Bartender Spotlight: Jenna Hemsworth and the Monarch Legacy Project
Instead of selfies and “look at me” social media boasts, this platform gains attention by highlighting the achievements of other industry professionals.
For a craft bartender, this story begins with a typical once-upon-a-time-scenario: Melbourne-based Biomedicine student gets bartending job to help pay bills while in school. Student falls in love with bartending and “never looked back”—decides to leave biomedicine behind to pursue a full time career behind the bar, working in such venues as Black Pearl, Vue de Monde, Bad Frankie and Eau de Vie. She later moves to bigger city (Sydney) to work behind the stick at establishments such as Restaurant Hubert and the Baxter Inn. Student-turned-bartender enters brand competitions for travel opportunities and more exposure in the industry. Bartender realizes she must advertise her accomplishments to get ahead, but what if self-promotion isn’t a skill that comes naturally from behind the bar? For Jenna Hemsworth, she discovered the best way to promote her own brand would be to celebrate the achievements of other women in the industry around the world, which she has done with the Monarch Legacy Project.
Hemsworth indeed has much to be proud of. In September 2018, she became the first woman to win Australian Bartender of the Year (sponsored by Bacardí and Dekuyper) in the 18 years of that competition. “I entered six years ago and made a promise to myself that I was going to keep doing it until I won. So thankfully, I finally won,” says Hemsworth. She was victorious with her cocktail the Missing Piece, which was served in a keepsake box that included “a letter from my mum and my cat’s collar… It's a great challenge to your knowledge, presentation skills and creativity so it's plenty of fun and you learn heaps along the way.” Because of this victory, she was automatically entered into Bacardí Legacy, for which each contestant must go through a promotional round. “I was looking for inspiration for my Bacardí Legacy promotional period project, and was coming up blank with ideas that I was comfortable pursuing that I would actually be proud to have my name attached to,” Hemsworth explains.
She turned to a females in hospitality-focused Facebook group for their recommendations about inspirational women in the industry. “There was such a great camaraderie amongst the women who were so quick to nominate each other for all their achievements yet not many were so quick to nominate themselves for something they were proud of. I feel that's such a shame as we're taught not to boast from the beginning, and it can be to our own detriment sometimes—as evident by me being so against self promotion during this competition—so I felt it was important that we had a platform to just celebrate each other and show everyone how many strong, amazing, inspirational women are out there.”
Several times a week, The Monarch Legacy (@TheMonarch_Legacy on Instagram) posts a profile of a women (Hemsworth says the term is not bound by gender but by identification) who is considered an industry trailblazer. Profiles have included Speed Rack co-founder Ivy Mix and Nip of Courage founder Kathleen Davies. “They have all been nominated to me through a friend, colleague or someone who looks up to them. I've reached out to a couple of people who have inspired me, but mostly people were more than happy and eager to put someone forward,” explains Hemsworth.
It’s not simply about identifying women people like—Hemsworth wants to see productive changes made in the bartending community. “[I’m] working more toward that positive and inclusive community, where bartenders inspire each other and celebrate each other. Females in particular to be more comfortable embracing their own successes, fighting more for equality in the industry—more equal representation in cocktail competitions, judging panels, speaking panels, talks, brand reps etc.”
The competition landscape is still mostly male dominated, but Hemsworth wants her efforts with the Monarch Legacy to present more diversity to promoters. “So many times I hear the excuse that all the entrants/judges/speakers are male because 'they just can't find many good females in the industry'. Well, here's a list of incredible women.” She says the women she profiles have their own lists of accomplished individuals to nominate; one just has to ask. “We're just not usually the ones making a big fuss!”
It’s tough to find a balance in the Too Much Information age. “I think that it is important to keep up a social media presence, so long as you have something constructive to say,” notes Hemsworth. “Self promotion for the sake of gaining likes or followers is impressing no one. If you are lucky enough to be given a platform to say something, I really think it's essential that you find something worthwhile to say, or don't say it at all.” For Hemsworth, it’s not about selfies and meaningless affirmations, it’s about finding other places to shine that spotlight. “Encouraging and mentoring newer bartenders and hospitality professionals is important. If they see people they know and respect spreading kindness and educating the next wave of bartenders then it really helps to build a positive, selfless community.”
Hemsworth is excited at the prospect of advancing in the Bacardí Legacy competition, but is also focused on propelling The Monarch Legacy as “the first step toward tackling a lot of the bigger issues in the industry we face… As the competition is about creating the legacy you want to leave behind, I hope that after this, women can rally together as a whole and say that this is our legacy, and that we have changed the way people think both internally and outwardly toward each other.”