18th Annual Bar Awards: First woman crowned Bartender of the Year!

Jenna Hemsworth competing on stage. Photo: Chris Pearce

On a sunny spring evening, 650 bar professionals from around Australia headed down to the picturesque Doltone House at Jones Bay Wharf in Pyrmont for a night of clinking glasses, drinking cocktails and of course, giving out gongs to congratulate the fine efforts of the standouts in the industry. A week of bar industry events culminated in this flagship event that has been described as the ‘Oscars’ of the bar industry and which is now in its 18th year. Voted for by the bar industry, the Bar Awards are hotly contested and highly prized.

The event, which sold out weeks ago, kicked off with cocktails on the deck, featuring everything from Espresso Martinis to Aperol Spritzes. Guests then moved into the dining room, under the expert guidance of bar industry personality MC Stu Gregor. First up, a series of state awards were presented with venues such as Bar Rochford in Canberra and VOID Bar at MONA in Tassie getting a nod for their achievements. In addition, a very happy crew from the 18th Amendment Bar in Geelong, was awarded the title of Regional Bar of the Year.

Cocktails on the deck. Photo: Chris Pearce

It was great to see a good mix of winners from around the country. Perth got a nod in the Tequila Bar category with El Grotto taking the prize while the 18th Amendment Bar in Geelong was a popular winner in the Regional Bar category. The team behind The Gresham and Walters in Brisbane were given the award for Bar Operator of the Year. While relative newcomer, Savile Row in Brisbane took out the coveted Best Bartenders Bar award. Long-time nominee Maybe Mae in Adelaide were thrilled with the award for Best Sustainable Bar Program.

It was also a good year for Melbourne bars. The Lincoln was awarded the title of Pub of the Year, Trish Brew from Gin Palace was recognised as the country’s best bar manager, Above Board took out Small Bar, Bar Liberty won Wine Bar of the Year and The Elysian Whisky Bar was named the best Whisky Bar in the country. And after many years of nominations, the folks from The Everleigh in Melbourne won the hotly contested Cocktail Bar of the Year award.

Sydney venues made a big splash this year with PS40 winning Cocktail List of the Year, Eau de Vie winning Hotel Bar of the Year and Oxford Street favourite Big Poppa’s winning Best Bar Food. The Baxter Inn, a Bar Awards fixture, was again awarded the honour of Bar of the Year and The Barber Shop in Sydney’s CBD also took out Gin Bar. This year saw the introduction of one new award for Host of the Year which went to Olivia Rockwell from Restaurant Hubert.

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For the fourth year running the finals of the Bartender Magazine Bartender of the Year Competition (proudly sponsored by Bacardi & De Kuyper) were held live on stage between awards. After a gruelling day of competition on Monday, 8 of the country’s top young bartenders had just five minutes to prepare their signature cocktail in front of an esteemed panel of judges and 650 industry peers! It was nerve-wracking business.

Jenna Hemsworth announced as Bartender of the Year 2018. Photo: Chris Pearce

It was a big year for the women this year with Jenna Hemsworth from Restaurant Hubert in Sydney taking out the top prize. The room was on its feet chanting her name as it’s the first time in the competition’s history that a woman has won the top prize and there could not have been a more deserving winner. This competition has a reputation for being the one of the toughest on the circuit and it seems practice makes perfect. Jenna, who has competed countless times getting thirds and seconds, said after winning: “I’m glad I never have to do that again!”. In addition to the title of ‘Bartender of the Year’ the folks from Bacardi, De Kuyper & Bartender magazine will also be flying Jenna to New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail. In second place was another woman, Priscilla Leong from The Baxter Inn in Sydney and in 3rd place was Paul Hammond from Bulletin Place, also in Sydney.

The Australian Bar Awards are held in conjunction with Sydney Bar Week, 28 events over 5 days dedicated to the bar business. For more information visit www.barweek.com.au

THE WINNERS 

1st Place – BARTENDER OF THE YEAR

Sponsor Bacardi & De Kuyper

Jenna Hemsworth, Restaurant Hubert Sydney

 

2nd Place – BARTENDER OF THE YEAR

Sponsor Bacardi & De Kuyper

Priscilla Leong, The Baxter Inn, Sydney

 

3rd Place – BARTENDER OF THE YEAR

Sponsor Bacardi & De Kuyper

Paul Hammond, Bulletin Place, Sydney

 

BEST BARTENDERS BAR – SAVILE ROW, BRISBANE

Sponsor Jagermeister

PUB OF THE YEAR – THE LINCOLN, MELBOURNE

Sponsor Southern Comfort

COCKTAIL LIST OF THE YEAR – PS40, SYDNEY

Sponsor William Grant & Sons

BAR OF THE YEAR – THE BAXTER INN, SYDNEY

NIGHTCLUB OF THE YEAR – THE CLIFF DIVE, SYDNEY

Sponsor Pernod Ricard

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR – EMMA CRISP, PERTH

Sponsor The Blend Beam Suntory

BEST LIVE MUSIC BAR – FRANKIE’S PIZZA, SYDNEY

Sponsor Southern Comfort

BAR OPERATOR OF THE YEAR – DAP & CO., BRISBANE

BEST SPECIALTY BEER VENUE – MR WEST, MELBOURNE

Sponsor Mismatch Brewing

WINE BAR OF THE YEAR – BAR LIBERTY, MELBOURNE

Sponsor Unico Zelo

OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION

Jason Crawley

NEW BAR OF THE YEAR – THE DUKE OF CLARENCE, SYDNEY

Sponsor The House of Angostura

HOTEL BAR OF THE YEAR – EAU DE VIE, SYDNEY

COCKTAIL BAR OF THE YEAR – THE EVERLEIGH, MELBOURNE

Sponsor Campari

WHISKY BAR – THE ELYSIAN WHISKY BAR, MELBOURNE

Sponsor: Southern Comfort

BEST SUSTAINABLE BAR PROGRAM – MAYBE MAE, ADELAIDE

Sponsor The Blend Beam Suntory

RUM BAR OF THE YEAR – Jacoby’s Tiki Bar, Sydney

Sponsor Bacardi Rum

BAR TEAM OF THE YEAR – RAMBLIN’ RASCAL TAVERN

Sponsor CCA/ The Exchange

BAR MANAGER OF THE YEAR – TRISH BREW, GIN PALACE, MELBOURNE

Sponsor Re’al

SMALL BAR OF THE YEAR – ABOVE BOARD, MELBOURNE

REGIONAL BAR OF THE YEAR – THE 18TH AMENDMENT BAR, GEELONG

Sponsor Jagermeister

PUB OPERATOR OF THE YEAR – SOLOTEL

Sponsor CCA/ The Exchange

BEST BAR FOOD – BIG POPPA’S, SYDNEY

Sponsor Campari

TRAINING PROGRAM OF THE YEAR – THE BLEND/THE EXCHANGE

Sponsor Bartender

BRAND AMBASSADOR OF THE YEAR – NICK MILES, SAILOR JERRY

Sponsor Bartender

RESTAURANT BAR OF THE YEAR – MAYBE FRANK, SYDNEY

Sponsor Pernod Ricard

HOST OF THE YEAR – OLIVIA ROCKWELL, SYDNEY

Sponsor Bacardi/De Kuyper

NEW PUB OF THE YEAR – THE IMPERIAL, SYDNEY

Sponsor William Grant & Sons

TEQUILA BAR – EL GROTTO, PERTH

Sponsor Jose Cuervo

GIN BAR – THE BARBER SHOP, SYDNEY

Sponsor Bombay Sapphire

BAR OF THE YEAR – STATE AWARDS

Sponsor: Re’al

ACT: Bar Rochford

NSW: The Baxter Inn

QLD: The Gresham

SA: NOLA

TAS: IXL Long Bar

WA: Tiny’s

VIC: Boilermaker House

NT: The Deck Bar

COCKTAIL BAR OF THE YEAR – STATE AWARDS

Sponsor: Angostura

ACT: Molly

NSW: Bulletin Place

NT: Pearl & Co

QLD: Maker

SA: Maybe Mae

TAS: Void Bar

WA: Bar Lafayette

VIC: The Everleigh

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