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Mixologist Of The Month - Adrian Gomes

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Adrian 's Bio

  • Name: Adrian Gomes
  • Date of Birth: The heady days of 1979!
  • Birth place: North-East of Scotland
  • Eye colour: Brown, I think
  • Nationality: Scottish

Architect, DJ, Marketeer, Bartender essentially I think I was trying to release some creativity, create an impression, somewhere as something or someone. People often cite bartending as that fall-back career option the last option, when you’ve finally exhausted all patience with the role you’re currently in, but not enjoying one iota. I guess that’s how it began all those years ago. As a cliché.

These days, I can hardly contain my enthusiasm and passion for an industry that’s matured exponentially in the 19 years I’ve been working in it. The people, the brands, the drinks and the good times have had a profound effect on my life. From the early days of Belhaven and Scottish & Newcastle pub co’s to my defining years as GM at cult electronic club Snafu, I was essentially a late-starter to the world of cocktails and geeky bartending. But I’m here now."

Claim To Fame

Disaronno Mixing Star 2014, along with a UK final placing for Diageo’s World Class (2012) and a couple of entries in Gaz Regan’s annual 101 Best New Cocktails (2012 & 2013). Took me a few years, but finally gained a place in Difford’s Guide also. It’s fair to say though, my best days are behind me.

Q & A

What do you as a mixologist think about beer? Any brews of note for you? Beers offer a whole new dimension of mixability, whether it’s the range of flavours and aromas, or even the mouthfeel, be it thick and rich or carbonated and light. One of the simplest drinks we first came across when challenging bartenders to create a serve using Jindea Single Estate Tea Gin was a Collins with an IPA instead of sparkling water. A simple but really effective tweak on a classic.

If you could offer a couple of short pieces of advice to the average bartender, what would they be? Look beyond cocktails. If you were a chef who could only make amazing sauces, but not cook a steak properly or a simple dish like scrambled eggs, you would not be a chef. Cocktails are 10% of your arsenal. Learn about wine, spirits, soft drinks, coffee, etc. Your customer is often not interested in your theory on ice preparation. They just want a good drink, fast. And it might come out of a bottle, ready to serve. Be prepared to deal with that.

Surely you have some pet peeves about bartenders -- care to share? Aye, lots. In all fairness though, I’m glad the era of smug book-smart bartenders is coming to an end. We all work in the service industry, easy to forget a lot of the time. Oh, and it should be illegal for bartenders to get their first job in a cocktail bar. Learn how to speak to people first – this is usually a skill gained in spit and sawdust old-manny pubs. Talking down aggressive customers, diplomatically refusing service…you don’t learn these in table service venues.

As a mixologist/consultant, you work directly with many restaurants on their drink menus -- describe the parts of this process. Less so these days to be honest. I find many venues want to serve cocktails but don’t appreciate that the hiring policy and on-going training programme must go hand-in-hand with the initial menu creation and launch. If you can’t write your own menu, you probably shouldn’t be a cocktail bar.

How did you get started? I got my first break in a sleazy discotheque at the age of 18, glass-collecting and getting felt-up by middle-aged Filipino women. I now realise I never had it so good.

How were you trained in bartending? I wasn’t really. I learnt as I went along, made the mistakes, learnt from a few of them. I don’t think I ever went through a pretentious era, given that I worked my way to General Manager first (for the money), then started working on my bartending skills from there (for the girls). When you’re a manager first, you have an awareness for the commercial viability of a menu that prevents you from filling it full of wanky stirred drinks.

Did you take any courses? Yeah, but only marketing and business courses. I do see value in bartending courses but there is no substitute for a good manager and team creating the right culture and environment to learn. I’d say we had that at Snafu, where I worked with the likes of Matthew Dakers (Emporia / Jindea Gin) and Ervin Trykowski (Diageo), along with a lot of other great people who have since left the industry. We fed off each other’s passion and willingness to create new drinks.

What are some trends you're seeing in the market? A lot of health-driven ingredients such as chia seeds, kombucha and low-ABV brands. ‘Drink less, drink better’ has been the ethos over the last few years but ‘drink less, feel better’ seems to be the new ethos.

What's your process for creating a new cocktail? And what inspired you in the first place? I start with either the brand, if this is for a competition, or a theme (Thanksgiving, etc.). From there I select the mood I’m going for, then include any seasonal or on-trend ingredients to give the drink a time-stamp. Most of the time I’m lucky, but I think a skill for cooking food goes a long way to creating balanced flavours and aromas.

What is your favourite cocktail To make? I love making a Mezcal Tommy’s or an Old-Fashioned. There’s a certain beauty in the process behind a simple drink where the whole is greater than the sum of all parts.

What are some of your favourite tools? A waiter’s friend. The integral part of perhaps the most timeless of all techniques, opening a great bottle of wine.

What is your favourite mixology resource?** I have used Difford’s Guide many a time to search for recipes that I can tinker and tweak. That and The Flavour Thesaurus.

What does success mean for you? Success means options and opportunities. How you choose to deal with them will ultimately dictate the level of your success.

What are some current trends you’ve seen in the cocktail market? Did we answer this one?

Where do you see yourself in five years? Hopefully still here, working with the same people I always have, on new and inspiring projects. Perhaps with slightly longer holidays though.

If you weren't in the drinks industry, what do you think you would be doing now? I reckon I could have made a go of a career in either architecture or sound engineering, but they all paid zip at the beginning so it seemed easier to work my way up through an industry with easy access to food and drink.

Your biggest career influencer? Family and friends have all contributed in some way or another. Support, assistance, advice, a listening ear, or a smack round the head.

First drink you ever tried? MD 20/20. The nuances of the flavours blended with the base wine opened my eyes to the world of mixing drinks. In all honesty, I haven’t actually drank it in over 20-odd years so I’m possibly looking through rose-tinted glasses. And a 15 year old’s shit palate.

We've all had a bad experience with at least one drink. What drink do you most avoid? Vodka. I just don’t like it. I don’t like drinking alcohol-spiked coke. Or alcoholic orange juice. Or alcoholic soda. Or any other mixer that tastes fine with a flavoured base but utterly disgusting with a tasteless spirit. Sorry vodka producers.

Your hangover cure? Something greasy, some coffee (yes, I know this does not help a hangover, but the caffeine helps me) and a Bloody Mary. I’m not an Irn Bru hangover cure fanatic though, but I can appreciate it perhaps later in the day.

£10m comes to you. What do you do next? [Hangs up. Cue sound of aeroplane taking off.]

Bar or cellar at home? A cellar, but not in the traditional sense. Really just bottles stored wherever there is space. They’ll get drunk one day, or as far as my expensive whiskies go, used in a high-end tasting for some American or Scandinavian guests.

Favourite beer? We made a beer called Delta Brew with a local brewer called Spey Valley. It was designed as the ultimate post-shift beer. Refreshing and carbonated, with a slight hoppy hit. It’s pretty much our house beer. Their beers are pretty solid though. Same for the likes of Cromarty Brewing, Fierce Beer Co., Drygate and Beavertown.

Wine? I’d have to list perfect dishes to wines here, rather than just a favourite one. It’s maybe easier to list what I’m currently drinking, based on recent travels: Zuccardi Uci Valley Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina), Ken Forrester Old Vine Chenin Blanc (Stellenbosch, South Africa) and Stag’s Leap Cabernet Franc (Napa, USA). I’ll die happy with a glass of wine in my hand.

Spirit? Scotch, Scotch, Scotch, but I’d be lying if I didn’t that gin features quite heavily in my drinking repertoire (or more specifically Jindea Single Estate Tea Gin; shameless promotion alert).

Cocktail? A Tommy’s Margarita made with part mezcal, part tequila. Or a Bourbon Old-Fashioned.

Fav Bar? Trick Dog (San Francisco), Atlantico Floreria (Buenos Aires) and Satan’s Whiskers (London), plus of course our venues up here in Aberdeen.

Restaurant? We had an incredible meal recently at The Shortmarket Club in Cape Town, and our British Pound goes pretty far over there right now! Also can’t resist visiting a Hawksmoor whenever I’m in London.

World location? I’ve been fortunate to have done a lot of travelling this year, from Patagonia in South America way up the West Coast of the US, Canada and more recently South Africa. Nothing compares to what we have in Scotland though, but I have a long list of places still to go, especially Asia.

Fav film? Can’t go wrong with the likes of The Departed, Godfather Trilogy or The Breakfast Club. Sunday afternoons are for horror films.

Book? I’m a terrible book-worm, but I do always have something by the bedside. Right now, I’m reading Sapiens and a book all about the Darjeeling tea industry.

Album? I’ve hit that age where I am no longer interested in finding new music much. I’m still listening to Pearl Jam’s ‘Ten’ and the rest of the Seattle bands from that era.

Singer/band? Despite what I just said, the more recent sound of CHVRCHES has caught my attention, along with the new stuff from The Shins.

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