Mixologist of the Month - Chris Pawar
- Date of Birth: 18th July 1989
- Birth place: Belfast, Northern Ireland
- Height: 6'2"
- Eye colour: Blue
- Nationality: British
"I started as a bar back/floor staff in a high volume restaurant bar in East Belfast called Horatio Todd's whilst I was studying at university. Some may say I enjoyed the social aspects of university a little bit too much so I soon dropped out without a degree or much to show for my two and a half years of "studying". Needless to say my mother was concerned so to stop her from worrying I started to work full time in Horatio's to make some money and keep out of trouble. I graduated to the bar and started to really enjoy the art of crafting cocktails. I also began to realise how this could be a viable career option.
I took things to the next level by joining the award winning bar team at the Merchant Hotel, Belfast, where I met then Head Bartender, Joshua Cowan. In my year at the Merchant I received a crash course in making world class cocktails at volume and pressure I had never experienced. A tough learning curve but one from which many have gone on to achieve great acclaim in our industry. When Joshua left for the Luggage Room I soon followed. I joined the team in February 2014 and we have overseen a bar that has gone from strength to strength in recent times. Joshua is now the Bar Manager and I am now the Head Bartender. The future seems bright."
Chris' Signature Cocktails
Claim to Fame
Once urinated beside Triple H and Randy Orton of WWE wrestling fame. They were training in my local gym ahead of a live performance in Belfast. Needless to say I didn't interrupt them to take a selfie.
Q & A
What do you as a mixologist think about beer? Any brews of note for you?
Beer is very important. For most of us it has played a pivotal role in our life as a bartender. More than likely beer was one of the first alcoholic beverages that we had tasted and certainly pulling a pint will have been one of the first arts that we learnt behind the stick. Before becoming a cocktail bartender I spent time behind a busy local bar in Belfast knocking out a lot of pints. I believe that the skills learnt here have helped me get to where I am now. Aside from this, beer can be downright delicious! A few of my personal favourites are Goose Island IPA, Samuel Adam's Boston Lager and Heineken. Hard to beat after a long day.
If you could offer a couple of short pieces of advice to the average bartender, what would they be?
Stay grounded and don't become arrogant in your craft. Never rest on your laurels. Always try and better yourself. A better you, a more informed you will lead to satisfied guests and the creation of long lasting experiences for those whom you are tending bar to. That's what matters the most.
Surely you have some pet peeves about bartenders -- care to share?
I have many but I could be here all day if you let me! It can come across that some bartenders forget why they're here. We are here to tend bar, to attend to our guests and to create unforgettable experiences through our hospitable service and the drinks which we serve. In the age of the modern bartender there is a lot of money as well as fame to be made. I find that this can be distracting for some young bartenders especially who get carried away with early success. As long as I can continue to satisfy my guests needs then I couldn't care about all the other trimmings that come with being a modern bartender.
How were you trained in bartending?
I was trained on the job. From bar backing and polishing glasses to learning how to pull a pint and make a decent gin and tonic! The fundamentals of bartending are the building blocks to becoming a good cocktail bartender. Once I started to enjoy bartending I rolled up my sleeves and tried to be the best I was anywhere I went. As far as I was concerned, the better trained I was, the happier my guests would be.
What are some trends you're seeing in the market?
More and more people are starting to enjoy mixed drinks. Week on week the average consumer is becoming more informed about cocktails and they are more open minded about what they would like to drink. With this being said they also want their drinks faster. I think Ryan and Ian at White Lyan got it spot on. World class mixed drinks to table in a matter of seconds. Fair enough not every bar can make bottled drinks at their level of consistency but for me they are meeting the trend head on. I see us in a consumer led market, they're demands are setting the bench mark for all of us at the minute. We have to step our game up to execute quality drinks at a greater rate. It's a fun challenge to have.
What's your process for creating a new cocktail? And what inspired you in the first place?
My process usually starts with picking a base spirit and trying to create a drink that best show cases the qualities of that spirit. I love working with Irish single potstilll whiskey. It's a great passion of mine and I love creating new cocktails based around it. Anything can inspire me for creating a new cocktail. It could be a song, something I have witnessed on any given day, something I've eaten or drank recently. It depends. I find inspiration in everything and everyone.
What is your favourite cocktail to make?
My favourite cocktail to make is an Old Fashioned. So simple but yet so good! Especially when made over a beautiful hand cut piece of ice. I take great satisfaction in carving ice for an Old Fashioned. Sure it would be easier to scoop some ice from a machine but there is no comparison in terms of quality.
What are some of your favourite tools?
My three pronged Japanese ice pick, perfect for cutting cubes and cutting ice balls for whisk(e)y's, and my Mr Slim jigger, 1oz and 2oz.
What is your favourite mixology resource?
At the moment I've been refreshing myself with Amy Stewart's "The Drunken Botanist". What a book! I've also just began to read the Death and Co. book. I've spent a lot of time previously reading old books, such as Jerry Thomas' Bartender's Guide, so I'm interested to have a look at a sort of modern take on a bartender's guide.
What does success mean for you?
Success means little to me without happiness. As long as I am happy and can make those around me happy, including my guests, then that for me is success enough.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years hopefully I'll be running my own place. That's the dream. I'm open minded about where I want to go in the future.
If you weren't in the drinks industry, what do you think you would be doing now?
When I was a kid I always wanted to be a footballer but if I wasn't in the drinks industry I think I'd be stuck behind a desk in some office. Doesn't bare thinking about!
Your biggest career influencer?
The biggest influencer in my career so far has to be my great friend and my boss Joshua Cowan. From the moment he interviewed me for my position in the Merchant Hotel he had a belief in me. Since then he has always believed in me even when I haven't believed in myself. Today I'm his Head Bartender so hopefully I'm still doing something right. He's one of the most intelligent people I've ever met and I wouldn't be here without him.
First drink you ever tried?
Smirnoff Ice! Still a firm favourite of course.
We've all had a bad experience with at least one drink. What drink do you most avoid?
Sambuca, Absinthe or anything else I did shots of at university.
Your hangover cure?
I'm a firm believer of having a "hair of the dog". Something long and refreshing usually does the trick. Failing that a berocca and plenty of water goes a long way to helping.
£10m comes to you. What do you do next?
Fly to Vegas, stick it all on black and hope for the best.
Bar or cellar at home?
White - Gewurztraminer, Alsace.
Red - Pretty much anything South African.
Farraway Collins created by Rusty Cerven at the Connaught Bar. ALWAYS hits the spot.
Dead Rabbit (New York), Merchant Hotel (Belfast), Duke of York (Belfast) and the Connaught Bar (London).
Lombardi's, New York
Camps Bay, Capetown.
Queen - A Night At The Opera.
Queen, Fleetwood Mac.