Alan Mulvihill’s passion for gin is unabashed. An issue cloaked in confusion, however, is why almost half the price of a G&T is made up of taxes. That’s why this year the Thomas Olive bartender and his Irish countryman offsider, Conor O’Keeffe, stiffened their resolve to raise awareness for the issue. So committed to their cause are the pair, they re-created Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam in their Smith Street bar. “It seems to be a common trend to get your kit off if you’re a bartender in this city,” says Mulvihill. “The photographer made me feel very much at ease…”
Starting Tuesday, Thomas Olive and West Winds Gin will subsidise all gin cocktails, paying all of the excise tax applied to the drink. “We wanted to draw attention to how much the small guys in this country have to pay just to get their products out there,” says Mulvihill. “So all week, we’re paying the excise tax off the booze. You can get Martinis and Gin and Tonics for pretty much half price.”
Spirit producers have been kicking up a stink about this issue of late. Their view is that the taxation system is inherently unfair. While spirits attract about $1 of tax per standard drink, beer pays 45c, bottled wine 36c and cask wine only 7c. “The issue is it’s not balanced with the wine trade,” says West Winds founder, Jeremy Spencer. “The wine tax is nowhere near ours.”
Spencer believes that with a simple rebates system, boutique Australian distillers could re-invest in the industry and create jobs in a potentially lucrative export market. He points to the craft beer market as an example, which has grown at 13 per cent per annum to more than double in over 10 years. “We’re eternally grateful to the craft beer movement for opening up people’s minds,” he says. “If we could work on a rebate, we’d create jobs down south with it in Margaret River (WA), we’d certainly reinvest to create a cellar door. It could really allow us to do three or four different things that would benefit the community.”
Despite his Irish heritage, Mulvihill loves Australian gin. “Some of the best gin I’ve ever tasted has come out of this country,” he says. “The Settler’s Gin coming from Adelaide is pretty killer. Melbourne Gin Company here in the city is beautiful, and Four Pillars is doing some cool experimental stuff.”
Until World Gin Day on Saturday, gin cocktails will be discounted at Thomas Olive, with martinis on sale for $10, and G&Ts going for a fiver. And, even if two bartenders can’t change the system, they’ve at least learned something about one another in the process. “I’ve literally never seen that side of Conor before,” says Mulvihill. “There are no secrets left between us.”
Thomas Olive is upstairs at 300 Smith Street in Collingwood. It will be serving reduced-price cocktails until Saturday June 13.