Sam McGarry - Mixologist of the Month

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Author: TheDrinkShop
Tags: Mixologist
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Sam's Bio

  • Date of Birth: 6th September
  • Birth place: Edinburgh
  • Eye colour: Blue/Grey
  • Height: 5' 6"
  • Nationality: Scottish

"Through the eight or so years in the industry, I've worked in many different places throughout my home city of Edinburgh. Starting off in out of town locals pubs, moving on to a hotel restaurant in the city centre, quickly finding an interest in mixed drinks as a result of sneaking behind the hotels bar, and from then on a series of awesome and even world renowned cocktail bars including “Bramble Bar & Lounge” and “The Lucky Liquor Co.” to finally end up opening “Nightcap” on York Place in August 2016."

Signature Cocktails

Your claim to fame?

I'm famously stone faced. I've just found out this fact. I apparently don't change my facial expression despite various levels of ‘busy’. I had no idea but I'm told it's my thing.

List of awards

Cocktail apprentice program red coat (CAP) at Tales Of The Cocktail – New Orleans 2016.

Q & A

What do you as a mixologist think about beer? Any brews of note for you?
As a bartender I respect all forms of alcoholic beverage. The fact that I specialise in cocktails is irrelevant. Wild beer among many brewery's are making some pretty interesting yet approachable beers.

If you could offer a couple of short pieces of advice to the average bartender, what would they be?
Be humble, don't get cocky, and learn the basics. Knowing how to balance a drink is the key behind any cocktail. Practice that and never settle for your first attempt at making a new drink.

Surely you have some pet peeves about bartenders -- care to share?
Bartenders that are too cool to wash their own tins or do a floor shift. It's an integral part of running an overall perfect service. Know how to to every job required in any given shift. It's a team game. Help each other out!

As a mixologist/consultant, you work directly with many restaurants on their drink menus -- describe the parts of this process.
That's a pretty vast question. If you're doing food and drinks pairings your menu obviously has to be specific to each dish. Trial and error. I tend to aim for drinks that don't actively clash with the food but lend themselves to the atmosphere of the venue and personalities of the staff that create them.

How did you get started?
Like everyone else. By accident. I left a career in mechanics after a 4 year apprenticeship to peruse a career in god knows what and ended up pulling pints in my local boozer. The rest is history.

How were you trained in bartending?
Through various very talented bartenders. Too many to mention but they know who they are!

Did you take any courses?

What are some trends you're seeing in the market?
Shims (low abv cocktails) and I couldn't agree more. People are trying drinks based on the drinks flavour and not if it has their favourite spirit in it. This is a good thing for everyone especially the customer.

What's your process for creating a new cocktail? And what inspired you in the first place?
People have their own ways of creating drinks. I used to study flavours and go through the tedious and intoxicating trial & error process. Now I leave the liquid ‘til last. There's only so much inspiration you can get when you work in the same bar everyday. My advice would be to go out. Do things you enjoy completely non-booze related. You'll find a way to tie life into drinks. They always end up being the most interesting serves.

What is your favourite cocktail To make?

What are some of your favourite tools?
Ice saw, dasher bottle, peeler.

What is your favourite mixology resource?
The flavour thesaurus.

What does success mean for you?
If I can maintain my sanity whilst paying the bills and doing so with happy staff, I'm happy!

Where do you see yourself in five years?
I honestly don't know. Perhaps with another venue, we'll see.

If you weren't in the drinks industry, what do you think you would be doing now?
Probably something incredibly boring.

Your biggest career influencer?
Sam Baxendale.

First drink you ever tried?
My first cocktail was a whiskey sour.

We've all had a bad experience with at least one drink. What drink do you most avoid?
Anything that curdles in the glass.

Your hangover cure?
Fresh air and light exercise.

£10m comes to you. What do you do next?
Not a massive amount. I'd have a lot more free time. See a bit more of the world. Perhaps even educate myself some more.

Bar or cellar at home?

Favourite beer?
Linemans mikkeler spontanbasil.

Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2013.


Corpse reviver #2.

Fav Bar?
Erin Rose, New Orleans.

Timberyard, Edinburgh.

World location?

Fav film?
The Warriors.

Semenology by Paul “Fotie” Photenhauer.

Pet sounds.

Pearl Jam.


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