Sebastian Reaburn & The Year 1806

“It was in the year 1806 that the word ‘cocktail’ was first defined in print,” says mixologist and founder of Melbourne’s 1806 bar, Sebastian Reaburn. “Believe it or not, we had written the cocktail list before we had even finalized the site for the bar, and a long time before we decided on its name. The list starts in 1806 and has at least one drink for every decade since. The name couldn’t really be anything else.”

Oozing with genuine passion for his craft, Reaburn credits Dick Bradsel for instilling him with a love of “serious cocktails, as opposed to a few brightly colored, extra-sweet beverages I made in Country Victoria.” Working alongside the celebrity barman at a handbag launch in a Mayfair art gallery in 1999, Reaburn was impressed with the speed and skill Bradsel and his team exhibited as mixologists. “Firstly the drinks tasted better than anything I’d tried before, but the thing that knocked my socks off was watching Bradsel pound out 600 of these amazing drinks in two hours,” says Reaburn, “The quality of the drink and the speed that they were served got me hooked. I haven’t looked back since.”

Indeed, in the last decade Sebastian has been looking straight ahead, at a future lined with awards, accolades and international acclaim. Included amongst the two-page list is First Place Tanqueray 10 Martini Competition 2008, Best Cocktail List in the World, Tales of the Cocktail New Orleans 2008 and First Place Australian Bartender of the Year 2008. Though he has enough awards to warrant his own show room, Reaburn says competing is as much about the process as the end result. “I think being a good bartender does not make you good at competitions, but doing lots of competitions—no matter how you fare—makes you a better bartender. Learning to deal with the stress, the different environments and being put on the spot is really good training.”

In 2006 Reaburn fulfilled a life-long dream when he opened the doors to his own cocktail bar in the heart of Aus-tralia’s bar and restaurant capital, Melbourne. “Melbourne is my favorite place to have a drink—a host of bars for all types, there’s rarely a dress code, mostly the staff and the booze are top notch, and the music will be quirky and quiet enough to have a conversation.” The success of 1806, says Reaburn, depends largely on providing top-shelf service and knowledgeable bar staff. “We have a really unique and interesting cocktail list that brings a lot of people through the door. Once they’re in there it’s all about service—all bars live or die by the quality of the staff.”

Not one to limit his passion, Reaburn is on the cusp of releasing a book. “It’s a bit of an intro to cocktails for non-bartenders who want to make a few great drinks,” he says. He is also providing a new, six-month training course for bar staff. “I love what I do,” says Reaburn, “It’s a dynamic and always changing industry. You meet all manner of people and serve them great booze. I also love the science that is slowly making its way into the craft; there’s lots of work being done on the dynamics of shaking a cocktail, and what ice to use. Basically it is really good fun, and at the same time complex enough to challenge anyone for many, many years.”

– Fiona Killackey