Mixologist of the Month - Danny Achilles
- Date of Birth: 15th January
- Birth place: Liverpool
- Height: 5'5"
- Eye colour: Hazel
- Nationality: British
"I got started in the bar industry pretty much the same as everybody else - I was a barback (glass collector back then). In my case I was still in school. When I was old enough to serve drinks I was working in a cocktail bar that doesn’t exist any more in Liverpool’s Albert dock. Fast forward a few years of finding my feet and learning from some very good and some very bad bartenders/managers. I am currently working at the Rookwood Bar and Cue and love entering competitions, holding my own alongside some of the best in the country."
Claim to Fame
In a bartending sense, I am currently featured on the Ryan Air “explore Liverpool” promotional video.
Q & A
What do you as a mixologist think about beer? Any brews of note for you? I like beer, I’m a big fan of the local craft beers we have in Liverpool right now. A personal favourite is “Line in the sand” by Top Rope Brewing who are fairly new. All of their beers that I have tasted are very good and very well made. The line in the sand in particular recently won a competition we have in Rookwood Bar and 'Cue (where I currently work)
If you could offer a couple of short pieces of advice to the average bartender, what would they be? Be confident, Be yourself, Engage your customer. Its the simple things that matter, just asking your customer how their day has gone can sometimes be the difference. We all know from our own experiences just being asked if we’re OK and how our day has been can make you feel happier regardless of the situation your personal/professional life is in at that moment. KEEP IT SIMPLE.
Surely you have some pet peeves about bartenders -- care to share? Bartenders who see customers as an inconvenience, like that bartender who literally asks what you want, makes it and gets your cash, no further interaction and is almost robotic. Also a bartender that doesn’t know what they sell. Just something tiny like what country (city if its the country your currently in). Pretend you know loads but that’s the important fact.
As a mixologist/consultant, you work directly with many restaurants on their drink menus -- describe the parts of this process. So I start with the venue, and the kind of drinks they want. What sells well for them now? Then build from that. What do they currently stock that they don’t sell so much of? Can I use that in a drink or two? Then its all about communication and getting the best results for everybody.
How did you get started? In the bar industry it was just a weekend job to get some extra pocket money. I was lucky that the first bar I worked behind had a very talented team to teach me flavours. Then working with some very talented bartenders to teach me how to put them together in my own style and my own way.
How were you trained in bartending? The training I had was very hands on, Constantly watched, helped and guided into making sure my habits were good, and I was doing everything the right way and always making sure I knew I was never the finished article. A philosophy I still hold today. There is ALWAYS more to learn.
Did you take any courses? No I didn't the “Bartender” school didn't exist when I first broke into the industry. Being a bartender wasn't the “cool” job it is now.
What are some trends you're seeing in the market? Craft beers are popping up everywhere, which is a good thing as the less good ones just don’t last as they don’t sell because of all those brilliant ones are selling. Customers seem more knowledgeable than they were even 5 years ago. Now they know their branding, I had one customer recently who was impressed that I squeezed a lime wedge into his rum and cola, he said I was the first bartender who had done so all night. Then there's Gin, everybody likes Gin and they know which Gin they like, how they like it and why.
What's your process for creating a new cocktail? And what inspired you in the first place? Depending on the brief, ill tend to find an obscure classic (Armagnac stinger for example) and play about with it, see what works, and more importantly what doesn't. Then its figuring out how I’d sell it in my bar, and making sure I know enough about the classic to be able to talk about it. For example I used the 6 degrees of separation theory to link from the Armagnac stinger all the way back to myself at a recent Marquis de Montesquiou competition.
What is your favourite cocktail To make? Again I’m a fan of the classics, so I like making a decent old fashioned, or stirred Gin/vodka martini. In my opinion being able to take the time to engage my customer whilst making their drink is what makes our industry. That social interaction is the difference between (in my opinion) a good bar and a great bar.
What are some of your favourite tools? Being a fan of making stirred classics, I’m a fan of the bar spoon, and it’s versatility and usefulness, from using it to layer a shot, to stirring a drink with ease, to plucking a stray lemon pip out of a drink before serving it.
What is your favourite mixology resource? I have to say in this day and age it's Google, Google allows me to quickly find the drink/recipe I’m looking for but it also means I'm not wasting time flicking through books only to find its the wrong one.
What does success mean for you? To me success is knowing that I’ve helped train the next generation, knowing that classic drinks aren't going to become a niche market. Hopefully we wont ever have to go to a specialist bar to get a half decent Manhattan for example.
What are some current trends you’ve seen in the cocktail market? The “gimmick cocktail” is so popular, drinks that are served in something obscure like a mini bathtub, or drinks that have dry ice in, and sweets for garnishes are insanely popular.
Where do you see yourself in five years? Ideally in some sort of training role within a brand or working as a brand ambassador doing brand specific training and again helping the next generation of bartender reach higher heights than I ever could.
If you weren't in the drinks industry, what do you think you would be doing now? I’d like to think I’d be a professional wrestler, I did train in that for a while and had limited success before an injury put an end to that.
Your biggest career influencer? A guy called James Hall who was my first bar manager, and my first trainer. Taught me a whole lot but instilled that “you’ve never made it” attitude in me.
First drink you ever tried? I think my first cocktail was a Cosmopolitan maybe, the first proper alcoholic drink I had was a vodka and orange.
We've all had a bad experience with at least one drink. What drink do you most avoid? Sambuca, definitely Sambuca. It broke me once when I was about 20 and even now I can’t stand the taste of it as a result.
Your hangover cure? I don’t really get hangovers, but I swear by mountain dew when I’m feeling worse for wear the next day.
£10m comes to you. What do you do next? Finish paying for my wedding, pay off my family’s debts and mine, buy my mum's house and my nan's too.
Bar or cellar at home? I'd have a bar it's more fun that inviting your friends round to your cellar.
Favourite beer? At the moment, it’s either Top Rope Brewings Line in the sand, or Paulaner Salvatore.
Wine? Not a big wine fan but I am partial to a nice Riesling.
Cocktail? Classic Old fashioned.
Fav Bar? Spago, in marina bay sands, Singapore.
Restaurant? Anywhere that sells a decent steak.
World location? That’s a toss up between Liverpool (there’s no place like home) or Chicago.
Fav film? Top Gun.
Book? Angels and demons by Dan Brown.
Album? Sin and Bones by Fozzy right now but that could change at any time.
Singer/band? I’ve got a soft spot for Lily Allen.