Fascinated by cocktail makers as artists showing their creativity, Shaye Honeycombe had an interest in bartending since he started experiencing nightlife in bars at age 18. Inspired to pursue his passion, Honeycombe shook his first cocktails in Rotorua on a hospitality training course run by local hospitality industry stalwart, Sharon Wallace.
“Sharon connected me with Ponsonby Road Lounge Bar, where the standards of cocktail making are known as the best in town,” said Homeycombe. “That’s where my skill levels and passion escalated rapidly.”
Prior to his position at Ponsonby Road Lounge Bar, Honeycombe spent years as a car spray painter, demonstrating his love for all things creative.
When searching for inspiration for new recipes, exploring different bars and watching YouTube helps Honeycombe when he’s not already experimenting during the down-times on shift. “The bar owners are really keen to see me grow and allow me the freedom to invent and test out cocktails on customers as much as possible.” Honeycombe describes his signature drink, The Starburst, as “nostalgic childhood memory turned adult experience … with bourbon”.
While it is challenging to achieve consistency in quality cocktail-making, Honeycombe thoroughly enjoys the freedom his job gives him to be creative – no day is ever the same.
“The taste for good quality cocktails in provincial New Zealand is growing fast, and we are currently looking at including more natural and home-made ingredients to add that extra special something to our offering.”
In the future, Honeycombe has plans to get more involved in training people in hospitality courses to pass on the skills and knowledge he has been acquiring. In the long term, he aims to travel the world working in the hospitality industry.
Previously, Honeycombe was a finalist in the Rotorua Hospitality Awards as Bartender of the Year, as well as reaching the finals of the Monin Cup New Zealand.