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Food, Inside Story

Fred Siggins and the Empire of Dreams

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Cocktail lover? Then rock up to the Black Pearl in Fitzroy and check out bartender Fred Siggins Melbourne-themed entry in a global cocktail competition.

The drink is the Empire of Dreams – a tropical number with a dark Melbourne edge that sees Bacardi rum, pineapple juice, apricot, almond and lime shaken with coffee beans and served straight up. This is enigmatic Fred's entry into the Bacardi Legacy global competition to create a new classic – a modern Martini, Manhattan or Old Fashioned for Melbourne – because Melbourne’s current claim to fame is the ‘80s club hero the Japanese Slipper, and as both a cocktail nerd and a Melburnian who’s deeply proud of our position as global champions of good booze, he thinks we can do better.

Fred Siggins ­– a bartender at the Black Pearl in Fitzroy– wants us to come to his bar, try the drink and should you think it worthy, spread the good word "like a disciple of booze". 

Fred has created a photo gallery featuring himself and his drink on various forms of transport around Victoria to communicate the theme of travel and cultural diffusion. So far he's mounted a horse, stood in the sea, ridden a tractor and hiked through the Ottways with the Empire of Dreams (in a blazer, of course)

Check out Fred's Instagram or FaceBook page to see what he's been up to so far. 

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Empire of Dreams is a story of cultural collision. Paying homage to the tropical foundation of Australia and the Caribbean Islands but with a bitter, earthy kick from fresh espresso beans to reflect the cafe culture of Melbourne and New York, my two favourite cities, both made luminous by our immigrant populations, whose stories, while often born of bitterness, resolve here on distant shores. Empire of Dreams is a new classic for Melbourne and the ever-shrinking world.


In 1995 a chubby little Aussie kid moved to New York. He had grown up in the heart of Melbourne's hospitality scene but was unprepared for life on the other side of the world. The boy learned from the people of New York, so proud to be American and still so proud of roots in every corner of the globe, that being an American, an Australian, a lover of life and flavour, were not mutually exclusive. Now after sixteen years in hospitality and twenty years living all over the world, I’m back in Melbourne, slinging drinks and goofy banter at Fitzroy’s Black Pearl, in the heart of the neighborhood that gave me my love of food and drink as a kid.


The Empire of Dreams is my entry into this year’s Bacardi Legacy global cocktail competition. After winning Victoria, I am one of five Australian finalists. If I win the national finals in March, I will go on to represent Australia at the global level in Russia in May. The global winner gets to spend the next year traveling the world with Bacardi being a champion of awesome rum drinks.


The coffee beans used in the Empire of Dreams are fair trade, organic beans from Nicaragua, right in the heart of Rum country. Nutty and chocolaty with low acidity – Nicaraguan beans match the other flavours in the drink perfectly. My beans come from Dimattina, a Melbourne based roaster with roots in the first wave of Italian immigration to Melbourne, which brought with it the café culture now such an integral part of our city. An Empire of Dreams of coffee.  


The Melbourne Massive, as we call our bartending community, is arguably the strongest and most loyal in the world. Despite beating many of my peers for the title of Victorian champion, my community has rallied to help get me to Russia, promoting my drink via social media and selling it in their own venues, including 1806, The Kodiak Club & Lilly Blacks. We’re out to prove that Melbourne has the best hospitality scene in the world. But we’re not just doing it for the fame and glory…

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A portion of the price of every Empire of Dreams sold at The Black Pearl will be donated to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre here in Melbourne. Without our immigrant populations, many of whom came here as refugees, we would have no hospitality scene to speak of, so I’m trying to give back a little of what I’ve gained and help people come here, stay here, and live here happily.