When Thomas Atuahiva was made redundant from his first job out of school, he decided he wanted to travel. While thinking about how he could work while he travelled, his uncle suggested that he work in bars. Isaac Fitzpatrick got into bar work after giving up his day job laying bricks. His flatmate got him a job at Mexico, where he learned the fine art of tequila and margaritas.  They were both self-taught, but see that as an advantage more than anything. “I think in hospitality, a lot of the relative skills are easier taught in real life situations rather than a classroom,” said Atuahiva. Their paths have led them separately throughout Auckland’s top bars, including Orleans, REC, Augustus Bistro and Ostro, before converging at Ponsonby’s new Win Win.

The pair find inspiration in different places – Fitzpatrick looks to nature, finding new herbs and spices that match the liqueurs that he uses in his cocktails. Atuahiva is currently drawing inspiration from food, “exciting flavour combinations that I find in restaurants or by accident help to develop my palette and in turn my ability to find new recipes.” For Atuahiva and Fitzpatrick, fresh is always best. “I believe the freshest ingredients make a humungous difference to the final result,” said Fitzpatrick. “I always apply this concept to my drinks, without exception.” Atuahiva agrees. “Fresh is best when it comes to produce, and for liquor, if I like it, I’ll use it.”

The first competition for both men was a shared experience, and one which was surprisingly tough. “We were surprised at how stiff the competition was, but we managed to place third,” said Atuahiva. Their placing drink was a twist on a Sour, featuring Fernet Branca, fresh orange, fresh lemon, agave, egg white and Tabasco.

In the future, Atuahiva wants to make good on the travelling plans that got him into the industry in the first place, moving overseas and experiencing hospitality in other parts of the world – Melbourne and New York are at the top of his list. Fitzpatrick is less defined: “to follow the path of hard work and creativity.” While both men thoroughly enjoy their jobs, they admit that it does come with its fair share of challenges. The hours are tough, for one, and Atuahiva is critical of New Zealand’s binge drinking culture – “drinking to get drunk, rather than to enjoy the liquor or the company you are sharing.” This is, of course, balanced out by creating relationships with their customers and facilitating good experiences for others.  “As you can imagine, you need a good sense of humour in this job,” Fitzpatrick added. “But it comes with the job, and I like a challenge.”

Win-Win, 212 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby, Auckland