Introducing The Rook’s Rollo Anderson


Name: Rollo Anderson
Venue: The Rook
Address: 56-58 York Street, Sydney

As told to Sam Bygrave

Rollo Anderson has been bartending at The Rook for two years now, joining just after the Sydney gin bar opened. We’ve been enjoying his drinks — and the banter ­— ever since, so we thought it was time to get him out from behind the bar for a chat.

My first job out of high school was in a wine shop, and I did that for a couple of years, moved around to a couple of different ones and then in a little one in Erskineville.


I was mates with the bar next door called The Hive Bar. It’s an awesome little community-like record bar. Everyone that was there was there because they loved it. By no stretch were we a high-falutin’ cocktail bar — I mean we made great cocktails, and the people loved them, but that came out organically just by virtue of the people that worked there.

Then I worked at The Midnight Special — really cool, rock and roll bar. Just that kind of black and white lino floor, nice timer, red lanterns. They opened that right at the cusp of that Americana obsession that feels a bit flooded now.

I moved to a little bar in Newtown called Jester Seeds. And that was opened by this young, crazy Indonesian dude, who was tripping acid. Absolute nutter. It was absolute madness. Imagine having this cocktail list, writing it all out, having it done, putting specials up on the wall, and then the owner just didn’t buy booze that week. He just didn’t buy spirits.

That was where I learned how to keep people happy when you have almost nothing to offer them. All you’ve got is you can crack a beer with them and have a chat with them.

I don’t want to put on suspenders and a bow time every night. Yeah it’s fun, but I don’t want to wear that every single night.

I started as a bartender at The Rook. I learnt more in the first three months working with Cristiano [Beretta] than I learnt in the entire time before. He’s incredibly knowledgeable even though he is a total psychopath, he’s so patient when it comes to teaching. He wants to impart his OCD on to you.
Things like always stabbing an ice scoop in the ice rather than on the ice or near the ice — sure it makes a lot of sense, but you’d be surprised how many bars don’t do it.

My biggest passion is music. Playing in bands — my friends and I started a record label years ago, I grew up playing piano and guitar and trumpet.

What I love so much about working behind a bar is working with people, and that’s just like playing in a band. It’s high pressure, you do it right now and you’ve got to do it right – in a way you are on stage, and a lot of shit can go wrong at any time. When you’re playing in a band on stage, you keep picturing this one foot knocking the power plug out and the show stopping. It can’t happen. And working in a bar on a fucking Friday night making cocktails — if we run out of ice, this show is over.

Diving in the ocean gets rid of a hangover faster than anything known to man. You feel like a million bucks again.

You’ve always got to make time for various passions, otherwise you do get tunnel vision. You have to make time to be out in the world just to enjoy hospitality, otherwise all you can think about is the stuff in your venue, the stuff going on behind your bar.

There aren’t any losers. People come in, and if you do your job right, they have an absolute blast, taste shit they haven’t tasted before, eat stuff they haven’t eaten before, have great chat, and pay their money because they have a great time; you have a great time, you create stuff, you get paid — everyone is happy, everyone wins, and it’s fun. It’s a serious job, but it really is about good times.

Good lighting! You can tell by the lighting how long [a new venue] will last. Will you turn the lights down? There is a formula. If we were mathematicians we would be far richer right now with this one formula. We’d be consultants and go round to places, put a dimmer in and go: that’s your level. Leave it at that. Pay me.


The Antidote

45ml blanco tequila (peppery, bitey blanco)
20ml orgeat
15ml Cherry Heering
15ml fresh lime juice
Bokers Bitters

Shake the shit out of it, single strain into the glass on ice.

Adapted from a recipe by Rollo Anderson.

“Generally I always go for really complex stuff. Cristiano just kept saying, make it simple, make it simple. The stuff I was playing with wasn’t working. I retained the core ingedients I was working with, and went back to why they were working together and just stuck with that. Once I found the right bitters — bang, it just worked. Anyone can enjoy it.
“The idea is you’ve been bitten in the jungle; you wake up, there’s this withc doctor standing over you, he pulls a leaf of a tree, and hands this drink to you. And because I feel tequila can cure any ailment, pretty much.”

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