Chris Flint - Mixologist of the Month
- Date of Birth: 28th Jan
- Birth place: Edinburgh
- Height: 6'
- Eye colour: Brown
- Nationality: British
"I started working bars almost by accident in 2002, picking up a job bar backing in Edinburgh. From there I found a natural interest in playing with flavours, learning more about the industry as I went. In 2007 I set up a consultancy service, primarily aimed at training, then in late 2008 opened a 280 capacity venue, Bond No 9 in Leith, Edinburgh with my business partner Kara Anderson.
It is a tricky premise making good quality cocktails for a large capacity venue and I'm proud to say that Bond No 9 did this very well, being enough to enjoy a solid six & a half years of drinks slinging, managing to win a few awards along the way.
In 2014 we opened our second venue, Clouds & Soil. This venue with it's smaller main bar and separate restaurant is ideal for playing more intricately with cocktails; we adopted a monthly changing list to take advantage of this as well as seasonally fickle produce. Bond No 9 had to close its doors in early 2015 due to a dispute with the head tenant and since then I have been managing Clouds & Soil in the Edinburgh City Centre full time."
Claim to Fame
I got Buzz Aldrin to try Irn Bru. He didn't like it. You can bring an astronaut to orange liquid...
Q & A
What do you as a mixologist think about beer? Any brews of note for you?
I love a beer, especially after a long shift. Especially as the brewers get more and more creative and play more.
If you could offer a couple of short pieces of advice to the average bartender, what would they be?
Never be afraid to be wrong, and never wax lyrical. There is a weird pressure in this industry to never admit a lack of knowledge. Some bartenders seem to enjoy going around asking for obscure drinks seemingly just to try and make the person behind the bar feel small. Don't be one of those bartenders. Also, taste everything, I think it is far more important to understand spirits over cocktail recipes. It's like trying to create a meal without ever having properly tasted the ingredients, yes, you can do it, but you could make it better if it really made sense.
Surely you have some pet peeves about bartenders -- care to share?
Bartender arrogance is my only major pet peeve, our job is to guide people with their drinks choices, not dictate them. If someone asks for a drink you may not rate particularly highly, by all means suggest an alternative, but if they know what they want then we should be looking to make the best possible version of that drink.
As a mixologist/consultant, you work directly with many restaurants on their drink menus -- describe the parts of this process.
It varies massively, the key thing is making sure that you, as the consultant, are on the right wavelength for what the venue wants you to provide. You have to leave your ego at the door and remember you are helping someone else shape their dream, not impose your own.
It basically comes down to meet, discuss, rough out, tweak/rethink, polish, train.
How did you get started?
When I was at University I picked up a part time job in a bar after a drunken party. I hadn't considered working bars before then but soon found myself sucked in to the worlds of both spirits and cocktails.
How were you trained in bartending?
I've always been more of a self teacher as opposed to a structured learner. I picked up books and read articles that interested me, played around with ideas that intrigued me and tried to glean whatever I could from the people who worked around me. Not the fastest way to be sure but it certainly gives a balanced perspective.
Did you take any courses?
Not really, there were the odd training days and courses that come with their various certifications but none that I still have, or would class as a full on 'course'
What are some trends you're seeing in the market?
Gin is still everywhere, sherry's and fortifieds seem to be making a bit of a resurgence just now. It seems like the craft beer wave is starting to lose momentum and I wouldn't be at all surprised if the party bar & party cocktails make a resurgence soon.
What's your process for creating a new cocktail? And what inspired you in the first place?
I like to use flavours that aren't easy to get on a bar in drinks. Depending on what I am aiming to do I start off with associating flavours and counter flavours until I have a concept I think will work, then I start trying drinks, tweaking as I go (or scrapping it and starting again) until I have something I am happy with.
Bars should offer something people cannot easily get at home, we have to work to justify the extra money they are spending with us, so our drinks should endeavour to be interesting & complex without being pretentious and unapproachable.
What is your favourite cocktail To make?
I have always preferred making a stirred drink to a shaken one. There is more skill to it, I would probably say my favourite cocktail to make is a Sazerac, I like how easy it is to play with the original in interesting ways.
What are some of your favourite tools?
You can't beat a good bar knife. For the more interesting tools I love a smoking gun, but not how most bartenders use it. A lot opt for the theatre of delivering a smoking drink to a table. But this leads to inconsistent smoking times and therefore inconsistent drinks. We use a timer when we smoke a drink to avoid this problem which may sacrifice a little of the theatre at the table but in my opinion gives a better drink.
What is your favourite mixology resource?
Other bartenders. Books are brilliant, the internet can be useful, training sessions are an excellent addition to your knowledge but learning from other bartenders is key. A good bar team should be like a forum, with everyone bringing something to the table. And don't be afraid to admit you are wrong.
What does success mean for you?
Success to me is being proud of what you have created, I would much rather have a bar that scrapes by with a product I am happy with than a bar that makes more money that I would be embarrassed to be associated with. Fortunately, however, a good product does tend to lead to good sales in turn.
What are some current trends you've seen in the cocktail market?
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hard to say, who knows what 2016 might bring, led alone 17-20. I would love to move to Asia at some point, possibly somewhere like Vietnam and set up there, but not likely in the next 5 years. One thing I do know is I most likely will not be working 9-5.
If you weren't in the drinks industry, what do you think you would be doing now?
When I was at university I was doing Artificial Intelligence, so probably something computer related, but probably working for myself. Whether I would be successful at it is another matter.
Your biggest career influencer?
I would say boredom, which I know is slightly sidestepping the question. I read a lot of things, by a lot of people but there isn't one person I would place at the fore. I like to try things, and change things, and this is what leads me on.
First drink you ever tried?
First alcohol I ever tried was the dregs of about 8 or 9 different wines when I was far too young. Me and my friend were serving wine at a birthday party for my mum, but we were holding back the last bits of each bottle for ourselves. Towards the end of the night we snuck off, poured them all together then grimaced it down. I suppose that was my first cocktail too.
We've all had a bad experience with at least one drink. What drink do you most avoid?
When I was a student I went through a phase of turning up to parties with a bottle of Aftershock. It's not fun waking up the next morning feeling infused with sickly sweet cinnamon. I'd like to say I've grown up a little since then.
Your hangover cure?
You cannot beat fresh grapefruit juice with orgeat syrup & soda water. In a pint, or a bucket.
£10m comes to you. What do you do next?
Run & hide... Assuming it arrived legally; I would probably go and see the world for a bit. Give some out to my family, invest the majority and buy a sailing boat, then continue to see the world on it.
Bar or cellar at home?
Definitely a bar, no reason you can't have some wine in your home bar, and I've never been very good at leaving things unopened.
Tricky one. I'm quite a fan of Jarl by Fyne Ales. Also Barneys good ordinary pale ale is a lovely pint and Drygate's Gladeye IPA is a winner also. That's not really picking a favourite I know.
Love an Old Vine Zinfandel.
I've always been a big fan of Absinthe, particularly Swiss Blanchettes, which is why Bond No 9 had a strong lean towards it. But for a day to day drink it would probably be a rum or a bourbon, something along the lines of Chairman's Reserve or
Probably a Dark & Stormy, I know it's not an old, prohibition style, drink which probably loses me style points but it's tasty, refreshing & interesting. I do also love a Calvados & Rye Sazerac at the other end of the scale.
Tricky, Edinburgh is lucky to have loads of amazing bars, and I am going to stick close to home for this one (literally) and go with a home bar. It's tailor made to you, you can have whatever 'door' policy you choose, and closing time is whenever you want it to be, can't get better than that. You can also go to this bar in your boxers, which is always a plus.
I'm a sucker for Asian food, it was an Edinburgh restaurant called Wok & Wine on Frederick St but sadly they have closed now. Possibly Port of Siam on Broughton Street or Thai Orchid up by the castle.
Got to be Asia, I went to Vietnam & Cambodia last year and it was incredible from start to finish. The people are so friendly, the food incredible and the culture awe inspiring. We cycled around Angkor Archaeological park in Cambodia which was a definite highlight.
Memento most likely, although it does change depending on the day you ask me. Today it is Memento.
Excession by Iain M Banks, or the majority of his work, he had an epic imagination and the worlds he created were intricate, developed & intriguing.
Probably Muse- Showbiz. Like the film though, this changes almost daily.
Queens of the Stone age, or possibly Modest Mouse, or...