What do you as a mixologist think about beer? Any brews of note for you?
I do believe that more venues should pay as much attention to their beer offering as they do their wines/spirits/cocktails as I find there's often a lackadaisical attitude when it comes to this. I highly recommend Asahi Black, Innis & Gunn Rum Cask, Brewdog's 5am Saint and Cusquena.
I'm actually off beer at the moment, taking a year off it with six weeks gone so far although I have to admit I am missing Guinness.
If you could offer a couple of short pieces of advice to the average bartender, what would they be?
I think all bartenders get to a point early in their career where they think they know it all so it's worth remembering that you'll never know everything. The best bartenders in the industry are learning every day and that's what keeps them on top.
I also remember an old football manager shouting, "You've got two f*****g eyes, two f*****g ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion," at one of my teammates and I've always thought that it's such a great saying that a lot of people should adhere to.
Other than that; work hard every day. Go to as many competitions as possible even if you're not competing. Sit at other bars and take everything in. Stay humble. And most importantly, never forget that you're in the service industry and that you and your guests should be having fun.
Surely you have some pet peeves about bartenders -- care to share?
As I alluded to previously, I have no time for bartenders that think they know everything and never listen.
There are enough ego-maniacs in the world without bartenders going down that road.
As a mixologist/consultant, you work directly with many restaurants on their drink menus -- describe the parts of this process.
Establish the market demographics, the type of venue you're working with and their business plan, then garner the level of their staff and work from there.
How did you get started?
I, literally, fell into bartending - I broke my wrist which stopped me from pursuing a career in the Fire Brigade and in turn led to me taking a job at TGI Fridays is where I caught the bug for all things bar related. I was involved with some other bars in and around Aberdeen before I started being approached regarding training and event work, which is when I decided to start Evo-lution with the intention of learning as much about the industry as possible. Since then I've worked with a number of bars, hotels, clubs and restaurants in a consultancy or training capacity.
Through Evo-lution I've also worked with a number of businesses ranging from the large corporate companies like Diageo, Shell, BP, Pernod Ricard and the like, as well as smaller independent businesses. I'm hands on with every job I've ever taken on which I believe a lot of my clients appreciate. I think this has also added to the appeal of my bitters as I communicate directly with everyone that's buying a bottle and it's compounded, filtered, labeled and bottled by hand.
How were you trained in bartending?
The in-house training programs at Fridays gave me grounding and taught me some of the basics however the vast majority of what I know has been self-taught although I've always made sure that I pay attention to what's happening around the globe.
Did you take any courses?
No, I've never came across one that gives you real-world experience which I think is the key to this industry. You really can't beat experience.
What are some trends you're seeing in the market?
Consumers are now prepared to try things outwith their comfort zone, spirits with flavour and drinks where you can actually taste alcohol.
What goes into creating a cocktail?
I have to get a real feel for the base spirit, start thinking of ways to enhance and/or compliment notes found within it, and the rest just falls into place.
What is your favourite cocktail to drink?
One that I'm not paying for always seems to taste better for some reason.
What is your favourite cocktail to make?
I honestly couldn't limit it to one, I love making drinks.
What are some of your favourite tools?
Parisian Shaker, PUG muddler, Kuhn Rixon knives, Mexican Elbow, Yarai mixing glass.
What is your favourite mixology resource?
Jerry Thomas' 1862 Bartender's Guide. Other bartenders. Or probably the internet, there's a great deal of info there, you just have to know where to look and be willing to do the research as there will inevitably be more than one source which will contradict the last place you looked.
What does success mean for you?
Having the chance to do things that you couldn't do without it.
What are some current trends you've seen in the cocktail market?
More and more venues are adopting a classical approach to bartending which I am experiencing first-hand with the demand for my bitters; there's a definite push for fresh, seasonal products that are locally sourced, house-made products are also developing beyond the usual sugar syrups which is also great to see. I believe this is because the knowledge and skill-set of bartenders is increasing at a rapid pace, there are a number of great resources around which makes previously unknown info obtainable, and bars are definitely taking a more culinary approach to bartending.
And what inspired you in the first place?
The inspiration can come from anywhere, my recent inspiration for the drinks I won the Drambuie national final with came from a story I made up in my head about Dick Fosbury's obsession with eggs and Drambuie.
What is your favourite drink to make?
Coffee. Without it I'd be tired and miserable.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
If the last ten are anything to go by then it's not worth thinking about as everything that's happened thus far has came about without planning. However, I would hope that I'd opened my own bar by that point instead of helping other people open theirs. I'd also hope my bitters are still in demand, maybe working/developing some other products alongside them, whilst I still want to be involved in a training capacity as I really enjoy that aspect of my career.
If you weren't in the drinks industry, what do you think you would be doing now?
Not a clue to be honest, I did have an eagerness to get into Sports Science when I was younger and almost started work with the Fire Service so possibly one of them.
Your hangover cure?
Depends what I've been drinking but a long lie followed by a bacon roll, strong sugary coffee and lots of water seems to help. Failing that just get back on it with a G&T.
Your biggest career influencer?
Those that ask when I'm going to get a real job. Or Jerry Thomas.
First drink you ever tried?
It was probably a can of Tennent's. Back in the day they used to have women on the side, good times. I also remember trying whisky at a New Year's Party when I was about 12, really bad idea when your usual tipple is Ribena or Bon Accord juice.
We've all had a bad experience with at least one drink. What drink do you most avoid?
Disco drinks. If it can be made in the same time it takes to order it then the chances are it's going to be crap and make you feel awful the next day.
£10m comes to you. What do you do next?
This question should really have been posed to my girlfriend.
Bar or cellar at home?
Can I say a bar with a cellar?!?
See my answer to an earlier question
Depends if I'm drinking it with food however I am partial to a Malbec every so often. And Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
Rum, gin or whisk(e)y. I think...
Martinez, Sazerac, Crusta or Old Fashioned.
Marcliffe at Pitfodels.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding.
Homework by Daft Punk.
Neil Young or Curtis Mayfield.