Sam Baxendale - Mixologist Of The Month
- Date of Birth: 22nd June
- Height: 5'11"
- Birth place: Hounslow, London
- Eye colour: Hazel
- Nationality: British/Scottish
"I'm an Edinburgh Bartender, having moved to Edinburgh to study in 2005. This is where I call home and where I learned about bartending and hospitality. I've worked in various establishments including Electric Circus, Monteiths, Bramble, the Bon Vivant. In 2017 I opened my first bar, KIN, alongside Jody Buchan."
Your claim to fame?
Heaviest baby born in London in 1987!
Q & A
What do you as a mixologist think about beer? Any brews of note for you?
Beer is delicious! It has its time and place. With the craft brewing boom, that, as well as variety, has certainly grown. Grabbing a beer with friends is a common social experience but these days it's not uncommon to enjoy alongside a dram or even find it mixed into cocktails. I'm really enjoying beers coming out of Crossborders brewery and Fierce brewery.
If you could offer a couple of short pieces of advice to the average bartender, what would they be?
Always remember why you enjoy bartending.
Do your actions/attitude enhance your guest's experience? If not how can you change that?
Look after yourself. To spend time on yourself isn't the same as being selfish. It is impossible to serve from an empty cup!
Surely you have some pet peeves about bartenders -- care to share?
That we occasionally forget the most important and simplest things about why we do what we do and allow ego to take over in the pursuit of excellence. Although changing, the attitude of invincibility, “macho hospitality” and one upmanship. As opposed to a culture of productivity, positivity and progression. Poor technique. You can only get better at bartending and mixing drinks via practice. So listen to advice and practice, practice, practice.
As a mixologist/consultant, you work directly with many restaurants on their drink menus -- describe the parts of this process.
It starts with communicating with the client and understanding their needs and requirements. What do they currently offer? What do their current guests enjoy/want? What does the client want to achieve by the collaboration/consultation? Once these points are established I find it important to find overlap to make the drinks/menus successful. If it's to compliment a food offering or simply be an extra choice for the guests. Create the first interpretation of the proposed drinks and see how they work within the venue, for both the team that will be making them and the guests who will be enjoying them. From there it's all about refining the offering until it's the best it can be for it's required purpose.
How did you get started?
The same way as many others. I needed a job whilst studying at university. After getting a chance to work a high volume nightclub bar, I quickly found myself in a new world that was far more exciting than my field of studies and eventually made the choice to pursue bartending as my chosen career.
How were you trained in bartending?
I've been fortunate to work with some great people in all aspects of the hospitality industry and always look to learn from those I work alongside. From my first job in a bar, I realised there is always something to be learnt from your colleagues and guests, as everybody will approach a situation differently. I try to read as much as possible about food and drink as I believe by reading things you make your own interpretation of the information. Therefore create new ideas and inspirations within your own mind. I also attend as many trainings/tastings as possible as there'll always be some information or question you've never considered. I learnt a long time ago that there's always something to be taught and that there will always be somebody that knows something you don't.
Did you take any courses?
Apart from personal license training, no.
What are some trends you're seeing in the market?
Local, smaller brands gaining consumer support. More knowledge about mixed drinks from guests, which in turn pushes bartender's to educate themselves. An openness to take a chance on something new as opposed to sticking with tradition.
What's your process for creating a new cocktail? And what inspired you in the first place?
The inspiration for new cocktails can come from anywhere for me. In the past, I've created drinks based on my favourite pair of sneakers, music, feelings and people. However, the process is always the same. For me, it's about enjoyment for both the guest and the bartender. Is the guest going to enjoy the experience of ordering the drink, drinking it and would they order another one? If taking inspiration from a drink that already exists is it better than the original? I want to create drinks that are enjoyable to make. Therefore will always consider my preparation processes and techniques, number of ingredients etc. The last thing I would ever want to do is create beautiful drinks that people don't make because they are unfeasible or prohibitive to do so on a working bar.
What is your favourite cocktail To make?
What are some of your favourite tools?
A sharp paring knife, Koriko weighted tin on tin shaker, Ginza style jigger and a teardrop barspoon for service. A chamber vacuum machine and a decent dehydrator for R&D as I think they can create so much inspiration for bartenders without a huge amount of financial investment. Don't get me wrong, rotovaps etc are great, but only a handful of people have access to that sort of equipment. Even less can then use them to the full potential.
What is your favourite mixology resource?
What does success mean for you?
Being happy with the choices I make, the experience I provide for the people I come into contact with, leaving them feeling better about themselves and wanting to experience more. The freedom to do what I believe is right and honest. Spending time with the people I choose too.
What are some current trends you’ve seen in the cocktail market?
A return to simplicity in drinks. Experimentation with lesser-known spirits. Conscious thought on ethical and moral practices.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Behind a bar somewhere, doing something silly. Hopefully making people and myself happy.
If you weren't in the drinks industry, what do you think you would be doing now?
I studied Architecture and always intended to have a career in design and the built environment. So I would say something connected to that.
Your biggest career influencer?
Far too many influences to just mention one, sorry.
First drink you ever tried?
The first mixed drink I tried was a Godfather.
We've all had a bad experience with at least one drink. What drink do you most avoid?
Anything that is set on fire before you drink it!
Your hangover cure?
Water, vitamins, coffee, and a good shower takes care of the physical part. Spending time with friends doing something we enjoy takes cares of the mental part of any hangover for me.
£10m comes to you. What do you do next?
Make sure I take care of the people who have supported me to this point in my career. Then with whatever is left open a space for education, training, research and service for both food and drink. Try and take a holiday.
Bar or cellar at home?
An interesting sour (really sour).
Red, rich and heavy.
Whisky, usually peated.
Wherever the party is happening.
Beigel Bake, Brick Lane.
The works of Dr Seuss.
Enema of the State by Blink 182.