James Armstrong - Mixologist Of The Month

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Author: TheDrinkShop
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James' Bio
  • Name: James Armstrong
  • Date of Birth: 16th March
  • Height: 6'4"
  • Birth place: Wodonga, Australia
  • Eye colour: Blue
  • Nationality: Australian

"From starting in nightclubs as a glass collector, barback and supervisor through some of Melbourne's longest running and most notable clubs I moved over to a bar/restaurant style venue with a focus on local beers and some cocktails but mainly serving a corporate clientele.

After about 2 years with the same company, I was approached to open a venue for them focusing on tequila and mezcal at the same time I was working in a late-night bar that prided themselves on Japanese Whiskeys and got more into my cocktails and progressing myself in menu developments.

From there I moved over to a speakeasy-style bar with no menus that really pushed my creative side in bartending. I then moved to Manchester and started to push my career with cocktail competitions and growing my knowledge of wines and champagnes."

List of your awards, accolades, trophies.

Regional Finalist, North England, Four Pillars Australian Gin Open, 2018
2nd Place Regional Finalist, Arbikie Race to Luna Bay, 2018
Regional Finalist, Meister Hunter, 2018
1st Place, Life is Bitter Fernet Branca 2018

Claim to fame

Buckvardier (boulevardier with Buckfast instead of vermouth)
Champagne Orgeat Syrup (In collaboration with Jack McGowan)

Signature Cocktails

Q & A

What do you as a mixologist think about beer? Any brews of note for you?
Beer is great! It’s a perfect unwind drink after service, build up drink pre-service and has great use in cocktails as well. I am a huge fan of a small brewery in Dinner Plains in Australia called Blizzard Brewing. As for in Manchester, Runaway Brewing's Summer Saison and Wander Beyond have an amazing coconut stout.

If you could offer a couple of short pieces of advice to the average bartender, what would they be?
Ice last. Enjoy what you’re doing and push to learn more about your products. Ice last. Use fresh ingredients where you can. Ice last. Make your own syrups and infusions. But mainly ice last

Surely you have some pet peeves about bartenders -- care to share?
Tea towel on the shoulder, throwing ice scoops back into ice wells, grabbing the top of glasses, bottle caps on the floor and people who don’t say backs

How did you get started?
I started in one of the biggest nightclubs in Melbourne as a glass collector and then move through the company into one of the beer/cocktail bars that they owned.

How were you trained in bartending?
I just watched more than anything and slowly got taught through my mistakes at first. Then I was lucky enough to have someone put time and effort into teaching me proper service standards and bar techniques.

Did you take any courses?
None at all.

What are some trends you're seeing in the market?
Trends that I hope are coming back are aperitivo style drinks and anything Midori based.
Actual trends I think are rum and the oblivious pink gin.

What's your process for creating a new cocktail? And what inspired you in the first place?
I’ll first consider my base product and the flavour profile of that. Then I will look at my target audience for the drink will be and the seasonality or the menu or the competition requirements and if I want it to be a complex drink or easily accessed by the market. Then I build my other ingredients around that, be it syrups, infusions, bitters or juices; I try and do as much as possible home-made with my ingredients.

What is your favourite cocktail To make?
Morning Glory Fizz or a Daquiri.

What are some of your favourite tools?
Ice carving tools and nice knives.

What is your favourite mixology resource?
Books and industry friends.

What does success mean for you?
Having a guest leave happier than when they walked in.

What are some current trends you’ve seen in the cocktail market?
I’ve seen a lot of bars go back to more disco style drinks recently.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully in America somewhere. Possibly with my own venue at that point.

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

Your biggest career influencer?
Bartenders; Jamal Nicolls
Outside of Hospitality; Henry Rollins

First drink you ever tried?
I didn’t drink for the first two years when I started in bars so my first drinks was a beer and shot of Jameson.

We've all had a bad experience with at least one drink. What drink do you most avoid?
I should avoid Pabst Blue Ribbon it’s been the night-ender for me so many times but it’s too bad/good to stay away from.

Your hangover cure?
Pabst Blue Ribbon.

£10m comes to you. What do you do next?
Pay my parents mortgage, book them and my sister a holiday.
Open a bar.

Bar or cellar at home?
I can’t decide. I love wine and champagne but also need a bar to serve it all from.

Favourite beer?
Currently 5AM Saint from Brewdog.

Any champagne produced by Bruno Pillard.

Mitcher’s Rye.


Fav Bar?
Heartbreaker, Melbourne.
Science & Industry, Manchester.
Arlechin, Melbourne.
Cahoots, Manchester.

Chida, Leeds.
Shoryu Ramen, Manchester.
Bodega Underground, Melbourne.
Shanghai Dumplings, Melbourne.

World location?
New York.

Fav film?
Birdman (The unexpected virtue of ignorance).

Death & Co.

Black Flag – Damaged.
Casey – Where I Go When I’m Sleeping.
Nails – Abandon All Life.



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