Venue: The Victoria Room
Address: Level 1, 235 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst Sydney
Phone: 02 9357 4488
Placing in this year’s Top 11 at the Bartender of the Year Competition (sponsored by Reserve), Jessica Arnott is showcasing some fantastic bartending talent. You’ll find her at Sydney’s Victoria Room, the British-Raj inspired cocktail temple, where she’ll turn out quality drinks and fine chat with regulation ease if you drop in on a Friday night.
How long have you been bartending?
“Around 5 years now.”
Before you were bartending what were you doing with yourself?
“Working towards bartending! I started in cafes and then got a job running food, and eventually waiting tables, at Bayswater Brasserie, so it’s all been leading up to this really.”
What is your proudest moment behind the bar?
“Making the Top 11 for the Bartender of the Year Competition (sponsored by Reserve) this year. When I found out about Top 11 I jumped up and down and squealed like a little girl.”
And most embarrassing?
“Probably my first week of bartending when someone asked for this hideous concoction of banana liqueur, Baileys, cacao and cream and I put too much into one tin – I wore the whole thing. Throw into it the two lesbian customers making crude jokes about licking it off and I was horrified!”
How do you prepare yourself for success in a cocktail competition?
“Make sure you have everything, and quadruple check it. Make sure you’ve got some banter and trying to stay relaxed too.”
Where have you worked previously?
“Bayswater Brasserie and Victoria Room (both Sydney) and at Match Bar and The Verge in London.”
What’s your advice for an aspiring bartender?
“Work hard, spend as many hours behind the stick as you possibly can and most importantly be humble – you’re not a rock-star.”
Are there any other female bartenders in Australia that are doing good things at the moment?
“Krystal Hart from Canvas (Brisbane) is absolutely rocking it – she killed World Class last year.”
How do you get the best out of your team at the Victoria Room?
“Keeping it fun, but still having a really high expectations of them. The bar is set pretty high at the VR.”
What’s been your favourite bar to work in?
“I loved the Verge in London, all the locals were in everyday and ended up being my mates. And of course the Victoria Room, it’s like my home now.”
What’s your favourite bar gadget?
“I was fortunate enough to go tool shopping with Ueno San in Tokyo earlier this year, and Japanese jiggers are the absolute bomb.”
What’s your favourite movie?
“Amélie is still a favourite.”
What’s your favourite song?
“Depends where I am and what I’m doing but Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground by The White Stripes is probably up there though.”
What’s your favourite sport?
“Basically unless you count drinking as a sport I don’t have one. I think my coordination can be summed up by an old nickname of mine ‘Captain Incompetence’…”
Can you tell us some of your favourite bars to visit?
“Having Eau de Vie as your local is pretty handy. Low 302 and Shady Pines and of course the Black Pearl in Melbourne. High Five (Tokyo) and in New York, a little Tiki bar called Otto’s Shrunken Head where you can get your frozen Pina Colada in a tiki mug that you can keep for 5 bucks!”
This month’s feature is gin – any favourite gin tipples that you’re partial to?
“I love gin, put a Hanky Panky in front of me any time of day or night and I’m a happy, happy, girl.”
What do you drink to…
Unwind after a long shift?
“A cider and a shot of rum. Or a Fernet Branca and cola if there’s one in reach.”
Impress a man?
“To be honest, my drinking habits intimidate most men who aren’t bartenders! I think sipping on a good Scotch has proved pretty impressing in the past.”
If you could have a superhuman power what would it be – why?
“I’ve always wanted that thing from Bewitched where you just wiggle your nose and go anywhere! Plus she could pretty much do anything with that nose wiggle couldn’t she?”
If you were to be something other than a bartender, what would it be and why?
“I’d probably be in the film industry, my whole family is and I always thought as a kid that’s what I would do.”
Who’s your hero?
“I suppose if I could meet somewhere halfway between Betty Paige and Ada Coleman I’d be happy..”
What products do you think will be popular over the coming year?
“Mezcal is a product we’re going to see on a lot more menus. Some great brands are imported now hopefully customers will start to recognise it as a quality product, rather than that tequila with the worm.”
Last drink ever – what would it be?
“Sweet rum Manhattan, lots of bitters and discard the twist.”
What’s your favourite cocktail?
This drink was first made for me by Evan Stanley at The Black Pearl (Melbourne).
- 40mL Tequila
- 20mL Apricot Brandy
- 20mL Lime juice.
Shake and strain into a cocktail glass.
*W.J. Tarling’s Cafe Royal Cocktail Book 1937