“It’s adapt or die in hospitality,” says Kayla Reid, Speakeasy Group's new Beverage Creative & Mentor

Plus, what to expect from the drinks at new Speakeasy Group venue, The Sanderson.

“It’s adapt or die in hospitality,” says Kayla Reid, Speakeasy Group's new Beverage Creative & Mentor

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“In essence, I make tasty liquids and I put them into cups,” says Kayla Reid. It’s a simple and humble description of her new role with the Speakeasy Group, which has the rather big title of Beverage Creative & Mentor.

But that’s Kayla for you. I’ve interviewed her a few times in the past — as in this story on Boothby — and always found her engaging, thoughtful, and full of passion for the industry and her role within it.

She cut her teeth working in Brisbane bars like Lychee Lounge, Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall, and Cobbler, before running the show at Savile Row. Kayla moved to Melbourne in 2020 to open Speakeasy Group’s new Nick & Nora’s bar; her step up to a group-wide role with the company is a sign of just how well she’s done in getting Nick & Nora’s — a high-volume cocktail bar if ever there were one — humming along.

I admire Kayla’s approach to her career. Like a lot of bartenders — perhaps like the majority of bartenders — Kayla didn’t map out her career with a five year plan and knowing where she’d be at the end of it. It’s a lot more organic than that.

“I’ve never had a proper plan, I’ve just worked really hard,” she says in this week’s Drinks At Work podcast.

Kayla’s approach, I think, can be boiled down to this: work hard, get yourself out there, and grab the opportunities when they come.

Below, I’ve got a few key takeaways from the chat, but I’d encourage you to give the full episode a listen in your podcast player of choice — Kayla’s a big talent with a wisdom many only pick up with a decade more experience than her nearly 10 years in the business.

But first, have you seen that the first annual Boothby Drink of the Year Awards are now open for entries? The big idea here is to celebrate the best drinks of the past 12 months, and the bartenders behind them — and the aim is to reward not competition drinks (there are plenty of avenues for them already) but the drinks bartenders make night in and night out in our bars. It’s for the drinks the punters love.

So if you’ve got a drink you’re proud of, please, enter it into the Drink of the Year Awards. Visit boothby.com.au/drinkoftheyear to learn more and enter your drink — entries close October 31st.

Kayla Reid photographed at Nick & Nora's last year. Photo: Boothby
Kayla Reid photographed at Nick & Nora's last year. Photo: Boothby

“You need to be uncomfortable to grow.”

Kayla is aware that cocktail competitions aren't for everyone. I've written before how they're a quirk of the bartending world in particular, but they do tend to help a bartender progress in their career. That's not just by winning the comps — as Kayla points out in this chat, she's won a few but lost many more. Rather, Kayla sees the real value in cocktail competitions being the way they encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, and get creative. Challenging yourself, she reckons, is how you grow your career. And if you feel a little uncomfortable doing it? That's even better.

There’s creative power in disagreement.

Kayla has worked closely with Speakeasy Group managing director Greg Sanderson for three years, she says, and over that time they've developed the kind of working relationship in which he respects her disagreements with him.

“We really do see eye to eye and we agree on a lot of things, but we don’t agree on a lot of things as well,” Kayla says. “And I think that’s kind of why I’ve been put into this role because he knows if I don’t really agree with something, I’m not just gonna say yeah, that’s fine.”

A little creative disagreement — conducted professionally, of course — can see a better outcome for all as long as everyone's on board with the process.

“You get back what you put in. Put the work in.”

No-one ever said hospitality was an easy job. Everyone I've spoken to for this podcast has worked hard to be where they are, and Kayla is no exception. But that hard work is easier if you really enjoy what you do — and if you don't, Kayla says, maybe there's something else out there you're more suited to.

“You have to love it,” she says. “You have to live and breathe it. And if you don’t really love it, and it’s not something that inspires you or drives you then you need to find something that does.”

Thanks for reading and listening. If you liked this email and the podcast, please help me in spreading the word about Boothby by sharing it with a friend — every little bit of support helps.

And please give the Boothby Drink of the Year Awards a look — I'm hoping to spotlight the great work our bartenders do, night in and night out, and in the process make this country such a delicious place to drink at.

We’re celebrating the best drinks of the last 12 months, and the bartenders behind them
The Boothby Drink of the Year Awards are a celebration of how we drink right now.