'All we knew was how to have a party.' Sebastian Soto on opening  bars in Sydney

The Ramblin Rascal Tavern and Double Deuce Lounge co-owner talks about opening bars in Sydney, how he's changed, and what makes a good bartender.

Owning a bar business changes you, says Sebastian Soto. "Running a small business — two small businesses — it’s tough work. It’s really hard," he says.

But for the co-owner of Sydney bars Ramblin' Rascal Tavern and Double Deuce Lounge, the change isn't negative.

"I think I really blossomed into who am, I’m getting older — I’m more confident and easy in my own skin," Soto says.

With Ramblin' Rascal Tavern being a favourite of bartenders around the country, and Double Deuce Lounge producing some of Australia's best cocktails, Soto and fellow owners Charlie Lehmann and Dardan Shervashidhze have been there and played their part in the blooming of the Sydney bar scene over the last decade.

In the video here and the full interview below — lightly edited and condensed for clarity — Soto talks to us about what it's like to open bars in Sydney, what he looks for in a bartender, and whether or not the bar business is all it's cracked up to be.

Tell us about Double Deuce Lounge.

Double Deuce has been around for two years now, it’s our second bar with the Rascals guys, so it’s Charlie Lehmann, Dardan and I.

It’s our second venture. We found this place, and it was kind of small, and we were like, okay, let’s put a little cocktail lounge in there.

The bar’s all about a 70s aesthetic; the idea was to do a bar that you would go to with the cast and crew when you finish on the set of a porno in the 70s. That’s kinds of the idea — I took a lot of inspiration from movies and shows.

The focus here is cocktails, right?

Correct.

Your approach to cocktails — how would you describe that?

Our approach to cocktails is that I hired Oliver Churcher, he’s the man and he’s great. The idea was to have some fun with it, not make it too serious, but still have really good quality. It’s evolved 70s drinks.

Ramblin' Rascal Tavern is how old?

Rascal is seven years old.

Before that you were at The Baxter Inn for a long time. Who were you back then, and who are you now? How have you changed?

I was a bit more happy go lucky, but that might be a bit more of the time and the age. Also, running a small business — two small businesses — it’s tough work. It’s really hard.

And you know, age and attrition as well.

I think I really blossomed into who am, I’m getting older — I’m more confident and easy in my own skin.

Because you’ve got two bars in Sydney, what’s it like running a bar in this town, trying to open a small, owner-operator joint?

It’s some work, yeah. It’s not super easy, although I think we’ve had a lot of luck along the way, definitely. When we opened Rascals we were just three bartenders with no idea. We had no idea about money, we had no idea about [anything], all  we knew was how to have a party and make some drinks and somehow that worked, people liked that.

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