Smoke-filled bubbles gently domed atop a glass, decorative rubber ducks, and creamy cocktails served in a chocolate easter egg cup: you name it, a Perth bar has tried it.
The likes of dissolving fairy floss add no more to your cocktail than a lick of simple syrup would. Still, we live in an increasingly Instagram-driven world where not even the humble libation receives immunity. There’s nothing inherently wrong with speaking to alternate audiences via visual appeal, but all the extra fluff isn’t exactly catnip for the genuine liquor appreciator. Things like a 600-bottle strong back bar — and knowledgeable staff who’ll happily discuss the origins of a tipple — are.
Not all bars can offer the latter, but there’s a cosy, pub-side bar in Fremantle that does.
A dedication to a damn good drink is something that Odd Fellow bar owner, Garry Gosatti, prides himself on. “We’re not presenting ourselves as a cocktail bar. This is a spirit bar,” he says, confidently acknowledging his place in the Fremantle hospitality scene. “So, if you’re just out for water, lime, and a soda at a pub or a bar, you do that. And, if you’re cocktailing up — whether you’re down at Republic of Fremantle or one of the other cool bars — they all have their place.” When it comes to drinking a fine quality spirit, that’s where the Odd Fellow shines.
It wasn’t Gosatti’s intention to have the city’s biggest selection of spirits, but rather the result of staff with a genuine interest and the space and availability to grow. “The bar downstairs originally only held 200 spirits,” Says Gosatti. “By bringing [the bar] upstairs, and with the space I had available, we’ve now got over 600 spirits on the shelves. If you create the space, then you fill it. It also gave us the opportunity to explore the world of spirits much deeper. So, in a way, opening up the space became a catalyst to us going deeper and broader in what we were already doing; it sort of fed itself, to a degree.”
Originally occupying the space beneath the Norfolk Hotel, the live music venue very much played to the dive bar aesthetic. When it moved upstairs in 2019, a shake-up was in order. “I found over time, that hard liquor and the original music scene weren’t always in sync”, says Gosatti, who decided to ditch the music in favour of focusing on what he knew well: spirits.
Behind the bar, there’s a library of bottles, metres wide and stacked from benchtop to ceiling, brandy to bourbon. It’s an impressive sight, the focal point of the classically-styled bar. For all its old-world details — the panelled timber bar and the ornate ceiling roses — the Odd Fellow still feels modern, freshened up with deep teal walls and a fun foliage-papered feature wall.
Consider its drinks list much like its appearance: classic but with a modern twist. You’ll find your Don Julio 1942 Añejos and Glenfiddich – Rare Collection 40-year-olds, but also the likes of a contemporary Four Pillars Olive Leaf gin. And, while the Odd Fellow isn’t pegged as a cocktail bar, there’s still a short and snappy list. It’s free of gimmicky garnishes and oodles of fruit juice and, instead, spotlights the fine liquors in the bar’s collection. But that’s not the absolute limit of their service. The bartenders will happily make you ‘that cocktail you had by the pool in Mauritius that one time’ — it’s clearly stated at the bottom of the menu.
Drinks are only half of what makes this place a liquor lover’s haven, with Gosatti carefully selecting staff who share his values and passion for a damn good beverage. At the Odd Fellow, “there’s that one-on-one with the bartender who can tell you exactly what you’re drinking, where it’s come from, and what’s been put in it,” he says. “It’s not just about the drink; it’s about the experience you have around that. To me, it feels like a place where you can sit down and you can immerse yourself in the story of whatever it is you’re drinking. It’s cosy, and there’s that conversation there.”
There’s a time and a place for visually-driven cocktails, just as there’s a time and a place for a nip of neat whisky. Gosatti knows his niche and happily promotes the services of other venues around town in tandem with his own. “If you’re having dinner at Emily Taylor, Neuiw Ruin, or any of those great new bars, after dinner, you can, with confidence, head towards the Odd Fellow and finish your night off. So we actually say, “start your night in Freo, and let’s finish it up the Odd”.”