Coffee, gin and pugs: How Sly Fox has captured the heart of Canberra | HerCanberra

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Coffee, gin and pugs: How Sly Fox has captured the heart of Canberra

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What does a busy bike path in O’Connor, coffee and two adorable pugs named Pudding and Pedro have in common?

All found at Sly Fox Coffee, Canberra’s own pop-up bike path cafe, they have captured the heart of the city and become a familiar local attraction.

Known for good coffee, pancake breakfasts and the convenient location of North Canberra’s busiest bike path, Sly Fox has been feeding Canberrans’ ever-increasing coffee addiction since 2013. But founder and barista Patrick Dillon says Sly Fox began completely by accident after he made the decision to purchase a coffee machine at auction for $100.

“We originally set up on Mount Ainslie and there was a guy selling ice cream,” says Patrick. “He dobbed us in to the Government because we didn’t have a hawker’s licence.”

“We found out you could get these permits to trade in public places in Canberra.”


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With past experience working as a lab technician, Patrick quickly investigated what he would need to do as he thought that making coffee would be a good way to try something new.

“I just wanted to try something that wasn’t monotonous,” he says. “I came across the bike path completely by accident….If you ride against the traffic you know how busy it is, all the bike paths converge in that one location.”

“It’s a beautiful spot. We think of it as the most educated bike path in the world, because all of the ANU students are always riding across it.”


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Eight years later, Patrick is still shocked at how iconic Sly Fox, his pugs and the bike path has become.

“It’s a part of my identity as well. I met my wife there and we got married there, there is something magical about it,” he says.


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While he still loves grinding beans for caffeine-starved cyclists, Patrick has recently added a new title to his resume: distiller of rum, gin and absinthe.

Experimenting with distilling alcohol for over 11 years, Patrick decided to launch Poncho Fox Distillery in late 2020.

“Mid-pandemic I realised there weren’t going to be many events for a long time,” says Patrick.

“The Canberra Distillery is a really big inspiration because they got their backyard approved as a licensed distillery…because they had already set the precedent it was quite easy to get the paperwork in line.”

Working out of his shed (which is also fully licensed), Poncho Fox Distillery uses a combination of scientific and traditional methods along with locally foraged herbs and spices, creating a unique batch every two to three weeks.

Available at the Melba IGA and the Prohibition Bottle Shop in Kingston, Patrick says that business has been going well as he ships bottles all over the world.

After living in Sydney and London, working his way around the nation’s capital and raising three children side by side with his coffee cart, Patrick says there’s just something magical about Canberra’s sense of community.

“It’s just an incredible community, I think it’s one of the best in Canberra. I think it’s amazing, it just keeps getting better and better.”

Visit the Sly Fox Coffee Facebook page or Instagram to find out when Patrick, Pudding and Pedro will next be on the bike path.

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