On Saturday night, Brunswick Street institution Black Pearl won Best International Cocktail Bar at the 2017 Spirited Awards. The awards are part of the annual Tales of the Cocktail conference in New Orleans, a gathering of cocktail and spirits industry professionals. They are recognised as the world’s most prestigious independent industry awards.
Broadsheet spoke to long-time staff members of the Black Pearl, Chris Hysted-Adams (co-general manager alongside Matt Sterling) and Nathan Beasley (training manager), as they soaked up their win on the banks of the Mississippi River at wine bar Bachanal.
“To be honest we are just trying to comprehend what has happened,” says Hysted-Adams, who missed the bar’s last win at the Spirited Awards in 2015 when it took out Best High-Volume Bar, awarded to venues with a capacity of 100 patrons or more. “It’s taking a lot of time for it to sink in for both of us. We’ve been talking to the gang back home and they’re all just as shell-shocked as we are.
“It’s an awards ceremony that feels out of reach all the way down in Australia, so knowing that we can be seen on the same scale as a lot of those big bars that we’ve always looked up to and respected and loved, knowing that people think that we’re of the same calibre as them, that’s probably the craziest part of it,” he continues.
Beasley is likewise humbled by the recognition.
“Coming to a city like this, where everyone is here to celebrate what we all do, and having the privilege to be invited and to win something, it just gives you a little pat on the back … you’re doing a good job and it’s noticed. So obviously the thing that matters the most is the gratification you get from your guests, but it’s nice to be recognised abroad as well.”
Hysted-Adams and Beasly are no strangers to awards recognition. On top of their previous win at the Spirited Awards, both have won Bartender of the Year in the Bartender Magazine Australian Bar Awards in 2009 and 2014 respectively.
Despite these accolades they both claim it’s not something they think about when they head to work every night.
“It’s all about just focusing on the simple things and doing them well. At Black Pearl we don’t ever work towards winning awards, that’s not the way we think about it, it’s just about looking after people and anything above that is just a bonus,” says Beasley.
“It’s just a big slab of icing on top of the cake,” adds Hysted-Adams.
Despite the international attention, Beasley still has one eye on what’s happening at home.
“I was sitting at a jazz bar at, like, 2am and saw that North Melbourne [football club] were going all right; we were sitting there listening to jazz, but still getting excited about every goal. They fuckin’ lost, but I can’t really complain.”
While Beasley is staying on for a couple of days, Hysted-Adams is flying back to Melbourne on Monday evening with plenty to keep him occupied on the flight.
“Getting an award like this 15 years into being open is pretty stellar,” says Hysted-Adams. “We’re sure we can put together one hell of a party for when we get back, that’ll be coming up pretty quickly so I don’t think there will be much time to sleep on the way home.”
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