There are many reasons as to why I am not cool, but when I was 20 I used to drag my unwilling friends all the way across the bridge to the dimly lit allure of Darlinghurst bar, Shady Pines. I’d promise them men with moustaches that wore double denim and rode fixies, and this, partnered with Smirnoff Black roadies, made them slightly more pliable. When there, I’d throw caution to the night and pretend I was one of Clint Eastwood’s many girlfriends he was cheating on and drink all shades of bourbon like I actually liked it. Yes, Shady Pines made me and the rest of a burgeoning Gen Y feel v v cool.
James ‘Jimmy’ Irvine is the cocktail cowboy for the Swillhouse Group and he is responsible for creating the drinks list at Shady and Baxter’s and ensuring that its contents are very delicious and also alcoholic. I meet him on a Thursday afternoon and he is so impeccably polite and nice I am sure he must be friends with previous MTB playboy, Dan Cramsie, to which he confirms. James loves cooking, thinks there’s nothing wrong with a rom-com and most importantly gave me a Shady Pines mug to take home as a memento and so far I’ve drunk everything from coffee, to schnapps, to 3am Ketel One out of it.
Back to being too cool for life, sometimes in hospitality we come across people that are just so awesome they’re too big for the room they’re in. That’s not that cool. These are James’ unspoken tips on how to be normal and not too cool (also known as under the radar), even if you do work at one of the greatest bars ever.
#1 Be a huge Star Wars fan
Seriously. This is not a drill. Apparently James is going to the Star Wars premier dressed as Darth Vader. I sort of admire this.
#2 Be well travelled and a foodie
James is in the infamous Cheese Club I once documented in Dan Cramsie’s MTB, but he also really loves food and the general cooking of it. “I’m Italian so I practically grew up in the kitchen. My mother and my Nonna are very good cooks, so every Sunday it was pretty much just food everywhere”. He also feels that there is nothing better for personal growth and to keep you gorunded than to travel, which I concur.
#3 Have manners rivalled by few
James is so polite he finds it impossible to smoke bomb because he feels obliged to say goodbye to everyone at the end of the night. That’s real nice.
#4 Don’t be obnoxious
“I don’t look at it as work, it’s never mundane, it’s never the same old thing. I get to be creative on a daily basis, who gets to do that.”
#5 Be honest about your terrible selfies
“I don’t think I’m photogenic”. If you know you’re not photogenic then certainly declare that you are not, it makes things much easier for all of us.
# 6 Read nerdy graphic novels
“I love everything from crime fiction to nerdy graphic novels”. This makes me feel so much better about my Enid Blyton obsession.
#7 Be honest
The Swillhouse company policy is “don’t lie, be polite”. I’d say James is almost too honest. He told me the only person that’s never tried his cocktails is his mum, because she doesn’t like cocktails. Mrs Irvine, I hope you read this and change your mind because you’re missing out.
Based on a couple of awkward silences through our chat, I’m pretty sure James didn’t get most of my jokes, which is okay because free mug and stuff, but that didn’t stop him from making me really jealous of his lifestyle. He has non-linear days, he travels, he probably has more friends than you or I, Swillhouse team events include motorised wakeboarding and fencing. But even after all that, he still doesn’t pretend he’s cooler than me, mostly because he’s not really, because Star Wars obviously.
Drink served on the night - Spaghetti Western
Image credit: Daryl Kong