Andy Stewart - Mixologist of the Month
- Date of Birth: 18th December
- Birth place: Aberdeen
- Height: 6'
- Eye colour: Brown
- Nationality: Scottish
"From starting with cappuccinos and 'dry white wine' in a cinema bar to pumping pints and optics at a down and dirty dive bar with live music it wasn't until I started at Snafu with Adrian Gomes and Matt Dakers that I started to get into the cocktail side of bartending. As soon as I started looking into the historical side of the industry, that had me hooked. Becoming a Dad meant I left the trade for a few years: late nights behind the stick and a small child do not mix well. But I kept my hand in with disco shifts and competitions. Eventually, like the vaguely disturbing ex that lurks in the back of your mind I came back to the trade. They said it would be better this time around. And I wouldn't change it for anything."
Awards, Accolades and Trophies
Scottish Licensed Trade News: Mixologist of the Year 2015.
$10 Shake Bartender of the Year 2014.
Scottish Bartender Network: Cocktail Menu of the Year 2015 (for The Tippling House).
Wizard of the North - Gabriel Boudier Wizard Liqueur Scottish final.
Joint winner of this years Old Forester UK Final.
Claim to Fame
I share my birthday with Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta, Steven Spielberg and Katie Holmes (to the year with her). All the best people are born on this day. (Even Rikki Allan).
Q & A
What do you as a mixologist think about beer? Any brews of note for you?
Beer's for breakfast! ;) Seriously though at the end of a long shift a beer is exactly what you need. Currently loving Drygate's Ax-Man Rye.
If you could offer a couple of short pieces of advice to the average bartender, what would they be?
Listen. To your colleagues, your peers, your guests. Each and every one of us is still learning and no-one knows it all. Listen and learn.
Surely you have some pet peeves about bartenders -- care to share?
Bartender puberty. Every one of us hits that stage early on where we've gotten over our initial fears and hesitancies and think we know it all and that we're they're greatest thing behind the stick. We're not. Humility goes a long way. Talking down to guests. Even if your hand crafted haggis bitters blended with unicorn tears is absolutely banging; if your guest wants a 'voddy cola, nae ice or slice' or a French Martini: that's their choice. We're bartenders: tend to your bar. Lads, lads, lads. We too easily slip into a lads culture behind the stick, but some of the greatest bartenders I've worked with over the years aren't 'lads', from Sian Buchan to Abi Clephane and Becky George, step away from the 'jobs for the boys' culture.
As a mixologist/consultant, you work directly with many restaurants on their drink menus -- describe the parts of this process.
Totally dependent upon the situation. First and foremost is looking at the clientele base: are they going to be receptive to obscure spirits and odd flavour profiles or are they looking at classics and stretching their boundaries. You could have the most innovative and bartender praise worthy menu in existence, but if you're creating this for a small hotel/restaurant in the middle of nowhere all you'll achieve is scaring away the guests. Know your guests.
How did you get started?
That tired old trope: by accident. I was a music promoter at the time and it made more sense to work in the venue that I was putting my gigs on.
How were you trained in bartending?
At first, barely. Once I started in my first cocktail gig I had a lot of on the job training and since then it's been self-teaching. Watching and asking questions of my peers.
Did you take any courses?
Other than my licensing course, no.
What are some trends you're seeing in the market?
Gin, gin and more gin. It's been 5 years or so, but it's still one of the overreaching trends on the market place, and still going strong. The oft reported emergence of tequila is still yet to happen, but aperitifs and low ABV drinks are beginning to make headway.
What's your process for creating a new cocktail? And what inspired you in the first place?
Depends upon what place the cocktail is taking: menu creation or competition drink? Competition drinks for me are always rooted in history, whether of the brand, the locale, a story that fits.... Menu: seasonality and what's missing from my current menu list that my team have put forward/proposed.
What is your favourite cocktail To make?
I wouldn't peg it to just one, but more a style: down'n'brown. Any stirred drink. That moment of calm on a bar when you're 6 deep and it's just you, the bar spoon and the swirl of ice in a mixing glass. Hence my choice of cocktails for this article.
What are some of your favourite tools?
A bar spoon at just the right length and right spiral, where it becomes an extension of your arm.
What is your favourite mixology resource?
Online: Imbibe Real life: my library and my friends and colleagues.
What does success mean for you?
Where I've introduced a guest, colleague or friend to a new flavour, spirit, whatever. That point in time where you know that that drink or moment has lodged in their head.
What are some current trends you've seen in the cocktail market?
As I said previously, gin and the emergence of aperitifs. In terms of style we're moving towards low abv style drinks and the interesting use of local sourced and foraged produce.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Probably away from the day to day operating of the bar. Possibly as a brand rep, where all ageing bar tenders are put out to pasture.
If you weren't in the drinks industry, what do you think you would be doing now?
Luckily I escaped a career by coming back to the drink industry: from 2009 - 2014 I worked in the banking industry. Tedious to say the least.
Your biggest career influencer?
Practically everyone I've worked with, but to narrow that down Adrian Gomes (we've worked together on and off for almost a decade now), Scott Gemmell (who told me to never leave the industry and come back from the dark side of banking), Matt Dakers (the first of the guys I worked with that I saw making an impact on the industry and showed me what can be done in this industry) and my daughter (I left to have more time with her when she was younger, now her pride in me for competitions and teaching her the skills of the trade keeps me going)
First drink you ever tried?
Either Dad's Guinness or some Carlsberg Special Brew I remember my sister feeding me at the age of 8.
We've all had a bad experience with at least one drink. What drink do you most avoid?
These days none, but for a chunk of my 20's I avoided bourbon at all costs.
Your hangover cure?
Sleep. Failing that fresh orange juice, triple espresso and something stodgy and heavy to absorb everything. (including the ability to move)
£10m comes to you. What do you do next?
Clear debts, travel the world then sink it into making my own brand or bar.
Bar or cellar at home?
As an easy accessible one to pick up for home: 7 Giraffes by Williams Bros.
A decent Rioja with enough spice and heaviness.
Rum. Personal favourite for sipping of an evening, or mixing, Matusalem 15yo Gran Reserva.
Sazerac. Half and half with the addition of 1 dash of Whisky Barrel bitters.
I'm not down often enough, but feeling perfectly at home and being looked after in Dandelyan is great.
I don't actually have one. It's so rare I get an evening off to go out for dinner.
New York. A wonderful city that operates at my pace.
Sheesh, where to begin? Toss up between Goodfellas or The Princess Bride.
Seriously? I could talk at length here... Nerdy good times: Ready Player One - Ernest Cline Bar banter: Filthy Still - Dan Miles Cocktail History - Jigger, Beaker Glass - Charles H Baker
London Conversation - John Martyn
The Wonderstuff or Pixies.