Jack Mitchell - Mixologist Of The Month
"I feel like I was quite a late bloomer to hospitality, landing my first role 3 years ago when I was 23. I started working at The Smugglers Cove in Liverpool, a rum specialist, based purely on my curiosity and the fact the bartenders looked cool doing what they were doing. They must have liked me in my interview because I had never pulled a pint in my life and threw me straight into training. The program there is pretty tough, I realised very quickly I wouldn’t be ready but really sucking at it made me want to learn more. I swallowed my pride and asked if I could bar-back to familiarise myself with the stock and the way they do things. 8 weeks later I got another shot and haven’t looked back since; I worked my way up to training others, hosting ale, cocktail and rum masterclasses, working on cocktail events representing the site, became head bartender and now bar manager."
List of your awards, accolades, trophies
To date, I have very little to brag about! It has only been recently I have felt confident enough in my knowledge and ability to start putting myself out there. I wish I had done sooner; everyone I have met in the industry, whether they be site staff, ambassadors, or master distillers have all been extremely helpful and interesting. I have won some in-house comps. Me and two bartenders from Smugglers won a mixo with El Dorado last year. Smugglers won the IMBIBE Rum Drinks List of the Year 2016, I’ll take some undeserved credit for that one!
Your claim to fame
I am distantly related to Stan Laurel.
Q & A
What do you as a mixologist think about beer? Any brews of note for you?
I don’t drink as much beer as I used to; nowadays it’s the higher ABV that gives me a buzz- I’ll give any sort of DIPA or Imperial Stout a try and it doesn’t tend to work out well sitting for hours knocking those back…I definitely respect the craft and creativity in the beer world today; the fierce competition has definitely brought out some of the weird and wonderful.
If you could offer a couple of short pieces of advice to the average bartender, what would they be?
Never be too snobby about someone’s’ taste; it’s your job to provide guests with what they want or maybe present them with something new, not to judge them. Any time you are behind a bar, someone is always watching. Working in an environment where you are constantly surrounded by alcohol and offers of nights, it is very tempting to fall into an unhealthy lifestyle; it’s OK to take your foot off the gas and have an early night once in a while!
Pet peeves about bartenders?
People not cleaning as they work, or putting things back where they got them from, the worst!
As a mixologist/consultant, you work directly with restaurants on their drink menus-describe the parts of this process.
It tends to begin with considering the site itself and the customer base you want to attract, as well as the products there are to work with. From there, you can use your personal knowledge and preference, as well as resources to start creating and developing. Often, this has to fit within certain guidelines (boring back of house stuff such as GPs, efficiency etc.) so things will need fine-tuning. Rinse and repeat until you have an array of final products you would be proud to serve.
How did you get started?
Purely by chance; I spent four years studying for an English and Psychology degree at the University of Liverpool. Loved the social aspect of the time there but didn’t feel like what I was learning had any real world application. After I dragged myself over the degree finish-line I was looking through grad schemes and figured I had spent all this time doing something I didn’t enjoy, so it might be worth a shot doing something fun for a change!
Did you take any courses?
No formal courses, however I have done a vast number of tasting and training sessions over the last few years.
What are some trends you’re seeing in the market?
Gin has obviously boomed massively over the last 5 years. The use of Vermouths feels like it has become vastly more popular over the past year or so in the UK. Within rum which is my main focus, it feels that people desire a lot more transparency and clarity when it comes to products, particular at the higher-end of the market. Rhum agricole is just starting to creep its way on to the radar as well which is exciting; there is some interesting stuff out there.
What’s your process for creating a new cocktail? And what inspired you in the first place?
The process totally depends on whether I’m devising a drink for myself or doing it for a particular menu/project. As boring as it sounds my inspirations tend to come from flavours and products I like as a starting point, and take it from there.
What are your favourite tools?
Got to be a nice bulky mixing glass.
What is your favourite mixology resource?
Google knows all these days.
What does success mean for you?
To have an occupation that is fulfilling but continues to be fresh and present new challenges alongside room to develop. Couple that with it being something that not only benefits you but others around you, and you’re on to a winner.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
After certain previous questions, hopefully I’ll have a few more ‘awards, accolades and trophies’ under my belt! I think going down an ambassador route where I would get the opportunity to host classes, do short stints and limited menus in different bars, as well as travel around to meet people and continue to learn would be a lot of fun.
If you weren’t in the drinks industry, what do you think you would be doing now?
Most things I have ended up doing in life have been purely by chance, so I have absolutely no idea what path I would have stumbled down.
Your biggest career influence?
Pains me to say it because he’ll mock me if he reads this, but Andy Hayward who I used to bartend with and is now in Bar Operations for NWTC (who own Smugglers Cove) first properly introduced me to rum and just a lot of bar tending stuff in general. He’s always the one to call if I’ve got a bar related question, and we’ve definitely done a lot of liquor ‘research’ (got drunk together far too many times).
First drink you ever tried?
Bottle of Budweiser (I’ve definitely got more fussy!)
We’ve all had a bad experience with at least one drink? What drink do you most avoid?
Too much gin; it either makes me really angry or sad, or both at the same time! Nothing good comes from drinking Sambuca
Your hangover cure?
Ice cold bottle of Smart Water, a Fanta Lemon and the rest of last nights’ food (donner meat or chicken Madras 99% of the time).
£10m comes to you. What do you do next?
Put it all on red.
Bar or cellar at home?
Bar in my cellar.
Come back to me on this one.
Happy with a bottle of Rosé and a straw .
Rum. Bourbon a close second.
Classic Daiquiri (Matusalem Platino, Plantation 3* Star and Veritas are current favourites-always on the lookout for fresh go-to rums in a Daiquiri).
Creps al Born, Barcelona.
Empire Strikes Back.
Any autobiography or psychology book usually gets me hooked, and Harry Potter obviously.