Mixologist of the month - Simon Difford
- Date of Birth: 8th November 1965
- Birth place: London
- Height: 6'1"
- Eye colour: Brown
- Nationality: English
Simon Difford has been involved in most aspects of the drinks industry from running his own off licence and wholesale company to importing and brand creation, but is best known as a drinks writer and publisher.
Simon founded CLASS Magazine in 1997, a title which became the leading UK style bar title before he sold it to William Reed Publishing to prepare for the launch of his range of diffordsguide drinks related books in 2001. The best known of these, 'diffordsguide - Cocktails', is now in its 7th edition with 2,300 colour illustrated recipes and is widely regarded as the authoritative international cocktail publication.
In 2007 Simon received the Glenfiddich Drink & Bar Writer of the year award and continues to both judge and compete in cocktail competitions.
The Observer also chose Simon as one of their Future 500 - was set up to identify 'the brightest and best rising stars across ten fields in the UK'.
Simon was part of the team responsible for the creation of St-Germain elderflower liqueur which launched in the UK in 2007. Made from flowers picked in the French Alps, it is produced in small batches and each bottle is numbered and carries the vintage year that the flowers were picked.
This 20% A.B.V. liqueur has made its mark on the UK trade and established itself as a must-stock item on all good back bars.
Simon's signature cocktails
Awards, Accolades and Trophies
Glenfiddich Drink & Bar Writer of the Year 2007
Best Daiquiri - UK Havana Club Daiquiri Competition, 2002 (quite right too - based on years of practice)!
Q & A
What do you as a mixologist think about beer? Any brews of note for you?
Beer would be my desert island request over any spirit, wine or cocktail. I prefer a dark, flavoursome beer rather than tasteless, insipid, watery Euro lagers. Predictably I also seem to prefer beers with a higher abv. I love traditional British ale and at home I'm currently drinking rather too much Belgium Grimbergen Double.
If you could offer a couple of short pieces of advice to the average bartender, what would they be?
Everybody should pay heed to the expression, 'Luck favours the prepared'.
How did you get started?
I bought an off-licence and started a wholesale drinks business and over the years found myself pulled to the wrong side of the bar.
How were you trained in bartending?
Advice from friends like Dick Bradsell and lots of trial and error.
Did you take any courses?
A UKBG two-day course.
What are some trends you're seeing in the market?
Away from vodka, especially flavoured vodka, and a dramatic rise in gin. Tequila and rum are also gaining at vodka's expense.
What's your process for creating a new cocktail?
Usually I have to create cocktails for a specific brand so I will start by identifying what mixes well with that brand. I then experiment with different combinations and proportions. When I'm happy with the finished drink comes the difficult task of dreaming up a suitable name.
What is your favourite cocktail to drink? To make?
At the moment I'm drinking a lot of Negronis. I am a lazy bartender so always prefer to mix three ingredient drinks that just require shaking rather than anything that involves muddling. I hate making drinks that call for crushed ice.
What are some of your favourite tools?
My new 18v Hitachi cordless drill - even has a light on the front. And my old beaten Alessi shaker. Its base fell off years ago and I broke the glass that came with it the first time I used it but no other shaker, (even my spanking new Alessi) ever feels the same.
What is your favourite mixology resource?
I have a large collection of old cocktail books but I mostly frequently refer to Victor Bergeron's 'Trader Vic's Bartender's Guide' (1972 revised edition) and David A. Embury's 1948 'Fine Art of Mixing Drinks'. But of course my favourite is 'diffordsguide Cocktails #7'. Shameless.
What does success mean for you?
Quality of life.
What are some current trends you've seen in the cocktail market?
Back to the classics - the rediscovery of vintage drinks.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Still writing books but also with a couple of successful liquor brands.
If you weren't in the drinks industry, what do you think you would be doing now?
Probably the building industry.
Your hangover cure?
Prevention is better than cure so drink lots of water.
Your biggest career influencer?
John Coe of Coe Vintners.
First drink you ever tried?
My dad's McEwans lager - not a very auspicious start.
We've all had a bad experience with at least one drink. What drink do you most avoid?
£10m comes to you. What do you do next?
Launch a new drinks brand and buy a bar.
Bar or cellar at home?
I have a custom built fully professional 4.5meter long zinc topped bar with everything you'd expect to find in a top West End bar, plus a few things you wouldn't.
Brains SA ale.
Daiquiri served 'natural' style but on the rocks.
My own! It's called the Cabinet Room.
The Glasshouse in Mayfair.
Victor K. Kiam's Going For It!
Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon.