Jack Connor is one half of Burleigh’s beloved Australiana bar, Rosella’s and one of the Gold Coast’s most talented mixologists. He began his career as a shit-kicker (same), went on to shake things up in some of Australia’s most impressive venues and now co-owns one of the best.
We sat down for a chat with Jack about his thoughts on making the perfect Martini ahead of Martini Week and the epic changes in the works for Rosella’s in 2020.
How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
I was born in Melbourne but moved here when I was still a little baby at the age of 1. I’m getting old now… so been a local for a while ha.
What do you love most about living here?
Living here so long, its great to be on the Gold Coast having so many friends and family within a stones throw is pretty special. Also pretty good living in such a beautiful small and growing city.
You co-own Burleigh Australiana bar Rosella’s, how’d you come up with the concept?
The concept was sort of an evolution from a mix of other concepts that needed work. It was a great collaborative effort between myself and Jon (co-owner) to use only Australian products and to tie that in with the more nostalgia Australiana feel. I think it’s a great way to showcase the rapid growth of Australian cuisine and hospitality in a fun and super sustainable way.
What can someone expect if they’ve never been?
If it is someone who has lived in Australia for a long time, they should expect a trip down memory lane and to be very impressed with what Australia has to offer. If it is someone from overseas, they should expect the latter from the previous statement. It’s a very common surprise for guests to see how much we have to offer in terms of amazing cocktails, spirits, wine, beer and food.
Tell us about career before Rosella’s, what did you do?
I have been in this industry for 12 years now and on the Gold Coast. It all started when I was 19, finding a job after the GFC to get me through university. I landed a job as a bar back at Elsewhere. Slogging out the shit kicker jobs (which are still very much apart of every day work still to this day) for six months, I got myself into the bar tending drinks. After a good innings of bar backing, bartending and DJing, I moved to FIX Bar at the Hilton to find the more cocktail and service aspect of hospitality, which I fell in love with. This is where I worked my way up to a management role and have been managing venues ever since. I had a quick stint in Brisneyland where I managed The Charming Squire but found myself coming back to the Gold Coast. This is where I then started at Aloha Bar and Dining for three years before opening up little ol’ Rosella’s.
What’s your favourite cocktail on the menu right now?
My favourite on the menu right now would have to be Blinky Bill. It’s a cocktail using a lot of progressive techniques in order to create a very pleasing visual experience and something that is bloody delicious. Plus the customer is donating to a very good cause. With every Blinky Bill sold, $2 of that cocktail is donated to WIRES Wildlife Rescue Organisation, with our country copping one of the worst bushfire seasons to date, this helps those centres that were overwhelmed with injured native animals. This is also by far our most popular cocktail, which makes it so much sweeter! Super fun for us to make, giving to a good cause and bloody delicious…. WIN WIN WIN!
It’s Martini Week this week, talk us through making the perfect martini…
A perfect Martini, in my opinion, is the hardest cocktail for anyone to make. There are very few ingredients (2-3), with an incredible amount of room for error! My favourite martini however is a Half-Half Gin Martini. This means upping the vermouth so that you are using half gin and half dry vermouth. Low ABV… high NRG! My preference would be Never Never Southern Strength Gin (40mls), Regal Rogue Lively White Vermouth (40mls), stir in a mixing glass till perfectly diluted, garnished with a bush lemon coin! Delicious!
FUN FACT: Before the Vodka Martini was called a Vodka Martini it was known as a ‘Kangaroo Cocktail’! However with vodkas popularity in the 1940s and onwards, saying a Vodka Martini was a little more appealing than ordering a smelly, Australian marsupial.
Rosella’s has done a few collabs with local businesses, why is it important for you to support them?
I think collaboration in any aspect is hugely important for any business and more so, personal growth. From our Rosella’s Blend Rum with Bundaberg Rum to all our takeover nights with specific brands, winemakers and/or other local restaurants. It brings us together to work towards something that is in both of our best interests. Sharing ideas, tips and tricks, techniques, and the same vision helps both parties personal growth and brand awareness. This industry [hospitality] moves forward very quickly! It is imperative you move forward with it… or stay ahead!
An exciting fun collaborative initiative we are working on now is with Husk Distillers. In the coming months we will be releasing a collaborative bottled cocktail pack, where we have designed four different signature cocktails utilising the four main products from Husk Distillers.
What’s in the works for the rest of 2020 for you and Rosella’s?
The biggest project we are working on at the moment is our kitchen renovation. We have acquired some very special chefs (Hamish Penner-Wilson ex Sous Chef at Fish House and Angus McCombe ex Jimmy Wahs) on board at Rosella’s now, and want to represent that in our food offering. Another big focus for us is making everything very sustainable. Using all local ingredients and minimising waste and plastic. We have acquired some compostable cling wrap so now we can say we are 99% single use plastic free. We are also working on a project to have an urban garden on top of our coolroom and storage shed for little herbs for the kitchen and bar, while also using home gardens for herbs and David doing weekly/fortnightly foraging endeavours. We have an amazing team at the moment at Rosella’s, so expect an exponential growth over the coming months in all aspects!
Tell us your favourites on the Coast…
Cafe for breakfast: Elk Espresso, Commune, Stable (if I’m awake early enough)
Coffee spot: Stable
Bar for a drink: Lockwood, Iku or Scottish Prince.
How does your weekend usually look: My weekend usually is a whole lot of work, sleep and coffee!