In 2014, Jenna Hemsworth made the Top 8 of the Bartender of the Year. In 2015, she came back with a stellar performance and placed second on the podium. And, after a year off in 2016 and a Top 16 finish in 2017, this year was her year. Ladies and gentlemen, Jenna Hemsworth is the 2018 Bartender of the Year.
You’ve had a couple of years out of the Top 8, but this year you were back big time. What was it like for you coming into the comp this year?
I told myself that this would be the last year that I would put myself through this again so I really went for it. I started studying quite early as I’ve done in the past years I’ve made it to the Top 8, but with practice, a lot of things became easier as I was more and more familiar with the competition.
Can you describe what the mood was like backstage with the rest of the Top 8?
Pretty chill to be honest, it was such an amazing Top 8 this year. I had so much fun going around seeing what everyone else was doing, but mostly I just focused on what I was going to do myself. I always start by finding myself a nice space to lay everything out on, get all my ingredients measured out and run through my performance in my head. You don’t want to get up there and realise at the last minute that you don’t have a strainer or something like that.
After I did that I kind of just kept to myself out the back so I wouldn’t get distracted as I was one of the last to present, however at one point I was running around the back room with one of the tablecloths on as a cape, so maybe I’ll find a distraction anywhere…
Can you tell us a little about what it means to be crowned the Bartender of the Year?
I started reading Australian Bartender Magazine when I was about 20, when I really started to get into cocktails. To me, anyone in that magazine were like the big dogs in the industry, the people you really respected and wanted to learn from. To even be in this magazine for the first time made me feel like what I had to say was worth something, and now to be your queen (can I please have that title?) it’s just a cumulation of a decade’s worth of hard work and determination come to fruition and it feels pretty spectacular. I hope to use my powers for good and less for evil. Unless I need to.
What would be your three pieces of advice for those wanting to attempt the competition?
One: start studying early. Treat each magazine like lecture notes and write up any pieces of info to re-read later. If your job is super demanding (like most of ours are) start studying little bits at a time earlier — I started in June (not to brag or anything but it totally worked for me).
Two: chill the fuck out. Enjoy yourself. If you followed step one in ‘Jenna’s guide to success’, by the time Bar Week rolls around you’ve done all the hard work and you should be prepared for each round of the competition. Go have fun, see the parties, behave yourself but don’t coop yourself up over study notes and deprive yourself of all there is to see over the week.
Third piece of advice – keep trying. It took me seven attempts to win this thing!
What’s the next year got in store for you?
Not a clue. Before September my plan was to go back to study my Masters of Forensics after a long study hiatus but now I guess I might put that on the backburner for another year (sorry, Mum) to see what’s in store for me drinks-wise. I think I’ve still got some cool ideas to whip out.