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My Melbourne: Matt Bax

5 Jan 2018

Matt Bax is an artist-bartender hybrid, who’s become a prominent figure on the city’s social scene. He’s also the founder of Bar Americano, one of Melbourne’s tiniest bars.

How many years have you been bartending for?

Too many. Since 2001.

How long have you been at Bar Americano?

Since its inception in 2009.

Did you grow up in Melbourne?

Nope, I’m a country kid. Born in Adelaide but I grew up near the Coonawarra in Naracoorte, South Australia. I came here in 1995 when I finished uni.

Tell us about your career so far.

I’m an artist, who turned to bars as a way to keep my painting materials well stocked. I started with Der Raum in 2001, which had some nice international success and led to the opening of Tippling Club in Singapore, Gamsei in Munich and, of course, Bar Americano in Melbourne’s Presgrave Place.

How did Bar Americano begin?

I was looking for a much bigger space for a new concept. With the very modern techniques and working methods of Der Raum, we stopped making classic drinks. It was necessary for us to continue to push forward but I felt our customers and especially our young staff were missing out with the exile of classic drinks. I first discovered real cocktail drinking whilst living in Munich and with traveling a great deal in Italy, I always had the idea of opening a tiny bar as a homage to those experiences.

Tell us about the concept of Bar Americano and what visitors can expect when they come here.

Bar Americano is often misidentified as a speakeasy; it's actually just an American Bar — the correct term for a classic cocktail bar. Cocktails are an American invention so you can see the logic, American drinks: American Bar. Many great bars in Europe still use the term. At Bar Americano you can expect, classic cocktails in a style that celebrates the Italian bartending traditions and service.

What sets Bar Americano apart from other Melbourne bars?

Like all the bars I’ve had, we are a cocktail bar that only sells cocktails. We don’t offer wine or generate our sales in shots. The main difference with Bar Americano is the size. We are only licensed for 10 people standing. So that means its two or three bartenders for every 10 guests. That means I know who served you your drink, even when we are getting slammed on the weekends and the 3:10 staff to guest ratio means the service is unparalleled. It’s a ridiculous concept, but the customer comes out the winner.

What is Bar Americano’s most-ordered cocktail?

The Negroni. A New York Times writer called it the best he has ever tasted. We also think it’s pretty rad.

What is your favourite cocktail?

Probably our Gruppetto. Its Amaro, bitters highball finished with Tonic.

What do you love about Melbourne’s bar scene?

The variety.

Matt's Melbourne Picks

Restaurant Attica. Ben, the owner, is a good mate of mine and a total inspiration. He’s always looking to improve with every day and every dish.

Bar The Everleigh for cocktails, and Bar Americano’s former bartender Hayden Lambert’s bar, Above Board in Collingwood.

Free Activity A walk around our contemporary art galleries.

Event Footy at the ‘G or watching a movie at Sun Theatre in Yarraville.