Bartender of the Year: Time Out Melbourne Bar Awards

As the venerable juniper joint reaches a milestone, we salute the woman whose Martini-making smarts make her a Melbourne treasure
Trish Brew at Gin Palace
Photograph: Supplied
By Jess Ho |

Winner: Trish Brew, Gin Palace

A year in the life of a bar is a milestone, so when Gin Palace turned 20 this year, Vernon Chalker made sure to put on a most elaborate show. Gin Palace took over Russell Place and handed over even more luxe, free-flowing gin, and made sure to celebrate the familiar faces who have helped make them become the CBD staple for long, gin-soaked nights all these years.

Since its inception, the offering at Gin Palace has never changed: an ever-growing collection of gins, cocktails to suit, top-standard Martinis, rough chat, no phone reception, heart-stopping chicken sandwiches and a whole lot of velvet. It’s the kind of bar that promotes hedonism and a loss of inhibition, unsurprising when Martinis come at 90mL (the industry standard is 60mL) and table service keeps you planted in your seat all night long. When ordering the classic Martini here you can choose from over 300 gins from around the world, a range of vermouths, and customise your garnish. Perfecting that balance is no small feat, which is why Gin Palace places an emphasis on knowing their product and have a crew on board who are as passionate as they are nerdy about their core spirit. It comes as no surprise then, that many of Gin Palace’s alumni are now producing their own liqueurs and fortifieds that pair so well with the stuff that is also gaining national attention and international acclaim.

It’s not uncommon to find symphony orchestra instrumentalists, cast members from the Princess Theatre, comedians, tourists, office workers and hospitality veterans throwing back a few any night of the week in this basement lounge. And the person who knows all the names behind these faces is manager, Trish Brew. Her style is confident, matter of fact and fiercely efficient while making everyone feel like they’re the most important person in the room. It’s a skill that is encouraged across the whole team,  and what keeps this ageing bar in its prime.


We also love….

Josh Hodges, Mr West
Josh Hodges co-owns Mr West and mashes his beer and cocktail know-how with his learnings recently garnished from the wine bar Little Andorra, and is never less than generous with his knowledge.

Oska Jarvis-White, The Everleigh
Oska Jarvis-White was already on our radar from his work at Howler and Hot Talent, and this year he has grabbed our attention at the always-excellent Everleigh.

Orlando Marzo, Lûmé
At the controversial Lûmé, Marzo is in charge of the bar, elevating expectations around beverage matches by putting as much care into non-alcoholic pairings as he does cocktails.

Nick Tesar, Bar Liberty
Tesar is probably the busiest man in the bar scene; not only is he pouring, stirring and serving at Bar Liberty, but he is making and distributing Marionette Cassis in his spare time.

See all the winners from the Bar Awards