Simon Hopkins, Bar Manager at Surly’s

Tell us about your career as a bartender (background) in a few sentences.

I started my career in working at Starbucks while studying hospitality, soon I was managing and training new staff at Starbucks all over Sydney. I jumped head first into bar work, and took a job at PJ Gallagher’s Parramatta, at the time it was one of the busiest and violent venues in Sydney at the time. While working at Goro’s in Surry Hills, I helped style the joint turning it into a popular izakaya-style Japanese bar.

About three years ago I developed my passion for whiskey while working in the whiskey room at The Clock. I then went on the Webster’s in Newtown as they were transforming it from ZanziBar, a successful project where I helped assist the build-up of their large spirit range, something that I am planning to do at Surly’s, focusing on, of course, whiskeys and bourbons.

Speaking of bourbon, you won a competition last year with Jim Beam and are about to take off to Kentucky, that’s awesome!

Yeah, I won the NSW Bartenders4Bourbon comp, so I’m heading over to Kentucky next week (June, 2017) for my prize. We get to tour the Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark distilleries, meeting the Jim Beam Master Distiller.

I plan on soaking up the American spirit as much as I can and also check out and do a bit of “research” at the best bar in the world, the Dead Rabbit in NYC.

So how’d you win this honourable victory?

It was pretty intense, I had to attend two modules and create my own Jim beam cocktail along with a “cooking show style” video. My own version of a Prohibition Highball won me the seat on the plane for NSW. The trick was really creating a Kentucky feel to the drink right down to the ice tea.

What’s your favourite drink to make?

My favourite drink to make is an Old Fashioned – Simple –

Why do you love working at Surly’s?

It’s my kinda bar, where I’d wanna drink. I’ve always wanted to own my own American bar, for now, this will do.

What makes Surly’s unique?

The food. It’s honest American food, it’s not gimmicky American. Cory has done an amazing job. Also, the music, which is a big thing about a venue, I’ve created set playlists with your old American rock, we’ve got some great live music here too on the weekends.