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Bartender of the Year: Time Out Melbourne Bar Awards

Halls is not just a bartender – he’s a full-time advocate, educator and preacher too

Portrait shot of Lewis Hall from Bad Frankie
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Winner: Lewis Halls, Bad Frankie

Bad Frankie isn’t the kind of bar that exists merely to facilitate a pint after work, though staff are more than happy to offer those. Rather, the cosy spot off Smith Street is a centre for learning, one that works to spread the gospel of Australian spirits. Known for only stocking local spirits, Seb Costello and his team have scoured our wide brown land for everyone from the smallest of small-batch makers to big names like Four Pillars and Sullivan’s Cove. But how do you get your regular Jane to take a chance on a Tasmanian single malt or an absinthe from Milawa they’ve never heard of? That’s where a bartender like Lewis Halls comes in – he understands that before you can get people out of their comfort zone, first they have to be comfortable. On any given night, you’ll see him pulling up a chair, ready to launch into the backstory of a newly sourced gin or bringing out rare finds for customers to take a whiff of. Breezy intimacy and natural warmth wins regulars, but what gets them to put the fate of their next drink in his hands is a steady building of trust. “It’s one of bartending’s highest pleasures to show someone something new for the first time,” Halls says. “I love when you watch a guest take their first sip and a see a look of surprised pleasure across their face.” With six years at Black Pearl under his belt, Halls’ ability to run a tight ship, mix a fantastic cocktail and hoover up expertise was a given. But at Bad Frankie he has truly come into his own.

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See all the winners from the Bar Awards