The importance of knock-off drinks can’t be overstated. Finding the perfect spot can, however, be a challenge. Back in 1946, author George Orwell wrote an essay about what makes the perfect pub, called Moon Under Water – it was “only two minutes from a bus stop” but “on a side-street, and drunks and rowdies never seem to find their way there, even on Saturday nights”. It was a place that was quiet enough for conversation, encapsulating all Orwell needed: good food, authenticity and a place to talk.
We still desire these things in our pubs and bars, and while the perfect drinking spot may look and sound a little different to those of Orwell’s day, a drink after work is an important way of winding down for many of us, particularly in hospitality.
Owner of Three Below, Caboose Canteen and La Vita Buona, Gerard Anderson has a number of places on rotation. “As our staff all finish at different times, we have a few places including Gin Palace, Supper Club and The Toff,” he says. “But the standout for us is Double Happiness in Liverpool Lane.”
Describing it as a venue with great ambience, he also likes its versatility. Depending on the night of the week, “you can be amongst the hustle sharing a long neck of Tsingtao or quietly sipping on one of their perfectly made cocktails”. Anderson understands knock-off drinks as a time to talk a little work and a lot of nothing. “Often we talk about new ideas for our venues, but mostly it’s just to get away from the hectic work life.”
Michael Badr, manager and co-owner of Sarti, likes to take the few steps down to neighbour The Gin Palace with his staff. “It’s only 10 steps away from Sarti, I actually counted one night,” he laughs. “I can't go past a gin martini. We normally take turns buying drinks.” And while it’s a comfortable spot for him to be, work still permeates play. “It’s a place for me to unwind, but you tend to bump into a lot of hospitality people so you end up talking about business when you try not too. I guess that's what we love doing.”
While talking shop isn’t for all, for some, after work drinks often become unofficial wine tastings. Adam Boettcher, bar manager of the Melbourne Wine Room, says, “We tend to stay at MWR due to the late hour and not many other places open that late for drinks without loud music. We get to sample wines for consideration for the 'by the glass' list and workshop cocktails.”
It’s not just those working into the wee hours who need a knock-off spot. For the staff at Proud Mary, their neighbour The Grace Darling is the ideal spot, especially with a perfectly timed happy hour. Manager Monica Chhay says the staff relish the chance to get away from the intensely busy cafe. “Since we are a tight crew, we just take turns buying rounds,” she says. “Generally one of us is broke but we’ve got each other’s backs.”
Finding the perfect knock-off spot can be a challenge. Each hospitality crew has their favourites, whether they are what Orwell imagined or not. But the time-honoured tradition of drinking after work isn’t going anywhere.