Madeleine Tate has only been cocktail bartending for about two years, but that hasn’t stopped her from representing New Zealand on the global cocktail stage.
“I find inspiration everywhere from just a cold beer on a hot day to a delicious meal,” she told Restaurant & Café. “There are always new flavours to try and ways to marry them together – that’s half the fun in making a drink.” She is always looking for new ways to change things up, and if she learns a new drink then she’ll make it for anyone who is willing to try it. ‘Lageritas’ will be coming back with the warmer months, she predicts – a margarita on the rocks topped off with a good pale ale.
Tate was never formally taught, opting to learn on the job and make the most of the training sessions provided by the bars in which she’s worked. “I’ve been lucky enough to work with people who are willing to teach,” she said. “I’ve also read a lot about all sorts of things, from how you should make a certain classic cocktail and why, to what molecular bartending is.”
Despite her relatively brief time as a mixologist, Tate has seen success at a number of competitions – locally and internationally. Her ‘Chimney Sweeper’ creation, a black drink inspired by Mary Poppins with Amaro, PX sherry, lemon, sugar, egg white and Beefeater gin, took her to the finals of the Beefeater MIXLDN competition, representing New Zealand. This year she reached the top 24 in New Zealand of the Bacardi Legacy competition, with a coconut water and pickle juice Pina Colada – “very savoury but very refreshing!” – and also took out last month’s Patrón Perfectionists competition, earning her a spot in the global final at Hacienda Patrón in Mexico.
Apart from her increasingly frequent trips overseas, Tate’s favourite part of the job is the people. And, while she admits it is cliché, the opening hours are the hardest part of bartending. “I don’t think anyone enjoys finishing at 4 am,” she said. “It’s just one of the things you do for a job you love.”
Tate will always keep pushing herself to do better, and is planning to do some travel, research and maybe one day open her own place. “Bartending is my favourite aspect of hospitality,” she said. “Everyone always seems happier with a tasty beverage in their hand.”