How Now & Then’s Bertie Boekemann took out the Unexpected Cartron Tour cocktail competition

Advice on winning cocktail comps, the crème de la crème way.

How Now & Then’s Bertie Boekemann took out the Unexpected Cartron Tour cocktail competition
Bertie Boekemann winning the Unexpected Cartron Tour cocktail comp. Photo: Samantha Wooller
In partnership with Unexpected Cartron Tour
In partnership with Unexpected Cartron Tour

On day one of the Bartenders’ Weekender in Brisbane last month, we kicked things off with the national final of the Unexpected Cartron Tour cocktail competition. I mean, what better way to start a three day bartending festival, right?

Throughout April and May, bartenders from around Australia were invited to create a cocktail — with an unexpected element — that would impress and gain them entry into the national final. We then had seven amazing competitors fly into Brisbane from around the country to compete: Albert Rust (The Waratah, Sydney); Bertie Boekemann (Now & Then, Sydney); Georgie Gresham (Maker, Brisbane); Jonathan Tsang (W Churchill, Perth); Jenna Hemsworth (Real Good Drinks, Sydney); Judith Zhu, (Door Knock., Sydney); and Tibo Menut (Eau de Vie, Melbourne).

They got together at The Gresham — one of the country’s most beautiful bar rooms, if you ask us — to battle it out to see who among them would win a trip to France and to the home of Joseph Cartron in Burgundy.

And a packed room cheered them on, as they put up some great drinks for the judges, James Irvine (Merivale creative cocktail lead), Quinton Zerr (pastry chef, Four Seasons), and Louis-Aimery Raab (Joseph Cartron Export Manager for Asia – Oceania).

Photo: Samantha Wooller
Photo: Samantha Wooller

But one drink and presentation stood out above the rest: that of Bertie Boekemann from Now & Then in Sydney. Bertie’s unexpected element was a cassis-flavoured fizz tablet which — not unlike a Berocca tablet — bubbled up on contact with the rest of the drink.

Bertie Boekemann. Photo: Samantha Wooller
Bertie Boekemann. Photo: Samantha Wooller

In second place was Tibo Menut from Eau de Vie in Melbourne, and taking out third was Georgie Gresham from Maker in Brisbane.

Now that the dust from the Bartenders’ Weekender has settled, we spoke to the winning Bertie to get some tips on how to approach cocktail comps, and how he got his win in the books.

How does it feel to have come away with the win?

I’m absolutely chuffed, it was such a talented group of finalists and to walk away with the win on my first live judging round is pretty special.

How did you approach the Unexpected element for the comp?

The main thing for me was that I wanted it to be fun, both to make and to drink. There’s a photo somewhere of one of the judges eyes lighting up after they took a sip and that kind of enjoyment is exactly what I’m looking for when I make drinks.

Let’s set the table a little: what’s your bartending origin story — how did you get to Now & Then?

I started out waiting tables when I was 17 and eventually ended up moving behind the bar at The Swinging Cat at the end of 2019. After that I managed the bar at Stitch Bar and About Time, and ran Meraki Arts Bar until its closure last year.

Can you talk about Now & Then — what’s the idea with the bar for those who haven’t been there yet?

We’re a seasonal cocktail and wine bar that mixes old school nostalgia with modernity across a two sided menu. It’s a really fun concept to get creative with.

What was it like getting up and presenting in front of a room of your peers at The Gresham?

Honestly, pretty nerve wrecking, I’ve always been nervous in front of people I know more than I am with strangers. On the flip side, it’s pretty amazing that we work in an industry that lets us fly to other cities and do this sort of thing.
Big thanks to everyone who was involved in the competition and the Bartenders’ Weekender as a whole.

Do you have any tips for others competing in cocktail comps when it comes to presentation?

Know the brand and have a clear idea about what your drink is trying to accomplish. Make sure the brand is at the forefront of your concept, less is more and remember to be clear and succinct when presenting.

Other than that, just try to relax and enjoy yourself. I know it sounds cliche but if you’re stressed out and anxious it’s really hard for anyone watching you to enjoy your presentation.

You’re off to France for the global final next — how are you feeling about that? Have you been before?

I’m still pinching myself, I’m so excited to see behind the scenes at Cartron and compete with the other national winners next year. I’ve been to France before but never to Burgundy and it’s somewhere I’ve always want to visit. There’s also talk of me doing some guest shifts around Europe which would be so cool if it ends up happening!

Bertie's Forward Thinking. Photo: Samantha Wooller
Bertie's Forward Thinking. Photo: Samantha Wooller

Forward Thinking


  • 30ml pisco quebranta
  • 20ml Joseph Cartron Apricot brandy
  • 30ml lemon
  • 15ml sugar
  • 20ml egg whites


  1. Dry then wet shake
  2. Fine strain into small collins glass
  3. Garnish with a pepperberry sugar Sprinkle. Serve with home made effervescent cassis tablet on the side.
  4. When serving, drop tablet into drink and stir to kick start chemical reaction. The drink should expand and change colour and flavour.

For the cassis tablet:

  • 60g bicarbonate soda
  • 50g citric acid
  • 10g malic acid
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 30ml Joseph Cartron Double Creme de Cassis

Wearing gloves, pour icing sugar into a medium sized mixing bowl and add creme de cassis one drop at a time, mixing through/incorporating cassis into the sugar.