In The Weeds is a gritty and romantic look at life behind the bar
“We’ve gripped the wheel of the strangest and most difficult journey our industry has faced,” says Lucy Pallett-Jones. The Canberra-based bartender and photographer is talking about In The Weeds, the exhibition she is hosting at Sydney bar Re on Sunday 1 May — an event at which she hopes to celebrate the bar world.
“Australian bartenders create environments and experiences which are transformative,” Pallett-Jones says. “That may be through service, through great drinks; through lighting, details, music, energy or all of the above. In The Weeds exhibits the works photographed in this vortex and in particular celebrates the fact that it’s still here. The Australian hospitality community deserves it.
“I want In The Weeds to be the beer you have at the end of a December service.”
Except that it won’t be beer on offer at Re this Sunday; instead award-winning bartender and Re general manager Evan Stroeve created a custom cocktail menu for the evening with support from partners like Maker’s Mark. Each of the five drinks on the list inspired by some of Sydney’s best cocktail bars: Re, PS40, Cantina OK!, Old Mate’s Place, and Double Deuce Lounge. Each drink also makes use of an ingredient that the bar ordinarily throws away.
Take for example the Old Mate’s-inspired drink. Using Maker’s Mark as the hero whisky of the drink, it also employs rescued coconut from Old Mate’s Place.
“[The drink] is all about the romanticism of sitting at Old Mate’s on a break and drinking a beer, surrounded by an ecosystem of great service and hospitality,” says Pallett-Jones.
“The inspiration is a Boilermaker - whiskey and beer - brought together in one glass. Evan made a light, bright melon beer using its juice, skins and pulp. Add spice and bubbles, then topped with a milk foam, made using the coconut leftovers from Old Mates’ own clarified Pina Colada.
“It’s a fun drink, and it looks like a beer, but it’s tropical and catches you off guard. It’s very Old Mate’s.”
Whilst In The Weeds might be Pallett-Jones’ love letter to the bar industry, it’s also an equal parts romantic and gritty look at life behind the stick.
“I am driven by the dichotomy of what’s romantic and what’s real,” she says. “I take photographs in bars because I am entranced by the industry. I love the camaraderie of a team who share visceral experiences. I love the particular sounds of service: toby tins snapping, docket dispensers firing, the hum of laughter at tables. Over time, I have become acutely aware of the double edged sword of hospitality. Sometimes you really wish someone would just order a beer.”
And it’s that love for the bar world that is driving Pallett-Jones to bring together all the various elements an exhibition of this kind requires. It has taken months of planning, shooting, and visiting bars — something one can only do if the passion for the subject is real.
“The exhibition has reaffirmed how important the hospitality industry is to me — and it has been integral to my sense of self for many years already,” she says. “I knew I wanted to create a world that bartenders and bar lovers would be able to step into and celebrate our industry in a way that hasn’t been done before. Creating this experience has required me to plunge myself into unchartered waters logistically, creatively, and mentally. Every detail of the experience has carried weight, because it is part of a visual narrative that is rarely told.”
That’s what sets In The Weeds apart — it’s an exhibition told very much from a point of view that only bartenders truly understand. And that’s what makes it important for Pallett-Jones.
“What I’ve learned is how much I will bleed for the people I am doing this for,” she says.
COME JOIN THE EVENT:
What: In The Weeds
Where: Re, Shop 8/2 Locomotive St, Eveleigh NSW 2015
When: Sunday 1 May