American Bartender of the Year set to showcase disco tropicalia cocktails

Yael Vengroff

Get ready for a night like no other! Iconic US dance party, A Club Called Rhonda is coming to Sydney, bringing its pansexual, hedonistic, everyone’s invited attitude to The Lansdowne Hotel on Saturday, 24 August.

Not only is the international party juggernaut on its way, but there is the double-bonus of enjoying a drinks list created by American Bartender of the Year, Yael Vengroff. As well as being the bar director at The Spare Room in the Roosevelt Hotel and Genghis Cohen, Vengroff is also the 2012 Speed Rack National Champion, 2013 Champion of West Coast Rematch and a 2017 National Finalist for Diego’s World Class. 

We spoke to Vengroff about what we can look forward to with this amazing club night, the drinks list, what she is looking forward to about coming to Australia and the big cocktail trends in the US.

Speaking about what the decadence of A Club Called Rhonda really means, Vengroff told Bars and Clubs: “A Club Called Rhonda embodies the essence of freedom and inclusion, and how important music is to getting us there.

“It is at once a return to the past and a step into the future, embodying the uninhibited nature of party culture long gone while allowing us all a glimpse at what we could become if we all take a moment to just lose it a little.”

And if we’re all going to take that moment and lose it just a little, the drinks list is something we can look forward to, and while it’s not yet finalised, what Vengroff promises sounds like a perfect match for what the night promises.

“I’m going to showcase how my style of disco tropicalia cocktails translates into an aperitif,” she said “Effervescence, high acid, and zero pretention.

“I’m nearly there! I want to showcase what I do which is whimsical, playful, and surreal in philosophy while being bright, poppy, and layered on the tongue. I love pretty shit that tastes good that toys with the senses; drinks that make you do a double take.”

And asked how she’ll put everything that A Club Call Rhonda stands for into a glass, Vengroff told Bars and Clubs: “Edible Glitter & Light up Glow Cubes. Duh.”

Duh, indeed! And if that is not enough to get you excited by this eclectic and inclusive gathering – how can it not be? – then there is the promise of a recovery party on Sunday, again with a drinks list curated by Vengroff. And while she said it it’ll be more keeping the party going as opposed to recovering, she did let us in on her idea of a great recovery drink.

“I’m convinced that my blood is literally 90 per cent Bloody Mary. It is undoubtedly one of my favorite drinks of all time (recovery or not).

“A good recovery drink is easy to drink, gets you buzzed enough to forget how awful you were feeling, but not too buzzed that you need to take a nap.”

Vengroff’s visit to Sydney is not all work, work, work though, she told Bars and Clubs she is looking forward to “literally everything” about her first visit to the Harbour City.

“I have never travelled to Australia before and I have no idea what to expect. I have done zero research and cannot wait to be surprised at every corner. I want to get some exercise in on the beach, visit some pole dance studios that I follow and get to know the culture as much as possible because who knows the next time I’ll make it back.”

And where will she visit?

“I am a huge admirer of the work that Scout is doing. I’d love to learn more about Coleman’s Academy and how they are elevating women in the industry and how I can take this back to the United States. I’d like to check out Uncle Ming’s because we also have a Chinese concept here in LA. And of course, everyone tells me that I am going to feel right at home at Ramblin’ Rascal.”

Can’t argue with any of that!

Finally, we asked Vengroff what are the big trends happening in the US now, that we can probably look forward to coming to Australia.

“Cocktail meme accounts on Instagram. Just kidding.”

She added: “The alco-health trend is definitely a big thing here especially in Los Angeles people are utilising ingredients that are ‘good’ for you so you can heal and destroy yourself at the same time.

“Practical Molecular applications are making a big splash right now as well with clarification techniques and utilisation of different acids – citric, malic, tartic, etc.”

Finally she told Bars and Clubs: “Spiked hard sodas. Two words for you Australia: WHITE CLAW.”

Vengroff also shared details of the Salt & Vinegar Martini, which is the drink The Spare Room, is probably most well known for.

She explained: “I put it on the menu about four years ago when I took over the program and it hasn’t left ever since. It is our take on a dirty martini but is so much more than that.

“It’s delightfully savory but with enough acidity to be strangely refreshing and leaves you craving another one.”

Full details on the Salt & Vinegar Martini are here.

A Club Called Rhonda is taking place on Saturday, 24 August at The Lansdowne Hotel in Chippendale, from 9pm to 5am, with tickets available from The Lansdowne website.

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