Mixologist Of The Month - Luke Condell
- Name: Luke Condell
- Date of Birth: 4th November
- Height: Around 59 Twix’s stacked verticality
- Birth place: Wandsworth
- Eye colour: Aggressive Beige
- Nationality: British
"Well, I used to work at a college as a janitor even though I felt like I was smarter than most of the people that go there. Sometimes I’d see an equation written on a blackboard, like half an equation, and I’ll just figure it out. (is this Good Will Hunting?) No (this sounds a lot like the plot of Good Will Hunting) Yeah anyways, my best friend is Ben Affleck…..
Sorry, couldn’t help myself! In reality, I started my career in the catering business as a humble pub chef eventually dipping my wick into the world of a pastry chef and onto fancy show-offy Michelin starred cooking. After a while, my passion, unfortunately, dwindled under the intense pressure and crazy long hours so I left the chefy world behind!
My next plan was to bugger off to Australia for a big change, reinvent myself, become one with the stars and all that jazz. Took up 3 bartending jobs to fund my move but found myself really enjoying it. I made the money I needed quickly but after a chat with my boss (and hopefully future movie producer!), I was convinced I wasn’t half bad at this bartending malarkey and stayed. After a few more bar openings and management jobs, I moved to London to work at London Cocktail Club where I quickly learned I was nowhere near as good as I thought I was!
After a big year there I was approached by the lovely folk at The Cocktail Trading Co to come on board as their first manager and it has been the best job I’ve had ever since!"
List of your awards, accolades, trophies.
4 gold stars for effort - 1996 excellent attendance - 1999 Semi-Finalist World Class - 2018
Claim to fame
I once made Jamie Dornan (Christian Grey) a mojito and he enjoyed it but he did not use that anecdote in 50 Shades of Grey.
Images by Matthew Hastings via @fluidmovementmatt
Q & A
What do you as a mixologist think about beer? Any brews of note for you? Although beer being every bartender's relaxed drink of choice I’m actually more of a wine guy! (must always have 3 bottles at home at ALL times) however, that is not to say I don’t enjoy the odd brew every now and again.
For me, its all about 3 types: light fresh European wheat beers (Paulaner), flavoured water session beers (Carlton) and Guinness from The Gravediggers in Ireland (Guinness).
If it tastes like any of those it’s a winner in my book!
If you could offer a couple of short pieces of advice to the average bartender, what would they be? Go out and explore!! Not saying you have to go out and get trampolined every night but I feel like many forget that we in the UK are in the hub of the bartending world. You wanna learn new techniques, flavour combinations, what’s trending now or next? best place your gonna learn is other bars, get out of your comfort bubbles and get your mind blown peoples!
Also, make sure you go to the big (boozy) bartendery events - networking is key (and fun).
Surely you have some pet peeves about bartenders -- care to share? Yes! many small ones that I keep inside, stewing away and the real reason I bought myself a punching bag. But the big one STOP COMPLAINING ABOUT YOUR JOBS IN OTHER PEOPLES BARS!!
I understand that everyone has stress, problems etc and sure discuss them with each other in you know a less public environment than maybe a bar but for me, it is super unprofessional and I hear it all the time at CTC. No better way to 86 a future career in a bar you like than complaining about the one you’re working in. if you dislike what you do for whatever reason do something about it…simples!
As a mixologist/consultant, you work directly with many restaurants on their drink menus -- describe the parts of this process. When it comes down to menu development always start with the focus:
What’s the concept? What are they expecting of you? Who are the clientele? Do they want something simple or complex?
Luckily for myself, CTC has a great image and most people/companies we are approached by are looking for something interesting, fun and tongue in cheek.
Never forget that consultancies are not a reflection of you or your bar all the time, fit the drinks around logistics. At CTC we pre-batch a lot as many drinks might contain up to 15-20 ingredients. Although this works for us and is very well practised it is certainly not something that could work everywhere.
Most importantly: Make it delicious!!
How did you get started? A combination of rage quitting the catering industry and the UK’s capitalist social construct forcing me to make money to stay alive.
How were you trained in bartending? I started in Vodka Revolution in Southampton and they had a pretty killer basic training that, after I became manager, myself and a delightful man named Oli reworked it into a kind of Nazi training camp for sheer money-making madness! And my god did it work.
However, my biggest training came from London Cocktail Club (speed, hospitality, classics) and The Cocktail Trading Co (efficiency, balance, creation)
Did you take any courses? Nope just entered as many cocktail comps as I could.
What are some trends you're seeing in the market? Low ABV becoming bigger and better! And what a trend to come in on; sherry YES, reisling based vermouth YES, Coupette/SACK YAASSS.
I just tried a carrot and saffron vermouth that you can buy on the market and my god is it good!
What's your process for creating a new cocktail? And what inspired you in the first place? I think inspiration is generally the start of any creative process. I don’t think you can really pinpoint one inspiration as a basis. It can be fond memories, loved ones or your favourite McDonald’s burger (Big Mactini).
After which, it’s all down to how to put it together, I like to think of flavour combinations and techniques I learnt in the kitchen and apply it to the drinks world to create something new, interesting, delicious and of course fun!
What is your favourite cocktail To make? Ooo either a Pina Colada or a Bobby Burns.
I don’t have a spec for a Pina Colada as we have so many random new products that come in or are created here daily so I like to just put a load of stuff together till it tastes banging! I believe it is currently known as the Condellada.
Bobby Burns is just my favourite drink, a smart way of sneaking a touch of sugar into a scotch Manhattan - delicious! I will recommend this every time we have a Manhattan drinker or just generally a lover of scotch. Not only do they almost always love it but I get to taste it every time…sometimes several times….also if you are ever in Melbourne, Above Board make the best ones I have ever had!! (Big Love Hayden!).
What are some of your favourite tools? Victorinox pastry knives are the sexiest tools around! Honestly will never need to use another knife again. Knives hold a special place in my heart so our ice knives (Excaliber & The Eviscerator) are also beauties!
My favourite gardening tool is a hoe.
What is your favourite mixology resource? Salt, salt, salt, salt, salt in drinks the same as food.
A couple of dashes of saline solution can make many drinks just pop with flavour, hinder bitterness (especially great for old citrus) and improve mouthfeel.
What does success mean for you? Early 60’s, widowed (had the joys of marriage and kids etc but need my down time….but I didn’t murder her ok she died of like natural causes or something, it was sad but I’m fine now), owning a small farm in Barcelona/Tuscany or Skye, many cats and dogs named after different distilleries, large wine cellar filled to the brim, a vast collection of independent bottlings, makes my own cheese, sends the off cuts to the family for birthdays/Christmas, towns people think I have a drinking problem but in reality I just have a better life than them.
What are some current trends you’ve seen in the cocktail market? Again low ABV deliciousness but also simplicity making its way back in. if the London bar scene was a cop buddy drama it would be called ‘Clarified & Block Ice’.
Us at CTC will obviously still be flying the flag for crazy flavour combos and putting drinks in chip bags and shoes and stuff.
Where do you see yourself in five years? After the world ran out of food and water and we all slipped into a kind of Mad Max-esk dystopian world hopefully I would have a small shack bar in between Bullet Farm (London) and Gas Town (Brighton) where I would tell stories of old and make what I call Mizuwari’s but its actually just paint thinner and clarified (sieved) mud water.
In all seriousness, I would actually love to have a foot in the scotch distillery business (especially blending) by then so anyone who is reading this and knows a thing or two I would love a chat!!
If you weren't in the drinks industry, what do you think you would be doing now?
In the police force, dad used to be a private investigator I used to think it was super cool so sure I would have been trying to push into a detective style role. But like a badass cop for sure think Jake Gyllenhaal in End of Watch.
Your biggest career influencer? Weirdly not in the drinks industry! One of my first bosses that I followed to several jobs in the catering industry. A man by the name of Chris Rock (real name!) his work mentality and demand of respect has always been something I have tried to follow myself.
First drink you ever tried? Pina Colada - used to only drink San Miguel after work for about a year then I saw a pina colada made at the bar, got myself a cheeky one and been obsessed ever since!
We've all had a bad experience with at least one drink. What drink do you most avoid? I truly despise a Bronx or an Alamagoozlum, but luckily I have not seen them on any menus, and for good reason!
Your hangover cure? Salty McDonald’s fries but the ones that have been sitting for a while so there a tad soggy mmm.
£10m comes to you. What do you do next? Half invested in Port Ellen and Brora. Quite a long-term investment but my success story works out then its bang on!
At least 1mil invested in CTC. 1 given to the family of course. Buy my dad an Audi TT/A5 (unsure if he’s seen the light yet). Open a chain of Wine/Low ABV cocktail bars around Europe make it fun and funky with daily changing menus and killer small plates probably call it ‘Pour Decisions’. Travel the world (shark and crocodile cage dive fo sho). Reopen El Bulli with all the now big shot who worked there previously and live the dream for 1 night only. If I still have more left over depending on funds either invest in London flats or begin a part-time heroin addiction just to really soak those funds up.
Bar or cellar at home? Cellar, if you drink wine by yourself you are considered cultured, if you drink anything else by yourself you have a ‘problem’.
Favourite beer? Guinness. Carlton. Paulaner.
Wine? Chilian Cabernet Sauvignon. Pinotage/Malbec blend or Barolo. New Zealand Sauvy B!
Spirit? Whiskey/Whisky all the way any way.
Cocktail? Bobby Burns - evening sipper. Pina Colada - any other time.
Fav Bar? Scarfes Bar - such a beautiful space, service and drinks absolutely banging. Greg and the team have freakin nailed it (gravy distillate!!). Dandelyan - always feel super welcome here love everything they do takeovers and new menu especially amazing!! (cosmo and air raid!).
Restaurant? Sager + Wilde!!! Best pasta and wine deal in London (£10) which obviously means 2 courses of it. Recently had the drinks here too and they were incredible! Cadiz is amazing plus got a cracking team now, the new venture sounds super exciting! Can’t wait to see what they create next.
World location? New York! Couldn’t live here but my god, have they just got everything good. Went on holiday there a few years back and in 10 days had the best steak, pizza, mac n cheese, burger, hot dog, pancakes and chocolate milk I have ever had!
Fav film? True Romance (collage of dream cameos + soundtrack) or Natural Born Killers (Woody Harrison best bit of dialogue in film + Robert Downey Jr terrible Aussie accent!).
Book? Black House (combo of Peter Straub & Stephen King) started my passion for the horror genre and my obsession with all things Stephen King.
Album? Kendrick Lamar - good kid, m.A.A.d city (Deluxe) start to finish amazing plus watch the defiant ones of Netflix makes it a thousand times better.
Singer/band? Don’t actually listen to music that often but if I had to listen to a band for an extended period of time hands down Tenacious D. consistently hilarious would love to see them live!
Images by Matthew Hastings via @fluidmovementmatt