Pavement Whispers: four Brisbane bartenders are launching The 86 Club, an 80s-inspired party night serving riffs on the era's classics

Pavement Whispers: four Brisbane bartenders are launching The 86 Club, an 80s-inspired party night serving riffs on the era’s classics

The 80s is fondly remembered for a lot of things – from power suits and high-waisted denim to new wave and glam metal. The cocktails of the era are less well regarded. Sure, drinks such as the piña colada and the Amaretto sour, both of which were in vogue during the 80s, remain popular today. But can the same be said of the Sex On The Beach or Blue Lagoon? Ask for one of those on a night out and your bartender might raise an eyebrow, but not at The 86 Club – a brand-new club night kicking off next month that sees some of Brisbane’s best bar talent taking a trip back in time to the 80s.

On Sunday May 7, Black Bear Lodge in The Valley will be transformed into a colourful time capsule. It’ll still be a bar, of course – but the cocktail menu will look markedly different. The 86 Club, a pop-up concept conceived by hot-shot bartenders Liam Murphy and Martin McConnell of Frog’s Hollow Saloon, Andie Bulley of Savile Row and Blade Deegan of The Gresham, is flipping back the clock a few decades and showcasing the drinks popularised in the era of big shoulder pads and even bigger hair. United by a fondness for retro sensibilities and an urge to try something different, the four-strong crew is digging deep into the theme, exploring the cocktail culture of the 80s and putting a contemporary spin on a collection of the most iconic drinks of the decade. “We’ve all come from finer-styled bars,” says Martin. “Leaning more into something that’s really fun and easygoing is something that we’re all interested in.” The project is also giving the crew the chance to imprint their personal tastes onto a concept of their own making, propelled by their combined skillset and creative ideas. “I think this was a bit of a thing that we wanted to do for ourselves,” adds Liam, when discussing the intent behind The 86 Club. “We’re trying to see where we can sort of take it – how far can we go with it?”

The group makes no secret that the 80s is a period of fascination for the group and the cocktails – commonly creamy, colourful and creatively presented – offer a unique opportunity for reinvention. “It’s an era that’s kind of seen as quite a grim one for cocktails, because people think of powdered sour mix, orange juice and sexual innuendos,” says Martin. “To flip that and make things better and actually taste good is a nice challenge.” The 86 Club cocktail menu will feature five quintessential 80s cocktails that have all been tweaked and modified. Though the group is keeping tight-lipped on how these changes will manifest, they’ve confirmed which concoctions will get the 86 Club treatment during its inaugural event. “It’s gonna be a Shandy, a Miami Vice (a piña colada topped with a strawberry daiquiri), a flip between a Jungle Bird and a Japanese Slipper, a Purple Rain – which is a funky tequila number – and then a Sex On The Beach,” reveals Martin. “The general approach is that they’ll have some more complex techniques, but with a focus on simplicity.” The team is also working with leading booze brands such as Bacardi, Bombay Sapphire, Grey Goose, Patron, Marionette and Range Brewing to make the menu a reality. In addition to the drinks, local DJ collective QUIVR will be keeping the dance floor alive with a soundtrack of era-appropriate house and disco tunes – an atmosphere that The 86 Club crew hopes will attract not just the hospitality crowd, but party-loving punters of all kinds. “The idea is that everyone can walk in on the night and not worry about work the next day or if they’ve had a bad night,” says Liam. “Just come and have a bit of fun.”

The 86 Club will take over Black Bear Lodge on Sunday May 7. Head to the pop-up’s Facebook event for more information.

Image supplied by The 86 Club, shot by Max MacInnes

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