Alannah Stratton entered the industry at age 16 as a glassie. “At that age it had never really crossed my mind about being a bartender,” she told Restaurant & Café.  “I watched everyone behind the bar and soon wanted to know what it was like on the other side.” Once she turned 18 she finally got the chance to give it a go, and has loved it ever since.

She worked at bars in England and Australia and is now at The Lula Inn at Auckland’s Viaduct. Stratton never received any formal bar training, but having been on the scene since she was 16 has meant that she has picked up a few tips and tricks along the way. “I've tried office jobs in the past and they just aren't for me. The greatness of the industry we work in is underestimated.”

Stratton is the writer and director of The Lula Inn’s cocktail menu, including three carefully crafted gin and tonics aptly named ‘the Elixirs’. “It’s amazing what you can get out of a G&T nowadays. They’re a bit like David Attenborough; timeless, irreplaceable and seriously underrated.” The Elixirs use gin sourced from the far reaches of the earth including Africa, England and India, which are infused with local fruit, botanicals to create soft, aromatic flavours.

Stratton believes that gin is becoming so much more popular than ever before, which is why she chose to use it as a hero ingredient at The Lula Inn. “People are becoming very particular about how something which seems like a simple drink, the G&T, and how it is being made.” The rise of craft spirits in New Zealand has seen gin increase in popularity, with more options available now than ever before – again evidenced by The Lula Inn’s extensive gin menu, which includes gins from New Zealand, Australia, Germany, France, the Netherlands, England and Iceland.

However, in spite of her creative gin concoctions, Stratton’s heart lies truly lies with the Piña Colada. “This is a cocktail that can be made so poorly, but when it’s done properly it tastes amazing, and I think we have perfected it.”