Jamie Stephenson - Mixologist of the Month
- Date of Birth: 24th January 1973
- Birth place: Beverley, East Yorkshire
- Height: 6'
- Eye colour: Blue
- Nationality: British
Jamie Stephenson is the founder of The Bar Academy and has been a bartender for twelve years. Jamie has recently been appointed with the coveted role of Global Brand Ambassador for Drambuie Liqueur.
During that period, he has been involved with the opening of eleven bars and restaurants in Hull, Blackpool, Bristol and Manchester.
Regarded as an authority on cocktails, Jamie was described as 'officially the best cocktail maker in the universe' by Polly Vernon in The Observer's Food Monthly. Tom Innes, editor of Flavour Magazine wrote, 'He has phenomenal drinks knowledge and makes terrific cocktails'.
Jamie is now committed to providing training such as he implemented in award-winning establishments such as Harvey Nichols and Obsidian and enjoys being at the heart of the most dynamic bar scene in the world.
Awards, Accolades and Trophies
The Publican - Bar Person of the Year 2002.
Moving Manchester - Bartender of the Year 2002.
Beefeater - World Bartending Champion 2003.
CLASS Magazine - Bartender of the Year 2004 .
FLVR Magazine - Bartender of the Year 2004.
THEME Magazine - Bartender of the Year 2004.
Drinks International Magazine - Bartender of the Year 2006.
Remy Martin - Style Master 2007.
Angostura - Global Cocktail Champion 2008.
Claim To Fame
Jamie's drinks were the 4th best reason to visit Manchester on BBC's Holiday programme!
Q & A
What do you as a mixologist think about beer? Any brews of note for you?
I do like the occasional beer and my favourite has to be Cusquena.
If you could offer a couple of short pieces of advice to the average bartender, what would they be?
Smile for crying out loud! You're supposed to be enjoying yourself. Learn some manners too - the biggest failing in this industry across the board is a general lack of common sense and manners. Personality will go a lot further than knowledge.
Surely you have some pet peeves about bartenders -- care to share?
See above. I cannot tolerate rudeness or even ambivalence from bartenders. If you are working behind the bar, you should be giving 100% to the customer.
As a mixologist/consultant, you work directly with many restaurants on their drink menus -- describe the parts of this process.
Identifying their requirements and comparing that to their facilities to see what can be achieved. Lots of operators want more complicated offerings that their bars can manage without compromising service so it is vital to ensure a cocktail offering that will enhance their business. We then recommend drinks that will sell and make them more money.
How did you get started?
I was studying at university and Allied Domecq advertised for staff for their American Diner concept which was opening in Hull - Hull's first proper cocktail bar. I went to their open day and got a job as a part time bartender.
How were you trained in bartending?
As the unit was a new build with 95% inexperienced staff, everybody undertook an intensive 3 week programme of training so that by the opening day every member of staff , in each department, was fully conversant in the full menu descriptions and ingredients for every menu item in the building - cocktails, bar snacks, restaurant menu - the works. Each bartender had to know the country of origin, and ABV of each of the 15 bottled beers we sold. The training instilled such high service standards and I loved it so much I didn't go back to uni', I went on the rota full-time.
Did you take any courses?
There weren't any courses to take back then, crikey the internet didn't even exist! There was very little information out there apart from a few old-fashioned books. We didn't even have a trade magazine until '97 (I believe). I took all the qualifications I could through the BII and have several Advanced Qualifications but they are geared more toward the operations sides of a licensed premises - marketing and finance etc. One of the reasons I am so passionate about training is because I worked very hard over a 10 year period to amass the bulk of my knowledge. Most of my learning has come through experience and I feel it is my duty to help up and coming bartenders by giving them access to this information.
What are some trends you're seeing in the market?
I think a lot of the top cocktailians are re-embracing simplicity in drinks and that is why there has been a resurgence of 'forgotten' drinks and inspiration from the old bartender's guides. Cocktails went through a phase of being far too wanky for their own good. Experimentation is all well and good but at the end of the day, the customer just wants to enjoy a good drink.
What's your process for creating a new cocktail?
It can come from any number of sources. I could be inspired by an name and want to build a drink around it, I could find a flavour inspired from food that I wish to replicate or I may find inspiration upon tasting a product to pair it with other characteristics available elsewhere.
What is your favourite cocktail to drink? To make?
I rarely drink but I will happily fall off the wagon for a good Daiquiri or Mai Tai.
What is your favourite mixology resource?
T'interweb - It is the one thing that has changed my life infinitesimally. The one caveat is not trusting any one source. You have to be good at researching and have prior knowledge on a subject to make it work.
What does success mean for you?
Knowing that people are confident that any drink I make for them is going to be fantastic. I'd also quite like to make some money for doing it one day too!
What goes into creating a cocktail? And what inspired you in the first place?
What is your favourite drink to make?
I couldn't possibly choose, I just love making drinks full stop
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I'm not sure, I may have finally decided to settle down and open a bar.
If you weren't in the drinks industry, what do you think you would be doing now?
I'd be working as a personal trainer/fitness instructor
Your hangover cure?
Water, at least two pints before you go to bed.
Your biggest career influencer?
My dad! When he found out I'd quit uni' he was less than pleased and told me, 'No son of mine is going to be a f*@king barman for the rest of his life'. I already had an ambition to succeed, but I resolved to prove to him, I was going to be the best bartender in the World.
First drink you ever tried?
Snakebite and black - it was the only thing I liked when I was 15. I went t-total when I was 17 and I didn't really miss it! I started drinking again when I was 23 and my palate has matured somewhat so I can enjoy a wide range of drinks
We've all had a bad experience with at least one drink. What drink do you most avoid?
Although I rarely drink nowadays, when I do I can still keep up with the best of them. I've had some monumental sessions - usually celebrating winning some competition or another but aside from one incidence of alcohol poisoning, I've never even had a hangover. I can still face any drink.
£10m comes to you. What do you do next?
I feel it would be my duty to the economy to help make up the shortfall in high street sales. New house, new car etc, the bar of my dreams and maybe a little put by for a rainy day
Bar or cellar at home?
I have a bar in what was once a dining room. It has the back bar and counter from my first bar in Manchester. There are around 250 bottles on it at the moment.
Henri Giraud Champagne
Whistler, B.C. Canada.
The Replacement Killers.
Fragments of Freedom - Morcheeba.