14 October 2023

Five minutes with Stu Inger, Volstead Repeal

| Claire Sams
man at bar pouring a mixed drink

Stu Inger didn’t plan to work in hospitality, but 12 years later and he’s still there … Photo: Ash St George/Pew Pew Studio.

Who are you?

My name is Stuart Inger, but I definitely prefer Stu. I’m an owner–operator.

How did Volstead Repeal start?

My business partner [Allen Chen] and I are both avid whisky fans. We actually met when I worked at a different whisky bar in Canberra and ended up collaborating. He worked for Westpac, and I needed some financial advice on how to open a bar – but the guy I was going to open with fell through, so that’s when Allen stepped in.

What does your day-to-day look like?

I am one of the two owners of the venue, and I have administrative stuff to do. But day-to-day, I operate the bar as the bar manager and work behind the bar three days a week on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

I’ve been working behind a bar for 12 years. I really love making drinks and creating new drinks. But after 12 years, it can get a little exhausting if I was going at it five days a week. It’s nice to have it split with a couple of days of admin. It makes a nice balance.

READ ALSO From best burger to winning wine, Canberra’s hospitality champions revealed at 2023 AHA ACT Awards

How did you get involved in the hospitality industry?

It wasn’t really a conscious thought of, ‘Oh, I really want to work in bars’. When I started, my skillset wasn’t particularly large, but luckily, I actually really enjoyed it.

I started in 2011 when I lived in Canada, and I was hopeless. Then I moved to the UK, worked in a couple of bars there, and got a little bit better. I moved to Canberra in 2013 and started working in different bars here. I worked in a high-end bar from about 2015, and that’s when my interest in cocktails and whisky really picked up.

What are the top menu items that set Volstead Repeal apart?

We change our menu every three months, and that means original cocktails every three months. But I don’t think there’s any one menu item that particularly stands out. We like to throw some fairly obscure drinks on the menu that are often made–up of ingredients that people probably haven’t had before.

We have 470 whiskies, so that is definitely a defining feature of the bar! We’re never going to have the most extensive whisky collection in Canberra, but we want to have the most unique collection with a lot of interesting options.

A row of whisky bottles on a bar in front of shelving with other alcohol

Just a few of the 470-plus whiskys on hand at the Volstead Repeal. Photo: Volstead Repeal/Facebook.

What is your favourite or must-use ingredient when cooking?

I’m a carnivore, so I don’t eat anything except steak and beef, so I guess my must-use ingredient would be beef. I also love honey, and I make salted honey ice cream – one of my favourite things to eat.

What is Canberra’s best-kept food secret?

A lot of people still haven’t discovered Morks Restaurant [in Kingston], and I think that’s a huge miss.

READ MORE The Institutions: Morks celebrates 15 years of rebellious Thai food

What TV show or movie are you watching right now?

I’m watching three at the moment: Top Gear, Letterkenny and then – kind of embarrassingly – Blue Heelers. You’ve got a comedy, a 90s Australian cop drama and then a show about cars!

What do you wish people understood about your job?

People often ask, ‘What’s your favourite drink?’, but it’s more important to find out what their favourite drink is. My favourite drink might not be their favourite drink.

There’s time and dedication that we put into creating drinks. It’s hard to develop 10 drinks that everyone will love, so we try to have a diverse profile of drinks. But we also pick apart everything we make. Everything gets pretty heavily scrutinised. If it’s made it onto the menu, it’s been put through the wringer, and we’re confident in it.

The bar switches up its menu every few months, meaning there is always something new to try. Photo: Volstead Repeal/Facebook.

What is your comfort food?

My comfort food is probably yoghurt and honey. You mix them. It’s normally my dessert.

Where do you dine out for special occasions?

To eat, I love going out to eat at Morks Restaurant in Kingston. They’re one of my favourites. The food is really great there – but my favourite was the dinner beef short ribs.

I don’t really go out to drink much, but if I do, it’d be Bar Rochford in Civic or here at Volstead Repeal.

An easy one to finish – what’s your go-to coffee order?

A strong flat white on full cream milk.

Volstead Repeal is located at Shop 7, 32 Mort Street in Braddon, and is open seven days from 5 pm.

Original Article published by Claire Sams on Riotact.

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