On International Women’s Day every year, the voices and stories of women across the world are celebrated, as we address the issues that cause gender inequality and diversity. But despite these issues remaining, such voices and stories take a backseat once the day is done.

We think it’s worth doing the opposite and actively challenging the issues that create these gaps in our industry. So, we’ve launched this weekly series, Wednesday Women, where we’ll profile the stories of the inspiring women in this great and wide industry.

Today we speak with award-winning bartender Andie Bulley, who now finds herself at the heart of Sydney’s bar scene, about her experience in Brisbane, her transition to Sydney, and the invaluable connections she forged along the way.

Andie’s first taste of hospitality was in Townsville, starting out in a nightclub and later a casino, eventually making her way to a whisky bar called The Heritage Exchange where she says she fell in love with everything that hospitality encapsulates.

It was never necessarily a plan of Andie’s to pursue a hospitality career but she soon fell in love with the craft and dropped her degree shortly after moving to Brisbane, where she began working at Savile Row and created a strong foundation for what is now her career.

Andie is a big advocate for the bar scene in Queensland, particularly the high standard of service that that Queensland bartenders are so passionate about.

“Queensland bartenders do it differently compared with anywhere else in Australia. Some of the best bartenders are coming out of Queensland, and more specifically there are so many amazing names coming out of North Queensland,” she says.

“I think it’s because the bars there don’t get a lot of international visitors or exposure, and because of that, we have to form more unique and genuine connections. Especially at Savile, a big thing was creating unreasonable hospitality, essentially, making our guests feel super, super special. That’s something that was really ingrained in me, the way that we interact with guests.”

Moving to Brisbane during the pandemic was a bold move for Andie, but the relocation presented new avenues for growth and nurtured new connections.

“Even though it’s not the biggest city in Australia, it’s home to some of the best bars and some of the best bartenders. Being able to work in Brisbane and work with these people just provided me immense insight into the bar world,” she added.

Although Andie was well-established in her role at Savile Row, she found that Brisbane’s small pool of standout bars made it difficult to progress, and almost three years since making the move, Andie uprooted once again in pursuit of something more.

“I wanted to get out of Brisbane hospitality because I felt I had hit a ceiling where I could plateau, I felt that I had maximized what I wanted to do there. Taking a step back and thinking about what I wanted to learn, I didn’t feel like there was any bar in Brisbane that could provide me the opportunity that bars in Sydney could.”

A new chapter

At just 22 years old, Andie was already a prolific character within the industry, and it was the connections she had formed with other high-profile bartenders that led her to her new role of Creative Lead at The Waratah in Darlinghurst.

“Around the time that I felt like I wanted to get out of Brisbane hospitality, Evan [Stroeve] reached out to me offering me the role. It was mind-shattering having this incredible notable figure in the industry reaching out.  

“It was an insane opportunity that I felt I couldn’t turn down. Evan is genuinely one of, if not the best bartender in Australia, and being able to learn from him, work side by side and get an insight into how his brain works, I just couldn’t turn that down.”

Andie Bulley

As Creative Lead at The Waratah, Andie essentially looks after the venue, but more specifically the drinks program and training program, with a holistic approach.

“It’s about thinking of ways that we can curate a better experience for our guests in more ways than just good food and good drinks,” she says.

For Andie, her new position has presented her with an abundance of new learnings, but she’s certainly not afraid to lean on her team for support.

“I’m not a great bartender yet. I’m very inexperienced when it comes to being able to curate a lot of drinks really quickly, but I excel in the stories behind drinks, and getting people to feel an emotional connection with the things they’re consuming.

“We’ve got such a supportive and knowledgeable team at The Waratah, and it’s not just Evan. I’m surrounded by some of the best bartenders in Australia, right now we’ve got Aidan Tibbins, Tom Opie, Felix Heyer, Jeffe Santony, Ty Sidhu, Albert Rust and Toby Callaghan. It’s genuinely one of the best bar teams in Australia, and I get to be around them and learn from them all the time.”

Beyond the realms of her team, Andie owes a lot of her knowledge and success to the connections she has formed online.

“A lot of the way that I became known in hospitality was from me sending people a message on Instagram and curating a relationship with them, even if it’s just through a media presence. That way, when you go visit those cities, or they come to visit you, that connection has already been formed.

“It’s a great way to learn and that’s how Evan and I were acquainted. So many doors have been opened for me because I’ve formed relationships with people through social media,” she added.

“We’re not going to progress this industry through gatekeeping. If you reach out to someone and they withhold information or they don’t want to share, that’s probably someone who is not willing to let the hospitality industry progress as a whole, and probably not a connection you want to make.

“It provides some insight into who wants to see you grow and who genuinely cares about the industry and bringing people up, rather than locking people out. We’re all here to learn, and to make Australia the best it can be.”

Sustainability on the rise

Since being in Sydney, it has become a lot more evident to Andie just how much opportunity she has. As the tourism hotspot of Australia, she feels that it is much easier to get your name ingrained in the industry, but also to be at the forefront of changing trends.

“In Australia, all the main trends are coming out of Europe. In Sydney, you’re two years behind Europe, and then Brisbane is two years behind Sydney. Some of the trends that were happening in Sydney a year ago, we’re now seeing pop up in Brisbane. It’s cool to now be at the forefront of that and watch the way that trends progress through the nation.”

Touching on her observations of trends, Andie notes that seasonality and sustainability are becoming deeply engrained in Australia’s cocktail culture, two elements that are imperative to the ethos at The Waratah.

“It’s not just about watching what you throw away, it’s about ethical sourcing of your ingredients and ensuring that you’re sourcing, specifically First Nations products, from reputable First Nations people, who aren’t big companies profiting off stolen land.

“People are being a lot more aware of the products that they’re using and where they’re sourcing them, there’s a lot of emphasis on that in Sydney right now.”

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