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Bartender of the Year: Time Out Melbourne Bar Awards

The laid-back demeanour of Bar Liberty’s manager hides a scholarly devotion to liqueurs and a steely focus on service

By Michael Harden |
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Bar Liberty
Photograph: Melanie Desa

Winner: Nick Tesar, Bar Liberty

A core skill for any bartender of note is mastery of the art of unflappable multi-tasking. Nick Tesar got the memo and then turbo-charged it. Not only is he a calming, intuitive presence at his current bar job at Fitzroy’s Bar Liberty, he’s also one part of the Marionette liqueur team, lends a hand at Victorian vermouth label Maidenii and co-authors books with business partner Shaun Byrne, including one on low- and no-alcohol cocktails and an upcoming title that’s all about punch. The man has booze on the brain, in a good way.

For Tesar, bartending is all about the customer experience. “Obviously it’s important that you’re educated and are serious about what you’re pouring,” he says. “But the real key to bartending is being able to read a customer and deliver the experience that’s going to make them happy. You’re a host, you’re there to make sure that they have a good time. 

“Even if someone comes in with only ten dollars to spend, you want to make sure they’re going to get an experience that they’re going to enjoy and remember. If your customers are comfortable and relaxed then it means you have control of the room.”

Tesar hails from Queensland and arrived in Melbourne seven years ago to pursue a career in the bar world. He started at Gin Palace before heading to Lûmé, where he was part of the opening team. That launched his love affair with liqueurs, which led to his involvement with Marionette.  

Given that his default position is relaxed, Tesar finding a roost at Bar Liberty seems almost predestined. The pace and attitude suit his style. He’s one of those great bartenders who can guide you out of your comfort zone without you realising it, intuiting what you want to drink before you’ve worked it out for yourself. Tesar says that he’s just responding to the kind of customers populating Melbourne’s bar scene now, who are more interested in the contents of the drink in front of them than the razzle-dazzle of its delivery.

“This is one of the most engaged consumer markets I’ve ever seen,” he says. “People are open and interested in what’s in front of them – nobody wants a circus behind the bar.”


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See all the winners from the Bar Awards

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