bars, drinks, girls, Meet the Bartender, men

Meet The Bartender: George McLean from JB & Sons


Originally published for Urban List
In this weeks episode of Riding in Bars with Boys we meet George McLean, long-time wrangler of booze and loving wrestler of women. George owns JB & Sons with work husband, Paul Fraser and their veteran relationship bemoans many a night out and follow up Bloody Mary’s.
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JB & Sons is a comely little bar located in the quiet seaside town of Freshwater on the Northern Beaches, where all the blonde, tanned people enjoy their slightly higher standards of living and Liberal politics. It’s a delicious dimly lit haunt where you can slip away from the salty arms of sobriety and into the warm embrace of finely chosen wine and beer.

If you happen to visit at the right time, which is anytime at all, you can spot JB, John “JB” “Papi” Burgess, himself most likely pouring his own beer behind the bar. Chat to him about his relations with the establishment and you won’t be disappointed.

Ivy, Hemingways, Earl’s Juke Joint, your dreams, all places you may have met George before, who from here on out would like to be referred to as the Full-time Party Connoisseur (story checks out because he doesn’t even take the quiet time for a chaser after his tequila shots. Animal).

Many people have great things to say about George, some of which are written on the cubicles in the girls toilets, but here’s some extra reasons you should go to JB&Sons and have a beer with the Full-time Party Connoisseur in person.

He’s Scottish

I feel the Scottish make life experiences extra better, it’s like when you get free samples at Coles or extra vodka in your VoSo*. The Scots are just better than you or I, and they’re responsible for whisky, impeccable gins like The Botanist or Hendricks, and also Jimeoin. Their accents take you on a sexy little get away and make you forget you ever had a 9-5 job and $2,000 worth of SDRO debts. Amirite? George is from Glasgow more specifically, and almost as funny as his national icon.

He loves summer and so do we

A bronzed glow makes everything sexier and George, with his long, lustrous Tresemme locks thinks so too. “I’m a northern beaches guy. The place is incredible in summer. Everything is juicy and delicious and sun-kissed and happy and blooming. Everyone is stoked. The drinks taste better too. Cold beers, margaritas and daiquiris, rosé, gin & tonics. I’m really looking forward to this summer more than most as we will hopefully have two venues up and running. I can’t wait.”

He knows his stuff and is real nice about it

George has been around the industry, but also the world. He knows what’s up and the service, food and drinks, staff and even clientele reflect that strongly. He’s also so damn nice and unpretentious, which makes liking him easy, and don’t we all love a lovable bartender. Just watch him throw rogue compliments to other guys in the game below. Sickening.

“I admire people who are passionate about what they do. From a strictly hospitality point of view I’d say I really admire the gentlemen at Swillhouse, Jason & Anton. I’ve always loved what they do.”

On top of compliments, he loves to booze

George is a man after my own slightly hardened heart and takes me on a tropical trip to Hawaii with the Honolulu Lemon cocktail, which is fresher than Outkast themselves. Beyond making them, George won’t say no to a drink with mates.

“The first year at Shady Pines was some of the best boozing I’ve ever partaken in and Baxter is just fucking ridiculous, I love it. The execution of their venues and attention to detail is one thing but the culture they have built throughout their group is admirable, and enviable at the same time. Not only are their venues full of people enjoying themselves, their venues are run by amazing professionals. Their places are made tick by the legends who work in them. It’s one of those things that reflects really well on operators.”

They make a burger that tastes like a Big Mac

We all know the way to a customer’s heart is through their cheap, money for value, stomachs and JB & Sons have really nailed it on the frugal side of things. If I can have a $14 Big Mac without having to go to McDonald’s then you’ve sold me. But wait, there’s more because their burger tastes like a Big Mac only saucier and with bacon (drops mic). Head nod also goes to the First Drop ‘Half & Half’ Shiraz to which I more than half drank.

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To find out more about George’s bartending skills, head to JB & Sons in Freshwater, or drop a comment in the cubicles.

SERVED ON THE NIGHT

  • The Papi – Patty | Double Cheese | Smoked Bacon | Pickle | Iceberg | Tomato | Onion | Mustard | Aioli | Tomato Sauce
  • Pulled Pork Taco – 24hr Hickory Smoked Pork | Pickled Slaw | Guacamole | Mayo
  • Honolulu Lemon – Pampero | Fresh Orange | Fresh Pineapple

* Vodka Lime & Soda

Looking to meet more bartenders? Say hello to Luke from This Must Be The Place

Image credit: Daryl Kong

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bars, drinks, men, nightlife

Meet the bartender: Luke Ashton from This Must Be The Place


Originally produced for The Urban List

I am 99 per cent sure this is the place and only 3 per cent sure I am still sober. I walk in to the bar on a Thursday and it feels very European in a non-Ikea way. I am warmly greeted by some sort of Scandinavian mahogany mash-up feat. finely dressed men and I am immediately impressed. One has an almost beard and is dressed in subtle chambray, a tailored leather apron and chinos. There is music in the background, something alternate—maybe Safia. Yes. This is definitely the place and this is definitely the guy.

You might remember Luke Ashton from such Surry Hills bars as Vasco, or perhaps from his debut as Diageo’s 2013 World Class Bartender of the Year. No big deal, but word on the street is this guy can really pour a drink and boy does he know how to own a bar because sexy bespoke fit out and above average charisma. I am suddenly way DTD (that’s Down To Drink to the rookies) and make my way towards the place of liquor because proximity calls.

Welcome to This Must Be The Place, a newly found Sydney small bar on the Darlinghurst side of Oxford Street, which Luke co-owns with friend and comrade Charlie Ainsbury and has been in operation for five sweet months. Cutely known as TMBTP, the bar is a chic, gallery-esque style space that’s really driving its way through the minimalist trend what with its trimmings: soft lighting, matte black wall lamps and Sycamore wood finishes. I feel like a young college girl on a Swedish gap year and I am making this bar my oyster! Whatever its true jibe, it’s a fancy treat to a rather desolate part of Darlo and it plays host to a warm and friendly vibe where even the worst of velour tracksuits would be welcome.

Luke Ashton spritzer

So come in, sit down with me, loosen your drinking pants, welcome to some of the hottest bartending you’ll find in this town. Like most serious bartenders and bar owners alike, Luke knows his stuff (way more than you and I), particularly the ins and outs of the Spritzer which remains the moniker on the menu. That’s right Mum, get out your power suit, the Spritzer is in vogue again and it’s had it’s 80s haircut removed in place of something a little more contemporary.

Traditionally a Spritzer is simply wine and lemonade, but Luke makes my friend and I The Gloss, a delightful affair of watermelon Riesling, Ketel One Citroen vodka, strawberry shrub and rose water. It’s like a party in my mouth and no one’s invited because I’m keeping this deliciousness to myself. Open from 3pm, TMBTP has really gone for that aperitif style, “We looked to Europe for that relaxed afternoon business meeting spritzer style,” says Luke as he takes a sip from his beer. And he must be right because we all know Europe’s basically better at everything, sans Greece.

Like with any service, we know it’s not just the product that rings in a winner, it’s the full meal deal and 360 degree experience. “It’s not always about what’s in the shaker, it’s about what’s on the other side of the bar,” Luke tells us. There is nothing worse than a bartender with a superiority complex and I imagine Luke to be a very humble, quietly achieving sort of guy that puts his many trophies in a box somewhere in an attic. This is 2015, bartenders are no longer out of work actors that ‘tend on the weekends and sleep on their uncles couches between hookups. Luke is a pro and his bar meets those high expectations.

Luke Ashton

Luke’s intention behind TMBTP was to be like an extension of your living room, comfortable and inviting, which I love because I hate leaving mine. He also refers to bartending being like rock n’ roll because in everyone’s eyes you have the keys to the booze and similar to Cheers, everybody knows your name. With a gentle dapper manliness, Luke looks like the type that could appear in an Old Spice commercial from the 60s, but cool your love jets ladies, he’s married.

Clearly one of the best, Luke suggests a relaxed style of enjoying yourself at TMBTP. “Come down, have a few glasses of wine, maybe a cheese plate and enjoy yourself. We’ll look after you.”

So if you want to be served by the best and maybe take a very short trip to Sweden, this is your guy and this is most definitely the place.

Drinks served on the night

  1. Gloss – watermelon Riesling, Ketel One Citroen vodka, strawberry shrub, rose water.
  2. Parker – Lemon Myrtle, green apple, Johnnie Walker Black, lime, salt
  3. Ember – Smoked cinnamon tea, MDC Small Batch rum, charred pineapple, Ramazotti, toasted coconut butter.

Image credit: Daryl Kong

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dating, geny, men

Excuses girls give to avoid single shaming


Girls talk a lot of sh*t when it comes to being single; most of it depicting their ‘singleness’ as a hand they’ve chosen rather than dealt. Why? Because apparently being single is socially regressive and closely equated to having a disease, maybe something like Herpes or not owning a Netflix subscription.

Despite its seemingly embarrassing nature, being single isn’t actually a disease, nor is it a rite of passage. It’s just a fact of life, like cellulite or your mum adding you on Facebook. Everyone is single at some point. Sigh. But, some of us hate to admit it and instead come up with vague, self-validating reasons as to why we don’t have a boyfriend.

 Excuses, lies, social fabrications, whatever picture you want to paint, they’re there to serve a purpose – to make a single gal feel better everytime a friend finds a boyfriend or, worse yet, gets engaged. These are five of the most common excuses to avoid when you feel like you’re being single shamed.

“I intimidate men”

The mother of all excuses, often seeded by someone in your family or social circle that worships the ground you walk on. It goes a little something like this, “You’re just too pretty and smart and independent. You’re so confident, boys are scared of girls like you”.

 Single girls take pride in this reason, it massages their ego. In reality you may very well be an alpha female: you’re probably smart, independent and beautiful, but so are a lot of other girls, other girls with boyfriends. In this case, your triple threat combo has probably led to some serious walls, which men find hard to breakdown. While this reason might make you feel better, it’s relatively transparent and sort of just makes you seem needy and narcissistic. If you feel single shaming coming in hot, cool it down with a “I’m just wading in the dating pool right now”. You’ll feel better for the humility.

“I just came out of a pretty messy relationship”

Remember that time when you went to a dinner party and everyone was in a couple and they were all like “do you even go here?” Then you queued your ‘I just broke up with someone and I’m pretty cut up about it’ mixtape, which really sounds like a rendition of “we actually broke up 2 years ago and I can’t get over it”.

 This may be true, your ex may have been the love of your life, but unfortunately he is the essence of his namesake, “your ex” and after two years it’s pretty safe to say he’s going to remain all the way back there in the past, just like your sex life. Try not to burden everyone with your First Girl Problems because this makes you sound high-maintenance. Go with something real and something casual, “I just haven’t found anyone I’m interested in dating yet”.

“Men have too many feelings”

You are a badass player. You are way too much of a hot sassy bitch to be needy. People applaud your heart of stone because you’re a stone cold fox.You are pretty much Chloe Sevigny and you have all the men feeling the feels.

 If you’re checking these boxes like men are checking you out, then they probably do have a lot of feelings for you, most likely in their pants, maybe sometimes in their hearts. But, if this is truly happening then you probably don’t feel the need to give an excuse for your singleness. This single shaming reason is reserved for those that want to appear unattached and unattainable. You may be slightly insecure or perhaps a little wounded from bad experiences with past relationships. Here’s a hint, it’s not conducive to your love life to tell people/guys you have no feelings, it’s an immediate roadblock to romance. If you’re looking to appear cool and a bit blase go with “I’m having fun being single but wouldn’t say no if the right guy came along”.

“I’m just focusing on my career for a while”

No you’re fucking not. No one is. What you’re focusing on is the best combination cocktail to keep you from quitting and spending your limited super on a mediterranean getaway. We all know there is always time for dating. Everyone knows that. Amal Alamuddin knows that. The “focusing on my career” excuse is a timeless one that mostly comes across as a little immature. It’s as bad as “I just don’t have the time” or “I want to get back to knowing the real me before I find someone”.

As humans, we’re made to love and be loved, to deny yourself that in exchange for excelling in your career seems quite depressing. Sure people will be impressed by your tenacity and resilience, but ultimately they’ll probably just feel sorry for you. Let’s play with something a little more upbeat and open-ended like, “I’m not looking for anything serious right now”.

“I have commitment issues”

The commitment issues excuse is very transparent and something that belongs to “I’m scared of getting hurt and I want you to pursue me and prove your worth”. As it slides out of your mouth, you secretly hope it paints you as a vixen that’s hard to nail down. You envision yourself as a Tumblr girl, half naked in CK jeans smoking a marlboro and staring at the camera like “you wish you had this many likes”. But that’s not really true, you’re the girl doing insta mainies at 11pm and puffing on a winnie in the blacked out corridor in your low-rent apartment block. This reason will never make you seem as sexy and wanted as you might think it does.

Believe it or not, men are far more emotionally evolved than we give them credit for, they are beings with desires, needs and feelings that need tending to, just like women. While they like the chase, if you seem closed off and unreceptive to their advances, they will very quickly halt their steps in your cutesy tic-tac quest for love. Next time someone asks you why you’re single, better to go with “I’m not really sure what I’m looking for in a partner”.

Single shaming can be confronting and no one likes to feel romantically inferior or inept, but it’s the people who are able to be honest  that will be granted a healthy life dose of clarity, confidence, courage and commitment. Being single is a choice, not a disease and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

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