Behind the bar with Sam Egerton

Merivale’s Group Bar Manager shares his thoughts with us

As Group Bar Manager for Merivale, what is a typical day like for Sam Egerton?

A typical day? I think I'm incredibly lucky that I have a job that doesn't really have days like those. That being said across a week you will usually find me in service in one of our new venues (Little Felix at the moment), with my day spent engaging with venue teams, the senior beverage team that helps to keep the whole business turning, meeting with Justin to discuss new projects, developing beverage concepts or building out our internal beverage training programs. We are currently rolling out an internal cocktail competition as well as getting spring cocktail menus ready for the impending season – so there always somewhere to be, someone to talk to or something to create!


Can you tell us about your background?

I'm originally from New Zealand, born and raised in Christchurch, and have been working in hospitality since I was 16. I've worked in kitchens, bars, restaurants, nightclubs and everything in between, having seen some of the best and not-so-best parts of this wonderful industry. I moved to Sydney in 2006 on a whim and fell in love with this city, and I've been here ever since! I started with Merivale early in 2011 at Felix and have been lucky enough to be involved in working at and opening a number of the amazing venues that Merivale has to offer. I am extremely passionate about the world of hospitality in all aspects, but deep down I'm still a bartender at heart.


Little Felix is a very exciting new addition to the Merivale Group, can you explain the cocktail concept you have put in place for that venue?

The offering at Little Felix is inspired by classic Parisian cocktails that were created or made famous in hotel bars in the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s. These drinks have stood the test of time and are delicious, approachable and sessionable – which really should be the benchmarks for any good cocktail. To add our influence, we took a provincial mentality to 'improving' the drinks. In the same way that great food is best enjoyed with great liquor from the same region (think cider and cheese from Brittany), we have taken lesser-known categories of the French liquor category to help elevate the drinks into a current setting. 


Justin Hemmes very articulately addressed the NSW State Parliament Joint Committee on Sydney’s Night Time Economy public hearing on revitalising Sydney after hours, do you have anything to add from your perspective? 

I have been lucky enough to have worked and lived in Sydney for the last 13 years. During that time I have seen Sydney's bar industry grow up with the introduction of the small bar license legislation, experienced the best and worst of Kings Cross during my tenure working there and have seen the city relegated to become a laughing stock on the global stage. I am a firm believer in creating environments that are safe and enjoyable for everyone, but it is time that we realised that a late-night economy and a safe city are not mutually exclusive. We have such amazing talent in this city and it's time we work collaboratively with the council, police, health services and the broader industry to re-establish this city as one of the best places to visit in the world.


What is your all-time favourite classic, and what twist would you add that would maintain its integrity, while introducing your take on it?

The Boulevardier – a cousin of the Negroni credited to Erskine Gwynne an American-born writer based in Paris in the late 1920s – is one of my favourite cocktails. I often describe it to guests as the love child of the Negroni and the Old Fashioned, with Bourbon, Campari and Sweet Vermouth making up the components. At Little Felix, we have a wonderful drink called 'Some Assemblage Required', which takes the blueprint of the Boulevardier and introduces some subtle improvements. Utilising the approach of provincial authenticity, we have introduced a Pineau des Charentes from Normandin-Mercier to supplement the Sweet Vermouth. Pineau des Charentes comes from a lesser-known category called mistelle, which is made from unfermented grape juice (or lightly fermented grape must) that is fortified with eau-de-vie. In addition to Bourbon, Campari, Sweet Vermouth and Pineau des Charentes, the drink is stirred down with two cracked coffee beans, then double strained over a solid block of ice.