Gethin Jones - Mixologist of the Month
- Date of Birth: 25th November
- Birth place: Anglesey, North Wales
- Height: 6'1"
- Eye colour: Green(ish)
- Nationality: British
"After finishing my degree in graphic design I took a job as a part time cleaner in my old local Scream bar back in Wales, it was a temporary thing, just a bit of pocket money until I found a job in the design industry. I transferred to The Phoenix in Manchester, pretended I'd worked on a bar before and got stuck in to bartending! After reluctantly progressing through the manager training programs for a national bar chain I left and found myself in Sandbar where I had my first glimpse of what passion for the drinks industry looked like! Having learnt all I could about beer and whisky I was asked to take on the general manager role of a real ale pub and hotel. Two years later I was in The Blue Pig as assistant manager and finally making my first cocktail and it's spiralled from there!
I am now the bar manager at Cottonopolis as well as part time northern ambassador for Distilleries et Domaines de Provence and their excellent liqueurs, vermouths and absinthes. Most recently I have been made brand ambassador for Marquis Armagnac."
Awards, Accolades and Trophies
There's not many that spring to mind, I barely made it through university and I cheated on my Physics GCSE.
Claim to Fame
I appeared on Channel 4's "The French Connection", buying some antique furniture for my old bar and making awkward small talk for the camera.
Q & A
What do you as a mixologist think about beer? Any brews of note for you?
I love beer! I ran a real ale pub and worked in a bar specialising in German and Belgian beers before that, as such, Westmalle and Carolus will always hold special places on my ultimate drinks list.
If you could offer a couple of short pieces of advice to the average bartender, what would they be?
Never stop learning, I feel like every time I learn one new fact or technique it throws up several new questions that I need to find answers to, Don't believe any bartender who claims they know it all. It's a fun job that not everyone can do well so if you find yourself finishing a 13 hour shift with a smile on your face and a willingness to do it all again tomorrow, keep at it. We're not in this industry for the sociable hours, health benefits and fabulous pay so enjoy your work and take pride in what you do!
Surely you have some pet peeves about bartenders -- care to share?
Ego's! That absolute know it all attitude you see in some people. The bartender who looks down on their customers and belittles them, making them feel bad for certain drink choices or just talking complete and utter BS in order to look big and clever. They're usually the same person who considers themselves too good to help out the bar back occasionally or take the bins out.
As a mixologist/consultant, you work directly with many restaurants on their drink menus -- describe the parts of this process.
There's always a lot of discussion before any drinks are ever shaken up and tested: Who will be drinking the cocktails? What's the price point? What sort of volume does the bar do? What level are the bartender's at? Is there a food menu to pair with? Is there an overall theme we should be adhering to? I've always found that once everyone involved is on the same page and there are clear goals as to what we want to achieve, the drink selection comes quickly and naturally.
How did you get started?
I started out as a part time cleaner in my local Scream bar back in Wales and just carried on! A temporary stop-gap turned into a whole new career. I made my first cocktails after becoming GM of The Blue Pig and had an awful lot of learning to do. It was a very backwards way of learning but it meant I was thorough and very eager to take on board all the information I could get as I knew that it had to translate instantly into how I ran the business and the impact it had on my customers.
How were you trained in bartending?
My first years with Scream had little to do with quality alcohol and all to do with having a real good time. Running busy club nights, being closely involved with promoters and DJ's as well as the bar team meant it really was about "customer experience" first and foremost. From there I went to Sandbar and got my first glimpse of an independent bar- The training there was absolutely intense and the passion for beer and whisky has stayed with me over the years. My cocktail training mainly came from YouTube videos of Jim Meehan, Imbibe and a very battered Diffords Guide! I still try to attend as many tasting sessions and master classes as I can, they're invaluable in my opinion.
What are some trends you're seeing in the market?
A love for locality and provenance that I think has stemmed from the restaurants. Bartenders and customers care about where a product is from and the methods of production. Armagnac, Aquavit, Mezcal, Pisco etc. are all featuring heavily again and all bring their own stories, customs and superstitions that bartenders love to recite and customers are eager to hear.
What's your process for creating a new cocktail? And what inspired you in the first place?
Firstly it depends on why I'm creating a new cocktail- if it's for a menu then it's normally about a balance of styles, flavours, spirits etc. If I'm working with a specific ingredient then I will base the cocktail on my a number of factors; flavour and aroma's that stand out, interesting brand stories, history and geography.
What is your favourite cocktail To make?
Whatever your favourite drink is. I'm happy enough opening beer bottles and shaking Cosmo's as I am stirring Martini's and Sazerac's.
What are some of your favourite tools?
A nice mixing glass and a good spoon make me feel like I know what I'm doing sometimes.
What is your favourite mixology resource?
As I said, I owe a lot to Jim Meehan and the YouTube clips he and the PDT guys posted! These day's I read as many books as I can; cocktails books, history books, cook books... anything and everything.
What does success mean for you?
What are some current trends you've seen in the cocktail market?
There's some very talented bartenders doing some clever things with de ageing spirits in Manchester, guys with a much firmer grip on GCSE science than I could ever have.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Still surrounded by alcohol and friendly people, I hope.
If you weren't in the drinks industry, what do you think you would be doing now?
I would've nailed that "real job" and been the graphic designer I always thought I'd be.
Your biggest career influencer?
There's some incredibly talented guys and girls in Manchester and the North doing some really great things in their bars, they influence my career on a daily basis.
First drink you ever tried?
Probably my parent's red wine when I was a lot younger but I was naughty and drank in my local pub from the age of 15 and "pound a pint" was a popular night so Carlsberg out of plastic pint pots formed a big part of my youth.
We've all had a bad experience with at least one drink. What drink do you most avoid?
I get killer hangovers so everything has given me a "bad experience" at one time or another. Alcohol is my baby and I could never hold a grudge against it.
Your hangover cure?
There is no cure..... but a duvet fort, endless cups of tea, an Archer marathon (I love the alcohol references, big love for the Armagnac!) and a sympathetic girlfriend take the edge off of them.
£10m comes to you. What do you do next?
Crack open an expensive bottle of something old and brown, search for my dream house(s) and share with my nearest and dearest.
Bar or cellar at home?
The ten million could get me a half decent cellar, as it stands I already have a little home bar and I'm very happy with it.
Can't go wrong with an ice cold, Czech Pilsner or an easy going American Pale after a long Saturday night shift but my favourite beer is probably always going to be Gouden Carolus Classic
Red - Mouvedre/ Petite Sirah. White - Albarino/ Picpoul.
It's all about Armagnac these days! A good bourbon is always welcomed in my glass too.
Stirred down and brown. The Manhattan is a go to in any new bar.
Wherever my friends are.
Anglesey on a nice day, Gascony all year round.
I can recite The Nightmare Before Christmas word for word. But for credibility I'm going to say Taxi Driver.
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy or The Devil All The time by Donald Ray Pollock
All We Love We Leave Behind by Converge.