bartender banter

Stir It Up

We talk to Chris Gillet, mixologist extraordinaire at the Poplar Social Club in Christchurch

Q: How did you get involved in mixology?

A: I’ve been a bartender for 15 years, but it was only eight years ago, while I was studying for my business degree, that I tried my hand at cocktails. I had a placement at a hotel in Queenstown, and they get you to try out all aspects of work. I had a stint behind the bar mixing drinks and really enjoyed it.

Q: What lead you to Christchurch?

A: I moved here after I graduated and started working in a cocktail bar. Before the 2011 earthquakes, we had a lot of great bars but most of them fell down or shut down after. It’s only now we are starting to see a resurgence and that makes it a great place to work – I love introducing the locals to the drinks trends I’ve seen abroad.

Q: Tell us about the Poplar Social Club

A: It’s a speakeasy-style cocktail bar, part of the new Dux Central drinking and dining experience that opened late last year. My flatmate worked at Dux Live and told me they were planning on opening a specialist cocktail bar. That’s a dream come true for a mixologist. I helped launch it and I design the menus and specialty drinks.

Q: What’s your favourite cocktail?

A: I like a gin or rum-based cocktail. I recently designed a cocktail called Te Coco for the Bacardi Legacy Cocktail Competition. It’s a tropical take on a martini, with Bacardi, dry vermouth, coconut water, orange bitters and grapefruit zest. It’s quite different to my normal sweeter style of drinks, but it’s got me to the final of the New Zealand competition at the Sapphire Room on February 22nd – if I win I’m off to San Francisco!

Q: Do you like your martini shaken or stirred?

A: Always stirred! I live in Christchurch!

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