Funbuns manager Dave Morris took out the Outstanding Bartender category at this week's Hawke's Bay Hospitality Awards. He chats with Mark Story.

Were you surprised at scooping the title?

Oh 100 per cent, the level of bartending in the Bay is incredible, the other finalists, Johnathan and Claudia are both awesome. It was anyone's game. And the folks that didn't make the final three, you know who you are, you're great at what you do.

Hawke's Bay bars place estate wine and craft beer front and centre – where do cocktails fit into this?
I think the trends have changed, there's this myth that cocktails have to have really high volumes of alcohol, but the past few years has seen more development of low or non-alcoholic drinks. It's certainly something I enjoy doing.
And it's definitely a big part of our cocktail programme, as a team we always look to match food with our cocktails. This allows us to change it all up seasonally, why not take advantage of the fruit bowl we live in?

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Did Tom Cruise's 1988 film Cocktail harm or reinvigorate the profession?
I love this question! Bartending is totally open to personal interpretation, if you ultimately deliver a good product then why not prepare it with flair?
In saying that, my personal favourite style is certainly Japanese precision, it's incredible to watch. That to me is closer to artistry, whereas flairing is more dramatic.
I think if anything the film inspired people to see what style worked best for them.

How does bartending differ in nature outside NZ?
Realistically it's the wage difference, but it's an easy trade off for the lifestyle.
It's also the availability and quality of fresh produce and the distance Kiwi bartenders will go to put something brand new over the bar.
The guys and girls rocking the industry in this country are definitely considered to be some of the best in the world. Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch have great bar scenes, but seeing the provinces being recognised is really special.

What's the biggest myth about working behind the wood?
That it's an anti-social vocation. It's the opposite, we just keep slightly different hours to the public.
That's why the hospitality awards are so great; one night a year we can all get together and spend some time on the other side.