillery spotlight which aligns to the price of the house pour – the McHenry classic dry.
I ask him if there’s anything else to add before I pack up my tape recorder and slurp the last of the delicious drink I’ve been enjoying.
“All the bar seats are really comfy,” he says patting the real leather that surrounds 10 cm of foam, seats reupholstered by Willie Priestley who teaches at TAFE.
I get up laughing because my bum still has the imprint of the hard wooden stool I was trying to cling to at another establishment only the night before. Comfy seats make for comfy drinking, that’s for sure.
There’s definitely something about a space that wants to do things differently.
Check their opening hours on Facebook which includes weekday early morning coffee and a couple of sweeties made by barista Jodi and Ian’s mum.
The drink was called candy for adults and it’s strawberry and rhubarb syrup, Forty Spotted Gin – summer release, lemon juice, egg white and house-made beer foam.