The Michael Schumacher of bartenders

Forget the stereotype - the truth is that most bartenders don't want to throw bottles around like a scene from the movie Cocktail.

And yet since 1988 professional bartenders around the world have endured painful comparisons to Tom Cruise's colourful rendition of a New York barman. It's a constant source of ire for professional barkeeps that aren't all about partying hard and flirting with patrons of the opposite sex at the bar.

But I am hopeful that the stereotype of bartenders as party-going louts is slowly shifting, with professionalism and passion now percieved as the two key reasons top bartenders seek to perfect their craft.

Tim Philips is a professional, knowledgeable, personable, and presentable man who also happens to be one of Australia's top bartenders.

Having recently taken out the Australian World Class final (part of a global quest to find the world's best bartenders) for the second time, he has a few thoughts of his own about the profession.

"I think that you can make a career out of anything," says Philips. "If you're a bartender you've got to strive to be the best that you can, if you're a carpenter you've got to be the best that you can and if you're a lawyer you've got to be the best that you can. The public now take bartending more seriously as a trade – definitely in the UK and increasingly so in Australia."

The Sydney based (but Melbourne raised) barkeep is Australia's most highly awarded bartender, and his sights are now firmly on Rio De Janerio – host city for the global World Class starting next week.

"I've always managed to be able to take the next step in this industry," explains Philips. "I've moved from pub to nightclub and from nightclub to cocktail bar and now I'm opening my own bar later in the year. I think that it is important keep challenging yourself in any industry.

"Winning World Class in Rio this year means ten times as much as last year. Last year I was stressed out and under prepared. But I feel more at ease and prepared for the final in a couple of weeks even though it means more than ever to me."


Philips' has already had his fair share of victories. In 2009, Philips was awarded CLASS magazine's (UK) 'Bartender of the Year' after working at the London's acclaimed Milk & Honey bar in Soho. Moving back to Sydney Philips has been plying his trade at Ivy's members only bar, Level 6, where in one year he fought off the competition to be awarded Bartender magazine's Bartender of the Year 2011 and the World Class Australian champ.

"Winning these awards is a great pat on the back," comments Philips. "It reassures me that what I'm doing is good and though you have to be wary to remain humble I have to admit that I like the attention."

And he concedes that a certain Cruise-esque charm might still be the key to being a great bartender.

"It isn't a bartender's ability to make drinks that makes a great bartender," explains Philips. "Bars and the bartenders in them need to create a space that is comfortable to spend time in away from home. First and foremost bartenders need to be personable, hospitable – not hostile – and humble."

What qualities do you look for in your bartender?