We talk mixology and Bali’s thriving cocktail culture with Brett Hospitality Group Bar Director Zac de Git.
Having honed his skills at some of Australia’s most well-regarded bars, including Melbourne’s Black Pearl and Der Raum, and stints behind the mahogany at Singapore’s Tippling Club, award-winning bartender Zac de Git has relocated to the Island of the Gods where he’s adding his flair to the venues of the Brett Hospitality Group, which include acclaimed Canggu haunt Mason.
You grew up in Queensland; how early were you exposed to mixology?
I grew up in central Queensland where there weren’t really any cocktail bars, only a bunch of pubs that poured a mediocre vodka soda at best. Eventually, after high school, I moved to Brisbane, where I was exposed to cocktail bars for the first time. I was working at arguably the worst cocktail bar in town but found myself spending my nights off sitting at The Bowery (once one of Brisbane’s most iconic cocktail bars) trying classic drinks made by their head bartender and I fell in love with bartending.
You’ve worked behind the bar at some of Australia’s most iconic cocktail spots, including Melbourne’s acclaimed Black Pearl and Der Raum – why has Australia always been such a powerhouse when it comes to cocktail innovation?
Similar to food, Australia hasn’t really been restricted to a certain style. We have access to the most amazing produce; whether it’s native ingredients or imported, these elements really shine through in drinks. Alongside that, we also have influence from cuisines from all over the world, which really exposes young chefs and bartenders to different flavour combinations.
You also helmed Singapore’s Tippling Club and helped the venue navigate its way to the 15th spot on the World’s 50 Best Bars. What does it take for a bar to make the list and what did you take away from that experience?
We were lucky enough to be one of the early players in the Singapore bar scene. We had such a unique concept that hadn’t been done anywhere else in the world. The concept of food pairing with wine was common but not with cocktails. This really got us a lot of attention alongside our unique approach to creating drinks, rethinking flavour combinations, presentation and even how we treated each ingredient. I definitely took away a new appreciation for preparation and how I conceptualise drinks.
You’re now heading the beverage programme for Bali’s Brett Hospitality Group, which counts among its venues Fishbone Local and local institution Mason. What has your focus been since you arrived in Bali?
The teams in each venue are phenomenal and I’m eternally grateful for that. Each venue will of course have its own DNA, which will need to be reflected in the drinks and of course Chef Ben Cross’ food. As I develop beverages, serves or anything related to the bar I can see if it fits for Mason, or if it’s more fitted for The Back Room (Mason’s hidden speakeasy) or maybe for both. For the last few weeks we have been working on relaunching The Back Room; we’ve taken it from just a couple of days a week for service to a full seven-day rotor. On top of that, we have launched a brand spankin’ new cocktail menu to match, which will be ever-evolving.
Tell us about The Back Room – why is this one of Canggu’s best-kept secrets?
One of my favourite things about a bar is the chance to escape your immediate reality. The Back Room provides a location for those to escape the hustle and bustle of Batu Bolong and sit back with good cocktails in a place like no other in Bali with great music and a cosy atmosphere.
Bali is a destination famed for its quality produce rather than its spirits culture – what local ingredients do you find yourself experimenting with?
There’s some super exciting produce, some of which I’m still looking to get my hands on when it comes in season. I’ve had the pleasure of working with a lot of ingredients available here as I’ve spent nine years in Southeast Asia. However, I’m really excited to try all the different kinds of vinegar that are available – playing with different acids can be really exciting.
How do the expectations of punters vary at venues like Mason/ The Back Room compared to cocktail bars like the Black Pearl or Tippling Club?
Each bar is obviously its own different beast and comparing them is impossible. I’d like to think of The Back Room as a little bit of both – in its own style. The friendly neighbourhood-style banter and banging service of Black Pearl, with a Tippling Club approach to ingredients reflected in classic cocktail formats.
What’s one drink at The Back Room we can’t leave without trying?
As drinks will change in and out of the menu frequently, The Droog Juice – is a drink that will be on the menu for a long time. However, its flavour combinations will change with access to seasonal goods. It’s a clarified milk punch currently with flavours of cascara tea and strawberries. Right now I’m waiting for access to Java plums, which I’ll probably pair with a nice oolong tea from Fujian in China.
For more Society stories click here.