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

geny, girls, inspo

It’s actually really hard to “just be yourself”

One of the most ceaseless pieces of advice to ever exist is to “just be yourself”. Your mother will tell this to you on your first day of school. Your father on your first date. The sales assistant when purchasing a padded bra, and finally, your current insta fitness idol with always follow her monday motivation quote up with a mandatory #beyourself.

But there’s a small problem with that advice, isn’t there. How exactly do you do that? How do you simply “just be yourself” particularly when you’ve been trying to be Cher from Clueless since 2002, sans plaid.

For those of us that never learnt just how to be yourself in our younger years, because media and shiny things to look up to, being yourself actually means years of work undoing trying to be someone else. Probably why most of us either drop out of college or change majors three times in a semester.

To be honest, there are so many other people I’d rather be than myself. I’ve spent years trying to be more impressionable and less anti-authoritarian.

Why? Because being yourself is f&cking hard. It’s the whole reason we have role models, so we don’t have to do all the leg work. It’s like an IKEA set that’s already been put together, only just for your personality, and the only warning label is ‘don’t choose Britney Spears or Lindsey Lohan’.

I always thought the journey of life was about trying to figure yourself out, find out who you ‘really’ are and other enlightening things probably said by the Dalai Lama or Ellen Degeneres. It was about making mistakes, doing dumb dumb things, kissing the wrong boys and telling everyone about it. Then hopefully you’d come out the other end with this beautiful sense of self-awareness. But, now we’re meant to start being ourselves from the get go? We’re expected to be this wonderful, original human right from the start.

Considering we’re all a product of our own environment, I don’t really understand what the whole be yourself thing means or how you get there. I get the basics; be true to yourself, listen to your heart, be honest, don’t shoplift cigarettes etc etc. But, that’s not very applicable information, is it? Instead, it puts a rather large amount of pressure on us.

So, since this advice ceases to roll over and die, I think it’s time we take a look into what ‘being yourself’ could potentially mean, for all of us.

Duh, stop being other people

Pretty simple. Everyone wants to be someone; someone special, someone beautiful, someone intelligent, but sometimes that can be confused with wanting to be someone else. For instance, I once wanted to be Crysta the fairy from Fern Gully and my friend Elyse wanted to be former playboy bunny Kendra Wilkinson. Today, I’m glad my aspirations were slightly more unachievable than hers. But the thing is, it’s not so bad to aspire to be like someone if you admire them for all their qualities and values. These are the people that set the will to succeed in us. ‘Being yourself’ does not necessarily mean being 100% different to everyone else, it can mean taking little pieces from others that fit with the type of person you might one day want to be. Don’t be an actor playing a role that someone else created, write your own character and pull inspiration from others if you need to.

Stop caring what other people think and share that mentality

Most of us (girls) tone ‘ourselves’ down a li’l bit for public consumption. Tell us to be ‘ourselves’, you’re more than likely going to get 60% crazy, 30% emotion and 10% GIRLS season 4. It’s incredibly difficult to stop caring what people think of you, our day to days are plagued with constructing perfect stories of our lives through social media. But while it’s hard to let go of the ego, I imagine this is one of the greatest steps in the direction towards ‘just being yourself’. It requires you to be honest and even speak up when you don’t want to, to listen to your gut instincts, to not be afraid of sometimes being an outcast, and to most importantly recognise when someone is also being authentic with you. The more you liken yourself with people also trying to be ‘themselves’ the more compelled you will be to pursue that same goal.

It doesn’t have to happen over night

Lot’s of things can happen over night, like baking a cake or making a baby, but becoming ‘yourself’ is not one of them. As humans we are in constant evolve. Everything you experience continues to add to the person you are and will become, so the whole ‘being yourself’ thing is a never ending project and you should become accustomed to working on it on a frequent turn around.

Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should

At the risk of sounding like a Full House episode, someone once told me “Don’t choose opportunity, choose opportunity that faces in the direction of your dreams”, which reminded me that the in order to have dreams we must do things ‘ourselves’ in order to achieve them, which requires us to not always do things others are doing. Once again, this is part of growing up and being challenged by these types of situations highlights our independent strengths and weaknesses that inevitably make us who we are.

While these tips build a relative foundation for ‘just being yourself’ there’s still no distinct guide on exactly how to do it. Possibly the best advice is that no else in the world is you, but you. So perhaps we should stop confusing people by saying ‘be yourself’ all the time and replace it with something a little more inspiring like ‘be the self you’ve always dreamed of being’.

Then maybe we might just find ourselves.

dating, geny, surfing

Because at the time it was cool

I grew up in the time of the belly button piercing. A time when trampolines had visibly lethal springs and kids broke their legs on pogo sticks. It was the late 90s and if you weren’t surfing after school then you were curling up on the couch with your Uncle Toby’s yoghurt topped muesli bar and getting ready for the next episode of Heartbreak High. Most girls sat leg locked sporting their latest Ryan Sheppers’ sweater, his giant sweat banded head splayed across the minimal contours of their chest. The rest stabbed away at inanimate parcels of flesh, mum’s bloodied sewing needle in hand, hoping this was finally the episode where Drazic took his shirt off.

There’s a certain type of person that gets a belly button ring. Turns out that person’s not really me. But because Alison McGaw had one with a big turquoise dangly ring, it didn’t stop me from trying. Alison McGaw was that girl. Skin of bronze and a shiny flaxen mane reminiscent of a scandinavian summer sun. She was every teen boys dream. She lived in the glow of the male gaze, the closest they’d ever come to Summer Bay’s Bec Cartwright. She wore the latest Havaianas and dated the hottest semi-average surfers in the school, the ones that owned white Oakleys and drew Stussy signs on their text books. And somehow, in the time between 8th grade maths and science, I decided that a belly button piercing and hot surfer babes were inextricably tied. A beautiful marriage of accessories that, if captured, could coast me into the sweet stages of popularity, free of high school angst and puberty blues.

It was a weird era, OK. Kids were confused. Velcro wallets were still a thing. People liked break-dancing and there were many many Fast and the Furious movies in development. It was a period marked by the wholesale absorption of surfing into popular culture across Australia, largely driven by the accessibility of Sun-In. A time when there were no SUPs and the most annoying people in the water were swimmers.

A window of starkly confronting contrasts presented themselves pre Centenary; Paddle Pops were still 75  cents and the internet was making lots of noise not yet understood by way of our own youthful ignorance. It was a time of censored exploration, boys had bad manners and according to alcohol everything required incomprehensible amounts of sugar and fluorescent colour. Surfing was a big thing and your gear dictated your flimsy state in the hierarchy of cool, Billabong being at its peak. Yes, consumerism was abounding but people still hated advertising. So, jabbing needles into ourselves with the only high being shiny body adornment was not the weirdest thing going around. And, if someone were giving out awards for self-body modification I would certainly not be receiving Best & Fairest.

I never got that piercing. My mother caught me half way through entry point, with an ice-cube on one side of my belly button and a big shiny Singer needle on the other. Hot surfer boys and beach babe life were a distant reality. I was destined to remain in the inferior land of chubby academia for a few years yet.


As it does, time goes on. The cycle of life continues, as David Attenborough would say. Beverley Hills 90210 caught a second win and Heartbreak High was probably sold off to some Japanese production company. It was 2005, organic products still hung in the periphery and sun safety was not yet a prerequisite to peer pressure. The internet was really fingering the world for the first time and just like a couple of fondling 15 year olds, no one knew what was coming. A proliferation of discman jokes proved the brink of the digital evolution. But, most importantly, true to Nature’s sick humour, Alison McGaw had well and truly peaked at the age of 14 and by now had inherited her mother’s staunch figure and overall rotundness.

It really was the Golden Days. And for a coastal populace surfers were the be all and end all. With the help of the Marie Claire sealed section we were blossoming into women and surfer boys into mostly immature surfer men. An age where surfers stuck out like a beautiful tanned thumb and the Gold Coast was a somewhat appealing getaway. The majority of us had not yet discovered anorexia but were incredibly aware of the allure of ‘thin’. Life had become more of a contradiction and still, the one thing that was not confusing were surfers. Good old reliable surfers, marked by a certain swagger and a tang on their tongue. Easy to pick amongst the sea of skaters, goths, nerds, metal heads, footy guys and general misfits. Yes, like most confusing times we make life easier for ourselves by boxing people in.

People will tell me that surfers have never been characterised, that it’s a lifestyle, that something something “how ignorant of you to stigmatise”. I know that to be true to a certain extent, I’m not so intellectually lazy to think we’re all made from a specific selection of cookie cutters. But if science and a little thing called semiotics, the study of signs, has taught me anything, it’s that there were intrinsic signifiers around these subcultures, ones that allowed us to make sense of the chaos of an impending digital world. A world that would diversify even the most typical of characters.

If not, why had I felt the need to steal my brothers Rip Curl boardshorts to wear to the swimming carnival? Why were people that still wore Oakley’s now outcasts? Why did I actually start surfing at the age of 17 instead of just finding a surfer boyfriend? Why did I think Manly was heaven on earth when I hadn’t really ventured anywhere else? Why was Billabong going public? Why did I pretend to read surf magazines when really I was way deep in Tom Wolfe and anything from Emily Bronte. Why was Mick Fanning considered good looking? Why was Luke Stedman the hottest man in a young girls world? All things I can only answer like this, “because at the time, it was cool”.

Everything can be explained by this single statement. Anything that matters to us in our formative years can be associated with this. ‘Cool’ had undeniable weight in our lives and surfing was fucking cool. Surfing was the shit. Just like Skylines were cool to dickheads, surfing and all that related to it allowed us to figure stuff out. Identifying others in this way gave us passage to identify ourselves and our place in the greater world. Similarly, having a surfer boyfriend allowed us to feel a part of something. We belonged and like traffic lights, we knew when to come and go. When things were vague or ‘orange’ we knew when to slow down. Surfing made sense. We understood surfing “because it was cool”.


By 2009 I had over indulged. For years surfing and surfer boys had been my gateway drug. I was the fat kid at a child’s birthday party that circled the food table like a shark. My brain had been baked in a salty oven and it needed to cool.

I was in my early 20s, I had in some small part imprinted my name on most Australian surf mags and to be fair, many surf journos were lyrically experimenting with their writing styles, and it was good. A sense of raw authenticity was emerging with styles mimicking that of Bukowski and Kerouac. It was cliche but it was a pleasant dilution. But even still, with this diverse injection of flavour, the world of surfing was small, and I longed for big.

Beaches, bikinis and sunsets took a back seat. Surf commerce was dying a slow death. I wasn’t interested in who the hottest surfer was and my superficial views of ‘surfers’ was at an all time high. The metro-sexual trend had taken full effect and surfing suddenly represented narrow-mindedness, lack of ambition and an obstacle to personal growth, for this reason I didn’t want to be with or date a surfer. Instead, I spent time with tech heads that filled my brain with concepts like augmented reality, visionaries that broke down mental barriers, and writers whom opened my mind to philosophy. I started engaging with people I never usually would have associated with. The world was a different place, it was bigger, scarier but exciting, it became a place with more opportunity.

Sometimes I think the shift was about the coin. A drift subliminally related to money. When I was 21 my brother asked me “Do you really just want to write for surf mags? There’s not much money in that.” And at the time I thought, yeah this is the best, what a great lifestyle as I collected shrapnel from bottoms of bags for a morning coffee. Money prevails. Money talks. And I was listening to that debilitating internal echo of “cool don’t pay the bills, honey”.


Listening to people flex their intellectual muscle can often be much more of a show than a process of learning. It’s amazing how unbearably obnoxious life becomes the more educated and evolved you become, plus the further you distance yourself from saltwater. And, while I’d been away from surfing and it’s cultural intricacies for quite some time, I’d also failed to realise that that too was in a state of constant evolve, for the good.

It’s 2015 and the reality is, I’ve missed surfing. I’ve missed the ease of life that surfing so casually brings. I’ve missed the tan. I’ve missed the daily dose of naturally occurring magnesium; the most powerful relaxation mineral readily available to us. I’ve missed the menagerie of colourful characters that inhabit this world of surfing, whom are now a diverse bunch of creatures that see the sport as an achor and not a box. I’ve even missed the odd dickhead that’s still doing burnouts in his ‘98 Skyline in the car park. And, without leaving shallowness in the 90s, I’ve really missed the man babes.

Of course, people don’t really run belly button piercings these days, and believe me I’d judge you if you did, but I do think it’s become a beautifully disorganised motley of intrigue. Sure, you can sense someone’s a surfer, but you can’t really define them by it, just like you shouldn’t define someone by their job or who they date. Cool then and now are two totally different things. Cool is about the new, unexplored, anything that will ‘blow your mind’ instead of your gear. It’s about a personal sense of awe over the collective. Let’s not forget the influence of the world wide web and how for surfers, that has made a big world small and a small world big. Allowing the sport and lifestyle to access innovation, technology and locations like never before. The fact surfing is becoming more and more diluted, a sobering hybrid with other sports, is testament to the fact it’s more of a lifestyle than a culture in which to assimilate.

Sure, I’m older and wiser and I don’t care about accessories anymore, so my epiphany is hardly isolated. But, surfing again made me feel grounded, it restored something I felt I’d lost. ‘Cool’ was just a pre-meditated sidekick to surfing I didn’t really understand. I’ve stopped blaming surfing for my season of creative conflict, and I thank it for pushing me outside of my comfort zone. And while this ‘great return to surfing’ may sound pretty soppy and lame to you, I’m loving it, because to me, right now, it’s fucking cool.


5 reasons employers should be nice to their interns

Remember that time as a child when you woke up and were all “you know what would be super fun… working for free”? Or that ‘uh-huh’ moment where you suddenly wanted to spend 580 hours of your life crying into a paper shredder and living off expired cans of baked beans? Nope, neither.

I don’t envy interns, but I do feel for them. I feel for their living standards, the soul-sucking depths of their 4×4 inner-city studio and their weekday meals consisting of a gourmet mix of MacDonald’s mustard sachets and a cup of your shittiest instant coffee, probably something like Nestle. And I feel for their often dismissed creative endeavours.

To be honest, I avoided doing internships till it was almost too late. My first one was when I was 21, it lasted a week and I came out of it with a very small (almost minute) byline and a date ten years my senior. And while I knew I had dues to pay and skillz to drill, what I didn’t know was that those big wigs, the babes and dames in the driver’s seat, had a role to play too. That role was to educate me and foster my growth as a young journalist, which didn’t look a lot like me passing out in front of a tiny Vietnamese baker because he was all out of my editor’s favourite Banh mi.

Since then I’ve had many interns myself and very few of them have sucked. My first intern is now a close and dear friend and that’s probably because we spent days bonding over our mutual love of Tina Fey and our exclusive hate for anyone that does not like Tina Fey. What did I teach her? Probably not a lot apart from the fact I love a martini and a good pun. She in turn has probably gone on to do far greater things than me, and thankfully will never resent me.

Your intern’s your friend people, and if you don’t watch out they can easily become your foe. These are the reasons to be nice to your interns.


  1. They’re still kids

The majority of interns are really very premature. You can tell because they say things like ‘da boss’ and ‘biznass time’ and wear Birkenstocks to client meetings. They also still think fruit roll-ups are nutritious, because like, it’s fruit rolled up and stuff. But, you need to consider this in your approach. They probably spent their last pay cheque on their inappropriate attire, so be gentle when you tell them their attire is not conducive to the work environment or their general ‘sexyynass’. You can be clear and firm, but always respect them. You need Free Them as much as they need Reference You.

  1. Ain’t no govt got time for that

That’s not really true either, some governments do, just not our one, mostly because Tony Abbot’s all ‘wink wink this, nudge nudge that, soz got no dollars for subsidised edumacation babez’. That means these poor street rats need to find some real time learning somewhere and secure it against all the other masses vying to work for free. The fact there’s now several processes when applying to work as a ‘volunteer’ at companies is a sick indicator of Australia’s high youth unemployment rate. Bogus. Teach your interns to make themselves sickeningly indispensable, then measure the cause and effect it has on your business. Grow them and in turn they should grow the business. It’s a give and take game, but your main goal should be to hire in order to inevitably employ, regardless of the outcome.

  1. They’re judging you, like, right now

Yeah, right now. They don’t think the fact you still watch Saved By The Bell re-runs is caah-ute. Or the fact that Luke Perry circa ‘89 is still a part of your top 10. They think you dress like someone that couldn’t find the light switch and gets outfit ideas from print catalogues – CATALOGUES! Simply, they’re young and better than you because they’re.. young. They don’t even use Facebook. Gross. Even Snapchat’s heading towards the boring door. They’re automating shit and your still filing your electricity bills. Lame, mate. Remember, they’re not there to idolise you, you’re just a physical wikipedia page they can cut and paste from.

Give your intern the information, the skills, the tools to find their purpose. They want to learn from you, not be you.

  1. If she’s your bitch, you’re a bitch

If your perception of an intern is someone that does all your dirty work (like laundry), get an EA. If you choose to treat them like someone that lacks general input, then you’ll ruin your own rep along with that of your organisation. Offer to buy your interns coffee and never allow them to get you anything personal. I remember one internship where the editor asked me to take her shoes to the bootmaker half way across town. I took a train and $20 of my pre-paid phone bill bitching to my friends about how the only thing I’d learnt at my internship was that my editor had bandy legs and an instep.

  1. Started from the bottom now they’re here

Ever hear about US politician Anthony Weiner and his intern Olivia Nuzzi? Well, Olivia wrote a super cute little expose on her experience while working on Weiner’s campaign. The piece appeared on the front cover of the Daily News and basically tore apart the whole setup from the inside. Granted Nuzzi’s original intentions were questionable, but it doesn’t take away from the morale of the story; they may start as an intern but you never know where they’re going to end up.

Be nice. It’s just like Drake says, “Started from the bottom now we here…”

Please share your most shitty intern stories in the comment section.