van is a humble gent who has massive potential after being taken under the wing of ‘Big Daddy’ Alen at Shady Pines and learning a thing or two about whiskey and cocktails. After taking out the Perfect Blend as an apprentice in 2017, he has continued to rise to the top and now tends bar at Sydney’s Bulletin Place. CONGRATULATIONS ON MAKING IT INTO THE 2018 T25. HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN THE INDUSTRY? My hospitality journey started out like most people. I was in that interim period between high school and figuring out what was next. Fresh-faced and 18; Dad breathing down my neck to get a job, I figured, why not start pouring beers at the pub I’m at most weekends anyway. Bathurst isn’t a big town, you have the same regulars coming in every few days and I think that developed my appreciation of the sense of community that’s at the heart of what we do. I really took it seriously when I moved to Sydney and started with the Swillhouse group. That’s when my mindset evolved from this is a fun way to make money to this is legitimate and this is a career. CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT JÄGERMEISTER AND THE INSPIRATION BEHIND YOUR COCKTAIL? Jägermeister has suffered from a bit of cultural stigma, but it is actually a really complex product. There are 56 different ingredients that make up its whole. This cocktail is about touching on and coaxing out those core flavours and presenting a drink that shows how legitimate Jägermeister can be in a modern cocktail culture. Think dark chocolate, stewed fruits, pepper and herbs. AS A YOUNG GUN NOW GAINING WIDER RECOGNITION FOR YOUR DEDICATION TO THE CRAFT, WHAT’S SOME ADVICE YOU’D GIVE TO OTHER YOUNG BARTENDERS? Find balance. We have all had a hard time with that and it’s definitely something that I’m still figuring out. Study, go to events and meet as many people as you can. Figure out what drives your creativity and passion. Be yourself and be nice. In terms of being the best you can be, I think what separates good bartenders from the best - aside from everything I’ve just mentioned - is a sense of proprietary ownership. Treat the bar like it’s yours, and the whole floor rises. You’ll make better drinks and decisions and improve the customer experience. WHAT’S A NEW INGREDIENT THAT YOU LOVE TO USE AT THE MOMENT? I think every ingredient needs to be legitimised. If it doesn’t fit, don’t try and make it just because you like it. Most of the time drinks with two fresh ingredients are better than ones with five sh*t ones. More generally speaking, I think our industry and society have a long way to go in regards to normalising the use of native ingredients. It’s still a bit of a fad or hot topic when it should really hold a legitimate place in our culinary identity. It needs to move from a ‘buzz’ concept to something that is integral to our industry. DO YOU HAVE A NICKNAME AND HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF? Stroevey, I guess. My Dad taught at the same school for 30 years and I kind of inherited that one. I like to think I’m just being myself, passionate, focused and honest. Hopefully not a w*nker and someone you can go for a beer with. WHAT’S NEXT ON YOUR BUCKET LIST? I’ve just moved over to Bulletin Place so, I want to throw everything at that for a while. There are a few new ideas on the horizon. Paul Hammond and Tim Phillips are two bartenders that I respect so much and there’s a lot to learn from them moving forward. I have some study, travel and stuff coming up too. I’ve been progressively building links with suppliers, farmers and communities over the last year so I’m looking forward to continuing that. I’ll be stepping away from the competition side of things until the big one rolls around again next year. We’ve got some stuff in the works for that. Killer.