At The Bar with Dan Mason – Co-Owner Henry Sugar & Henry Home in Carlton North

Dan Mason might have spent time behind the bar at some of Melbourne’s most famous venues such as Joe Taylor, Cookie and Toff in Town, but now as co-owner of Carlton North’s Henry Sugar, he maps the cocktail and wine list that swerves from the dirty martini kind to minimal intervention wines and small-scale breweries.

He talks to The Write Drop about moving to Melbourne 10 years ago, drinking Chilean wine and why it rules his palate, and reveals a now defunct bar that stole his heart in Brisbane.


I’ve been living in Melbourne over 10 years, and from the first day I arrived, it has felt like home. My partner and I spent some time in Germany before moving here for her work, and as much as I love that country, there’s an ease to life and a relaxed friendliness here you don’t see in many parts of the world. I remember looking at my Maps app on our first day in Melbourne, and someone came up and asked if we needed help looking for somewhere. I don’t think anyone had offered help without asking the whole time we were in Europe. We’ve made our home in Brunswick, while not the most beautiful, there’s an amazing mix of cultures and people and it’s been wild watching the suburb change in the short time we’ve been here.


A dish that will stick with me and I might never replicate, or experience similarly again was a meal we had in Hanoi in Vietnam. I have no idea the name of the restaurant, but it was a Banh Xeo, which is a savoury fried pancake folded over and filled, usually with bean shoots and prawns. This one was filled with charred prawn heads and was one of the most pungently delicious and texturally interesting dishes I’ve eaten.


Bit of a weird one, but it was Salon in Brisbane (long closed now). As a young, passionate and inexperienced bartender I took a bar manager role there after some previous staff shenanigans had gone down and was dumped into a small venue with a list of about 150 drinks, no recipes, and a lot of crazy techniques required to achieve what was described in the menu. It really embedded my love for creating drinks and forced me to spend every waking moment researching, learning, and experimenting. While these days the drinks I make are restrained in comparison, it was a great exercise in pushing flavour combinations (perhaps too far sometimes).


Maybe an overly reductive old, wooded chardonnay. A bit shy and quiet at first but once warmed up then it’s all go!


I’m a big believer in hair of the dog. Get some hydration and follow it up with a shot of something and a beer! Let’s be honest, sleep is the only thing that really works but who has time for that?


My tastes change as fast as the weather in spring. I think right now, I’m really digging the Las Fermentadas Semimaduro, a beautifully textured skin contact Sémillon dominant wine from Itata Valley Region in Chile. It’s one of the releases from a project overseen by Alice L’Estrange, a Melbourne expat who’s making really interesting, naturalzero so2 wines in Chile. The Las Fermentadas label was setup to help women get their start in the wine industry in a country with very ‘traditional’ values. She’s doing amazing work, and the wines really speak to that.


I love the absolute madness that is Konpira Maru Wine Company. When people talk about lo-fi winemaking, I never would have expected to see open top fermenters, sitting under a tree with a tarp draped loosely to keep the rain out (big development – they have a shed now!). They work with grapes from all over (including QLD), but are farming an absolutely stunning site high up in Whitfield near the King Valley. The wines are wild. Al’s lengthy mailing list ramblings are gold, and they seem to be a single broken bottle away from mental breakdown.


This might be a cop-out answer, but there’s so many new young winemakers and labels popping up in Victoria that are doing awesome, interesting things with grapes. It’s exciting seeing new producers focusing on additive- and sulphur-free wines, producing lower alcohol, clean and delicious booze. I absolutely cannot polish off 2 bottles of anything over 13%, so keep those ABV’s dropping guys!


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