David Sangwell - Mixologist of the Month
- Date of Birth: New Years Eve
- Birth place: Colchester
- Height: 162cm
- Eye colour: Blue
- Nationality: British
"Starting way back in 2000 at a student nightclub in Stafford, I taught myself basic flair in my student halls (well pre-YouTube) and still have the scars on my feet to prove it. Having bounced between a couple of other local bars, I ended up at TGI Friday’s in 2003 and by the time I left in 2010 I’d been a national finalist for best bartender in the company and bagged a 2nd place in national flair.
2010 took me to Dubai opening a One & Only resort for Kerzner International spending almost a year in the UAE. Since I’ve been back I’ve worked with a number of restaurants and nightclubs (and a magic company supplying professional and TV magicians) and I’ve recently taken on a new role looking after the drinks development and training for the Bitters ’N’ Twisted group of 10 bars in and around Birmingham, while blogging and podcasting over at BartenderHQ.com"
Awards, Accolades and Trophies
Four time TGI Friday’s Best bartender finalist, TGI Friday’s Individual Flair National 2nd Place 2007, Suze & Byrrh Semi Finalist 2016, Nubi Magazine Bombay Sapphire mixology winner.
Q & A
What do you as a mixologist think about beer? Any brews of note for you?
Until recently its honestly not been a priority for me, but just recently its become more of a part of my job so I’m really focusing now - I’m currently loving Tiny Rebel’s Stay Puft Marshmallow Porter.
If you could offer a couple of short pieces of advice to the average bartender, what would they be?
Learn to open conversations. One thing that really worked for me was checking out what the Pick-up artists did, having a few easy canned openers until you become comfortable with just working off the cuff.
Surely you have some pet peeves about bartenders -- care to share?
I’ve always hated the “10 things your bartender hates…” type articles online - almost all of it actually comes down to unprepared bartenders or people who aren’t naturally hospitable. We’re there to serve and sometimes, some bartenders forget that.
As a mixologist/consultant, you work directly with many restaurants on their drink menus -- describe the parts of this process.
While my job keeps me within a single group rather than one off jobs, much of the same applies. New drinks menus start with looking through the stats at what works already, keeping those as a basis and building from there. I like to keep drinks accessible so people recognise names and twist classics rather than going completely from scratch.
How did you get started?
I just took another student to her interview at the club as she didn’t drive. While she was being interviewed I fixed the owner’s computer (and put up a sweet J.Lo wallpaper… this was 2000) and he made the manager find me a bar back role and that’s where it all began.
How were you trained in bartending?
Barely. The early places had hardly any structure, but when I got to Friday’s, the training structure was excellent and really encouraged learning, especially of recipes from memory.
Did you take any courses?
Not really! While at Friday’s I was trained as a group and one to one coach as well as a train the trainer course in Dubai, but nothing mixology related directly.
What are some trends you're seeing in the market?
Our South American concept Bodega is doing incredibly well and our guests are really embracing tequila, pisco & cachaça, mezcal has taken longer to pick up, but that and dark rums are the big growth areas I see.
What's your process for creating a new cocktail? And what inspired you in the first place?
I enjoy deconstructing the flavours and rebuilding in a new way - for example we’ve created a twist on the Red Snapper for our gin parlour which is served straight up - comprising muddled fresh tomatoes, celery gin, lemon juice, saline and naga chilli bitters - its super light and tastes of fresh tomato rather than cold soup.
What is your favourite cocktail To make?
As long as I’m working on a well set up bar, I’ll enjoy making anything.
What are some of your favourite tools?
I spent forever looking for a decent wooden mallet to use with a lewis bag for crushed ice, that’s a super satisfying feeling when you use it behind the bar!
What is your favourite mixology resource?
Diffords Guide is probably the one I recommend most often, its a great place for inspiration when you’re creating new drinks.
What does success mean for you?
This has changed a lot over the past couple of years since my first son was born in 2014 (we have another on the way in January), balance is really important for me now. I used to work every hour I could, but the more hours you work the less productive each is.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Honestly I love the job I have right now, its a dynamic company that has opened 10 venues over the past 10 years and as they continue to grow I’d love to be leading a team that grows with the company to develop the drinks and training further.
If you weren't in the drinks industry, what do you think you would be doing now?
I’ve done work in marketing, web and retail in the past for various industries, tech is my main passion outside of the drinks industry so perhaps video production?
Your biggest career influencer?
Andrew Mullins of Fling consulting who worked with One & Only over the early opening in Dubai opened my eyes to far more of the classics that had been overlooked in my early, more flair oriented career, as well as molecular mixology.
First drink you ever tried?
I have no idea… probably a Budweiser!
We've all had a bad experience with at least one drink. What drink do you most avoid?
Probably the most inconstant I’ve had is also a favourite of mine when its done right - the Old Fashioned. A particular low was Planet Hollywood in New York on my honeymoon earlier this year... A collins glass, half a dozen mushed cherries, most of an orange, crushed ice and some Jim Beam does not a great Old Fashioned make.
Your hangover cure?
Nothing revolutionary here - Drink enough water before bed, then more when you get up! Bacon sandwiches will always make you feel better too!
£10m comes to you. What do you do next?
I send a thank you letter to the internet prince who sent it (they get such a bad reputation) and order a bottle or two of Pappy. Then find a list of the world’s best bars and start booking some flights!
Bar or cellar at home?
Certainly a bar - unless the cellar comes with a Som so I know what I’m doing.
Tiny Rebel’s Stay Puft Marshmallow Porter.
Malbec in general.
Koval Millet Whiskey.
Employees Only’s “Ready Fire Aim”.
Harrah’s Carnaval Court - I know, its not a mixo place, but I can sacrifice drinks quality for how entertaining those bartenders are!
New York City (So far).
Ready Player One - Drinks wise, Liquid Intelligence.