BE afraid, be very afraid.
The secrets held by the walls of some of Queenstown’s most popular bars may have been spilled in a new book written by a former Queenstown barman – inspired by what he described as “working in a sitcom, or a dark and twisted soap opera”.
Dan Miles spent five years living in the resort after coming for a two week holiday and quickly picked up work in the hospitality industry.
Working his way around Queenstown and Arrowtown at bars including The Blue Door, The Bunker, 12 Bar (now The Club) and
Eichardt’s, Miles said he started “making notes” in 2007.
“If you work behind a bar long enough you see some wonders – the very best and worst of people, often in the very same night.
“Bartenders in Queenstown are a particularly close-knit bunch … I’ve now worked all over the world and I can honestly say that I have never seen such a concentration of outrageous behaviour as I did in my time in Queenstown, and that’s just from the bosses.
“Add to the mix hundreds of people from a dozen countries, away from home mostly for the first time, stir in near unlimited alcohol and garnish with a little sexual intrigue and a dusting of scandal and there was nowhere else I could have imagined setting it [the book].
“I think it’s the most influential place I’ve ever lived and I still miss it, though I’m not sure they’ll ever let me back after this.”
Miles and fellow mixologist Jason Clark, the former owner of Debajo, were the first Queenstown bartenders selected to represent New Zealand in the 2008 Cocktail World Cup, which led Miles to leave Queenstown to work in Shanghai, Panama and the United States before returning to London to run some of the city’s best hotspots.
After winning the Evening Standard’s London’s Best Bar Award, Miles said he decided to duck out of hospitality and began writing a comic blog – bezerkskrakenhaus.com – talking about what he’d seen at the “pointy end” of a night out.
Within a week it had been picked up by the US edition of the Huffington Post, leading to a column examining the world’s greatest, strangest and most bizarre things to drink.
In the interim, Miles finished Filthy Still: A tale of travel, sex and perfectly made cocktails.
But it was rejected from every major publishing house and always for the same reason.
“They felt there wasn’t an interest in what they called ‘bartender fiction’ or ‘material that features excessive drinking and lewd behaviour’.
Miles said he also disagreed with publishers who thought Queenstown was “too small a setting for a mainstream novel”.
“When it was finally picked up in 2012 the deal then fell through because they wanted me to move the setting to London or bizarrely, Prague – a city I’ve never set foot in.
“Finally my editor got involved in his own time and pushed it forward, and we agreed to publish it as an E-edition to prove that there really was interest in the subject and setting.
“So far we feel pretty vindicated, as it’s becoming quite the cult hit amongst bartenders and beyond.”
An Eichardt’s tradition on a quiet night – telling a story using cocktail names – was the inspiration behind each chapter beginning with a cocktail recipe.
“A journalist last week referred to me as an ‘alcoholic Bridget Jones’, which is odd as I thought Bridget Jones was the alcoholic Bridget Jones.”
Miles said the reaction to his “completely and utterly fictional” characters and the insanity and debauchery of their world had led him to begin work on the second part in the series, as well as starting discussions with a TV producer.
The book was released late last month and is available for download at www.amazon.com.