Find out what makes Arthur Wynne tick when he’s mixing things up at MEET
Can you tell us about your background?
I started my journey in late ‘97 when I moved to Sydney from Nyngan, and found work in a cafe, first in Parramatta, before moving to the sister venue in Chatswood. I was thrown in the deep end there and was asked to make coffee, but had no idea how to use the equipment and made it out of that shift in one piece after being told it was the worst coffee ever made! So I went about hitting the CBD to check out cafes, but back then the baristas were quite secretive about their craft, so I watched everything they did and went back to the cafe and replicated everything I could remember. I then went on to manage the cafe for a few years while also working part-time in Surry Hills as a waiter and also casually at a cafe in Manly. I then worked at a restaurant in Surry Hills called Savage, where I got into bartending, and from there I moved to a bar called Pier 26, where I learnt bartending volume. My then-girlfriend (now fiancée) and I then moved to Dublin, where I worked in coffee and became a barista judge for Ireland, and then certified as a World Barista Championship judge, which took me to Tokyo and Copenhagen to judge competitions. I also competed in World Coffee in Good Spirits, World Latte Art, and World Cup Tasting Championship for fun. We then moved to Vancouver, where we lived for a decade. I was running cafes, then got back into bartending after the Winter Olympics. I was bar manager at a restaurant called The Union, doing the first South-East Asian cocktail list, then later moved to UVA Cocktail & Wine Bar as lead bartender, and then joined Blacktail Restaurant + Lounge as Beverage Director. My last post in Vancouver was at The Mackenzie Room where I was the bar manager. We then returned to Australia, and I’ve worked at a few venues here in Newcastle: Rascal, The Basement, The Terrace Bar, The Flying Tiger, Ginger Meg’s, Mockingbird and now MEET.
What would you make for one of readers if they walked up to the bar and placed their trust in your recommendation?
I would generally chat with the customer and ask a few questions on what they usually drink, what spirits they usually go for first in a drink, style of cocktail – whether it’s straight up, fizzy, creamy, sweet, citrusy, tropical, floral or savoury – to work out where their palate is at, then I would direct them to our selected classics and signature cocktails that fall into the category to see if that interests them. I try to encourage everyone to step out of their comfort zone and try something a little different from what they usually choose.
What ingredients for your cocktails are you particularly enjoying working with at the moment?
Fresh sugarcane juice – we are the only bar in Newcastle that presses sugarcane juice to use in cocktails. We also use the bagasse (spent sugarcane stalks) as garnish and it also gets used in the barbecue as fuel.
What is your all-time favourite classic, and what twist would you add that would maintain its integrity, while introducing your take on it?
There are quite a few … off the top of my head right now, probably a Mai Tai. I have reworked that drink in a few bars in Vancouver and made it into an all-booze drink, taking out all juices and using substitutes to get the desired effect, so that the reworked cocktail looks totally different but still tastes like the original. I’ve also reworked rum and coke and turned it into a completely different-looking drink, but still tastes like rum and coke.