Gary ‘gaz’ Regan passed away on Saturday morning.
The word legend gets bandied around regularly these days but gaz was undoubtably one in the truest sense of the word. This will be one of dozens, if not hundreds, of articles as a result of this exceptionally sad news.
If I’m honest this article exists for mainly selfish reasons. It is an article I need to write, it’s cathartic, it is for my friend gaz. So here goes:
Gaz Regan was a wanker.
He was the nicest, kindest and funniest wanker I knew in this industry of ours and I was extremely proud to call him a friend.
According to social media I am by no means not the only one to appreciate his friendship, this has not come as a surprise.
Many stories will tell of the Joy Of Mixology, a book that inspired many bartenders, they will talk about his love of Negroni’s and his somewhat strange obsession with sticking his finger in them, others will focus on his mindful bartending obsession and Cocktails In The Country. All of these are amazing legacies (apart from that weird finger thing) and any one of them would be a fantastic achievement for one person. For me, it isn’t about that.
For me, gaz’s legacy is him. It is how he was with people, how he made them feel when he spoke to them. In a time when some take the hospitality industry and the job of making drinks so seriously, about balancing 8 different bitters in a drink whilst telling you about the terroir of the Kummel that they are using as a spritz. Gaz was about bartending. About making the customer feel great. About the experience of being in a bar.
I first met Gary 15 or so years ago, before he realised he could shave 25% of his signature signing time by changing his name to gaz. I was part of the team running the Sydney Bar Show and gaz was our headline speaker.
We’d had previous headline speakers from overseas who had been at various levels of diva-ish. Gaz arrived at the show during set-up day to check out the stage and bar he would be ‘performing’ from. I knew the deal, they turn up, they bitch and moan that the bar spoon is the wrong length and the soda is too fizzy and fuck off in a grump.
Not gaz. He had a quick look around, introduced himself to every single member of the team, smiled and seemed happy. Then he asked me something I wasn’t prepared for ‘What can I do to help?’
He was our guest so obviously I suggested we had it covered and he could go and have a drink at one of Sydney’s many amazing bars. Off I went to check on something and when I returned 10 minutes later there was gaz polishing the glassware. He stayed until everyone, including the always late AV team were done.
‘Fancy a drink?’ I said. ‘Sure, know anywhere that does a really good pint?’. I could have hugged him (I may have hugged him). We later went to the parties mainly in his honour and drank cocktails as he worked the room but not before we’d had a couple of beers and talked crap (although I failed to find him somewhere that would do a bag of crisps with a pickled egg in it – sorry mate).
Over the years we met up whenever we were in the same town but it was the times we spent in Cognac with the G’Vine Gin crew that were always special. It was the time of the day when he applied the eyeliner to just one eye that you knew it was going to be a fun night, cheeky gaz was out for the evening and with a bit of luck you’d get a rude song or limerick to entertain you.
It was also in Cognac that I first met his wife-to-be Amy. To put up with gaz you have to be a special type of person and Amy is definitely that. He once told me that the best thing he’d ever done in his life was meeting (and more importantly keeping) Amy, for once I had to agree with the old twat.
To know I’m not going to get another message from him calling me a word I can’t use here in case my mum reads this is exceptionally strange. I can not imagine how Amy is feeling.
According to Amy, thanks to gaz signing up to be an organ donor he was able to give sight to two people. I just hope at least one of them wears eyeliner when they’re having a big night, he’d get a giggle out of that.
If you have read this do me a favour. Tonight spend a bit of extra time with a customer. Talk to them. Not about cocktails or spirits (unless that’s their bag). About them, make them smile, if you can manage it make them laugh. The world is a worse place without gaz around but if we all do that it will go some way to making it better.
Cheers gaz, you wanker.