Jobs to get Jealous of– Matthew Bax, co-founder, owner and mixologist, Der Raum
Wandering through Richmond in the late night hours, thousands may have passed Matthew Bax’s, Der Raum, bar without a second glance, not noticing the soft red glow of its modest home on Church Street, or its signage, limited to a few words on the door. Inside, its furnishings are equally unassuming, with hundreds of dimly lit bottles suspended over the bar; the interior is charming, but humble all the same.
Those who do experience this gem however, either by accident or through word of mouth, will find out pretty quickly what makes it special.
Der Raum’s devotion to injecting pure skill and creative genius into its cocktails has resulted in the best and most imaginative on offer in our fair city, and maybe even the world. And the proof is in the bar’s many coveted titles, including but not limited to, the 2012 No.1 World’s Best Bar.
Owner and founder Matthew Bax, and executive ‘mixologist’ as he’s often referred, is the face behind the art.
We caught up with Matthew while he was busy planning the details of his other successful passion, his next art exhibition, to ask what he loves most about this job.
Mixologist is a fancy title, but what does it mean?
It a stupid name for people who have a problem being called a bartender. The term is actually a very, very old one but was revived in London during the early 90’s.
What’s involved in coming up with new cocktails?
About 6 months to a year of work depending upon the techniques involved. Our creative work is the most important aspect of Der Raum and is put ahead of all other priorities. It’s the only reason we are known all over the world; we hardly have the great location or a multimillion dollar fit-out.
Can you tell us one of your favourites, and what’s in it?
There are too many to choose from, Der Raum started moving away from classics so many years ago our drink catalogue is just too vast to pick a few.
Which is Der Raum most famous for?
We invented a technique called a ‘fog’ which is replicated around the world, it was first seen in our ‘Velvet Fog’ drink which featured an aroma fog that could be poured (and remains) on top of a cocktail.
We are also credited as one of the first bars in the world to work with liquid nitrogen through concepts like our ‘Cocktail Cereal’.
We were again one of the first to use smoke in drinks, an example is our ‘Smokey Old Bastard’. I could go on and on but I’m sure your readers are already bored!
Maybe a last one would be the Damien Hirst tribute, ‘Pharmacy’, which is prepared and looks like a medical procedure, the highlight a citrus pill that bursts in your mouth.
Your bar, Der Raum, has been rated No. 1 in the World’s Best Bars, what do you think makes it so special?
Just the creativity and our lust for risk. But be very wary of awards and rankings, they really mean nothing. It’s nice to be acknowledged by your peers but they are never the goal.
What lured you to the cocktail industry?
To support my art career, success in the industry continues to be a complete surprise.
How does this job compare to others you’ve had, in terms of the positives, and negatives?
It becomes more your life than work, which is both a blessing and a curse. International attention is also nice but reputation brings with it huge expectations that can weigh heavily on you and your team.
After 11 years it gets harder to shock, surprise and impress. But we love the position we are in, and we are so lucky to have a base of regulars that let us push things as far as we can.
Can you tell the readers a little bit about your other project, Trink Tank, and what it is?
It’s the creative division of Der Raum, essentially Luke Whearty and I. We develop all the drinks for Der Raum and my new venue Bar Americano. Trink Tank has its own identity and freedom to be involved in events outside the Der Raum family.
So far, how has the project been received?
It’s been amazing, the work has taken us to Europe several times and just recently we were in Puerto Rico presenting to the world finalists of the Bacardi Legacy competition.
What advice would you give others wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Nobody would be that stupid.
You can visit Der Raum and try a cocktail for yourself at 438 Church Street, Richmond. But remember, their liquid-works-of-art take time and love to make, so get there early.
Matthew’s upcoming exhibition, ‘pretty little stupid pictures’ will be held from 31 May – 7 July 2012 at Anna Pappas Gallery, Melbourne. A book of the same title will be available at the show.