Time to celebrate the most important person on any night out: your bartender. Without these artists working their craft, what would we drink? This World Bartender Day, we chat to one of the best - and one of our own: Abby Roennfeldt aka Just Abby.
It’s easy to forget the skill, passion and time that went into making your beautiful cocktail as you slip into its elegantly balanced flavours and textures.
But this is the time of year to stop and think about the incredible talent behind your drink. This is World Bartender Day, a celebration and recognition of the hardworking folk on the other side of the bar.
Just Abby from Hades Hula House, Semaphore, SA
To bring World Bartender Day into focus, we’re speaking to bartender/burlesque artist and raconteur Just Abby, owner of tiki bar Hades Hula House in South Australia.
Abby is also Nip of Courage’s brand ambassador, so her perspective and knowledge of bars, cocktails and Australian craft spirits is truly superb.
1. What do you love about being a bartender?
Everything! What’s not to love about working in paradise, surrounded by good vibes?!
2. Which came first for you - rum, burlesque or bartending?
Burlesque came first. Rum came with the lifestyle of the venue (tiki) and bartending was a complete accident!
3. Do you remember the first cocktail you ever made?
It would have been something on the first Hades cocktail menu… I’d like to think it was a bangin’ classic, like a Donn Beach, 1934 Zombie or a Mai Tai.
4. What’s your drink of choice atm?
I’m your everyday gin-and-tonic drinker. I like tonic as much as the spirit, but nothing beats the pair, in perfect proportions, over large cubes of ice.
5. What inspired you to open Hades Hula House?
After travelling as a performer throughout the USA, I started hunting out tiki bars in my downtime. What I discovered, along with a healthy love for the tropical libations, was a rich and dynamic culture that included art, history and music.
I wanted to bring a slice of that to my hometown. I wanted to create a reason for fellow tikiphiles to put Adelaide on their travel map, and to share a fun, and vibrant sense of hospitality.
6. Of all the cocktails you make, which brings you the most joy?
Preparing any beverage for the consumption of someone else brings me immense happiness!
Helping them choose their first drink, knowing they’ve never been in a tiki bar before, describing flavour combinations and style… Chatting with them as I start putting the pieces together, watching their eyes feast on a plethora of spirits, fresh juices, tinctures and bitters.
As the individual ingredients become whole in specially-chosen glassware, anticipation is visible.
Final garnishing is added, fresh mint plouche, citrus wheels, a bamboo straw and swizzle, and finally a lime husk, set alight with the help of overproof rum. A sensory overload, even before the first sip.
I take this journey with guests, over and over, each day. It is something I hope I never stop getting joy from.
7. Any pet peeves or painful patron behaviour you want to air?
Being asked, “Is it good?” is frustrating and involves me suppressing audible eye-rolling. However, I do understand why a guest would ask… If someone has never heard of such a thing, they have no basis to judge and make their decision by.
I generally counter this question with questions about their preferences, palate set etc to help guide them to where they want to be.
8. When it comes to Aussie craft spirits, how do they measure up against the international big guns?
The only ways in which we don’t “measure up”, is with market share and scale of production. We have fantastic distilleries, producing world class spirits.
Some of this growth will happen over time, with help from Australian platforms like Nip Of Courage, but the most effective way for the everyday person to help the Australian craft spirit industry, is to buy local.
We have to continue to push the locavore mentality to include Aussie spirits, as well as food and wine production.
9. What advice would you give to an aspiring mixologist?
Don’t sweat the rules. Try thinking of them as guidelines for achieving your own brilliance.
Don’t be afraid to try something, even if it sounds bonkers. Your guests are your benchmark for success, rather than competition wins or peer adulation.
The latter two are fantastic achievements, and definitely worthy goals, but happy guests are the ones who fill your venues and will follow you as you grow.
Make sure you check out Just Abby’s awesome tiki bar Hades Hula House on Instagram @hadeshulahouse and her burlesque alter ego Leopard Lass @justabby.burlesque.bartender, and next time you’re in Adelaide, do yourself a favour and say aloha to the best bar.
World Bartender Day
World Bartender Day is 24th February each year, awarding the best bartenders and giving everyone the opportunity to recognise - to quote WBD - “the artists of flavours, the creators of experiences and the magicians of mixology”.
Check out the WBD site for events and specials in participating venues around Australia and New Zealand.