After 11 years of cocktail laboratory muscle flexing, Matthew Bax and his team of wizards at Der Raum have decided it’s time to make a change – one that dilutes the snobbery of swirled and smoked cocktail alchemy, returning instead to the mindset of reasonable, seasonable and downright approachable drinking habits.
Der Raum will be relocating overseas (as Gamsei), while Bax’s newest ventures Bar Economico will be taking over the Der Raum space in Richmond. We chatted with Mr. Bax to hammer out the details of this sudden switch up.
Adam Sherrett: So tell us about this new Bar Economico?
Matthew Bax: It’s a bastard child of my travels in Latin America. It’s cliche to call them dive bars but I guess that’s what they are. Well, maybe Bar Economico is more of ‘shanty’ or ‘ghetto’ than ‘dive’. The design in true Economico style is stolen from an expose I saw about 10 years ago on rum bars in Jamaica. The name comes from a punched-up, rundown hotel I came across in Merida, Mexico. I've wanted to open a rum bar from the very early days of Der Raum. We always had the best rum list in Australia. In fact, one of the best in the world. It’s always been a passion long before it became cool.
AS: What can people expect at the new Economico? Drinks? Food? Economically cultured? Economically priced?
MB: All of the above. Although we are still playing around with how we are going to deliver the food side of things. The focus is certainly thorough on drinks. And yes, they will be very cheap.
AS: Where is Der Raum relocating? Why the change?
MB: Munich, Germany. After 11 years, I needed a new challenge. With the style of drinks that Der Raum evolved to, Europe was really the only choice.
AS: What are you hoping for with the new change?
MB: Just that: change. I needed new facilities, physically and psychologically, at the old site. With Gamsei, I have that. I would have loved to start from scratch, completely unknown, but I've quickly realised that’s not going to happen. We are receiving applications daily from people across the planet begging to work at Gamsei, so I guess the secret is out.
The big difference with Gamsei will be the way we work with the customers. I wasn't a fan of how Der Raum was heading in 2012. Too stuffy, too polite, too ‘fine dine’. I want people to enjoy really fucking good drinks, interesting drinks that maybe even make you think a little. But I also want you to have fun. You don't need to be an expert to enjoy our drinks – if they taste good and you like them, then that's enough for me. Drinking in a good bar doesn't need to be a master class every time.
I will also be only using local or regional produce, so no limes, lemons or mangos flown halfway across the world at a huge cost to our environment. We have amazing produce in Bavaria and I want to celebrate this.
I've spent the good part of the last two years preparing for Gamsei – meeting suppliers, foraging, preserving, distilling and ageing. After two years, I'm nowhere near ready so I’m absolutely terrified about the idea of opening in six weeks.