Mischa Bonova of Rockpool Bar and Grill is at one with the ocean as she is behind the bar. In this interview, Mischa talks to us about her humble beginnings, her determination, her transition into bartending and shares her insights about the Sydney bar scene.
Mischa Bonova at the Beefeater 24 Finals – Photo © by Kevin Burke
Corinne: Tell us a little about yourself, your family and where you grew up.
Mischa: I am from Slovakia and I grew up in a very small town on the South of Slovakia. My mum had been struggling a lot to make sure that me and my brother could have nice childhood. And we did! I like to think about myself as an independent, passionate, kind individual. But you’d better ask others what they think about me… And I think I am quite ambitious. When I want to achieve something, there are no obstacles for me. I love ocean and anything connected with it. I am very interested what ocean gives to human race and how we treat it. It makes me sad to see that we don’t care what is going on with it and how we are destroying it for our pleasures.
How did you get into bartending?
I’ve been interested in bar industry since my 18. During my studies at Uni, I was interested in bar the industry in Slovakia. I was attending different bar events, reading Charles Schuman’s books but never worked behind the bar there. Until I got here and realised that I can change my career much easily! So I did. I was working in project consultancy with Cap Gemini before I moved to Sydney.
Tell us a little about your bartending career.
I have started off in a small bar The Red Door in Surry Hills and after 4 months I moved to Zeta Bar. I knew nothing about bartending whatsoever at that time. But the boys at Zeta were patient and I was very eager to learn too. After 8 months spent there, I moved to Stitch Bar where I worked a year and a half. I got more into competitions at Stitch and I was a sponge at that stage. Matteo Fabbris led and taught me and I understood where I belong. When working in Stitch Bar I made to finals of G’Vine Connoisseur Program 2012 and I flew to France to compete against other 14 finalists. I finished in beautiful third place. And in 2013, I was lucky enough to go to France for G’Vine Connoisseur Program again but I wasn’t a finalist anymore.
The next step was Rockpool Bar and Grill in Sydney and it’s been more than a year since I started to work there. I am very grateful that I got an opportunity to be there, work with the best in not only bar industry but also the best in wine and food industry. Rockpool gave me different perception of bartending. I made it to World Class semi-finals last year as the team in Rockpool is very helpful. I am also very thankful for an opportunity to be on a position of second in charge behind the bar so I learn how to manage it in Rockpool Group which can be very challenging.
What is your most memorable bartending experience to date?
G’Vine Connoisseur Program 2012 and 2013.
Who has been an influence or a source of inspiration to you?
Inspiration and influence? One of the biggest influences of becoming a bartender belongs to Philip Duff. He showed me that nothing is impossible. My mentor Matteo made the biggest influence in terms of knowledge, techniques and basic understanding of bartending. Sources of inspiration are other bartenders all around the world. I was always attracted by the incredible Slovak bartenders in London such as Marian Beke, Erik Lorincz, Ladislav Piljar, and in Slovakia – Lubos Racz. And another inspiration is Maria Dolores Boadas, great lady with a big charm! And many many more… especially our great OZ bartenders.
What are some of the challenges you face as a bartender?
I am morning person. My body clock hasn’t changed. I tried to change it but my body refuses. I suffer when I work late nights. Another challenge that all bartenders know of is that some customers don’t get this is our ‘real’ job.
What are your favourite ingredients that define your style of cocktail?
Gins, rums, lengthening agent (amaros, bitters, vermouths, etc), usually heavy style of drinks.
What excites you about the Sydney bar scene?
That it is growing!
Is there anything about the Sydney bar scene that you’d like to see change?
I find many bar industry people to be absorbed too much into their jobs. Sometimes I think that people are only very little aware of things outside bar industry. Don’t get me wrong. I am happy to see all those great passionate bartenders but I feel like people are losing their own individuality and understanding for life, world themselves. Maybe it doesn’t really answer this question. Sorry.
How do you see the Sydney bar scene evolving in the near future?
Hmm… I have noticed that lately many people are about matching/garnishing drinks with food. The perspective of having a drink became bigger. Many great bartenders are separating and opening their own bars. I like to see the diversity of bars. I don’t think there is any particular trend going on. Everybody is doing his/her own thing and I think that is great.
What cocktail trends or spirits interest you at the moment?
I have always been about simplicity (in flavour profiles, drinks, concepts, etc). I still think that bartending and drinks aren’t about trends or particular spirits. I am interested in anything as I would like to progress and learn more.
When you’re not behind the bar, what do you like to drink?
I have had different stages when I liked to drink only one drink but I still came back to my G&T. However I enjoy my Negronis, White Lady and my favourite of all times, Martinez!
And finally, is there a special cocktail of your creation that you’d like to share with Gourmantic?
I think this one is very approachable for ladies as well as gents.
50ml of Sipsmith Gin
3 chunks of watermelon
10ml of Luxardo maraschino
15ml lemon juice
1-2 dash sugar
Shake lightly so that watermelon doesn’t break up too much and pour over cubed ice in single rocks glass. Garnish: watermelon fan or watermelon sashimi!
The Bartender Profile series continues next week.
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