John Russell - Mixologist Of The Month

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Author: TheDrinkShop
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  • Date of Birth: 12th April
  • Height: 6'
  • Birthplace: Irvine, Scotland
  • Eye colour: Hazel
  • Nationality: Scottish

"I started bartending at the age of 18 as a means to an end to get me through University and fell in love with all aspects of hospitality. At 21 I decided to pursue the mixology aspect of it and strived to learn everything I could and be the best I could be at crafting and creating cocktails. I worked my way up from Bar Backing all the way up to Management. 20 years later and I still love it every day and each new challenge a shift can bring."

Signature Cocktails

Your claim to fame

One of my recipes was used in a US Sitcom.

List of your awards, accolades, trophies

2016 Bar Personality of the Year.
2015/16 Cocktail Bar of the Year.

Q & A

What do you as a mixologist think about beer? Any brews of note for you?
I love beer, if anything I find I drink more beer than cocktails when I am out, the craft industry goes from strength to strength. Stand out beers for me are, Tiny Rebel – Stay Puft, Williams Brothers – Scorpion & the Frog, Brewdog, Cloudwater – New England IPA V2.

If you could offer a couple of short pieces of advice to the average bartender, what would they be?
Always Listen, and always try and learn. Visit other bars, other units and watch, learn and adapt all good practices into your own craft, and NEVER be afraid to ask a question, any bartender worth their spot will always help someone else with a passion for the trade.

Surely you have some pet peeves about bartenders -- care to share?
Know your place! I feel that we as bartenders will sometime have this almost elitist mentality when in another bar, just because you know how to make an Old Fashioned 27 different ways doesn’t mean that the staff behind the bar don’t! So if you visit another bar then let them make the drink their way, who knows you might be surprised… its almost as if they know what they are doing.

As a mixologist/consultant, you work directly with many restaurants on their drink menus – describe the parts of this process.
It’s all about sitting down with each venue and finding out what will work on a unit to unit basis. I always try to see what each unit finds works drink wise and then cater a menu to suit so that it is unique to that location, there is no point in doing a bespoke menu full of classics when the venue is high volume but used to the more party style of cocktail… Porn Star Martini’s have their place.

How did you get started?
I started out at 18, I had just started University and needed a job that could fit around those hours, there was a local nightclub that was hiring and it got my foot in the door. High volume, but it was spirit led and not a cocktail to be seen, but it gave me the bug to learn more and put me on the right path to find my way.

How were you trained in bartending?
I was trained in-house, learned the basics from other staff and then when I moved to a new unit, I learned all aspects of mixology thanks to the lovely Brother and Sister Management team… I owe a lot of myself to them. I always try to learn something new with every unit I go into.

Did you take any courses?
Aside from Personal Licence and First Aid Training, everything was learned on the job.

What are some trends you’re seeing in the market?
There seems to be a big shift to a more Savoury flavour to cocktails recently and it’s almost refreshing. Also a lot of Asian ingredients are appearing everywhere and I’m ok with that.

What's your process for creating a new cocktail? And what inspired you in the first place?
9 times out of 10 I find the name comes before the drink and then I work retrospectively to make it work… the name will sell the drink, I also get inspired by my surroundings and pop culture.

What is your favourite cocktail To make?
As much as some people hate it, I love to make an Old Fashioned, it’s the one drink outside a classic Martini, where you can really feel a connection to the customer.

What are some of your favourite tools?
When it comes to this industry I am very traditional, boston, barspoon, hawthorne and a jigger and I’m good.

What is your favourite mixology resource?
It used to be blogs, but I feel more and more I look to Instagram to be inspired.

What does success mean for you?
Making a Customer happier when they left than when they arrived.

What are some current trends you’ve seen in the cocktail market?
Honestly, it’s so hard to keep up with how fast the industry is moving, but I see a lot of infusions and in-house creation of homemade ingredients.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
I would love to say I had my own place and was on the road to making it a success

If you weren't in the drinks industry, what do you think you would be doing now?
If I wasn’t in the drinks industry, I think I would have continued my path with the music industry, and would probably be working in a studio somewhere.

Your biggest career influencer?
My current GM, Matthew Ronald, he just let me run wild with regards to cocktail creation and implementation, he gave me a chance when no one else would and I’m eternally thankful.

First drink you ever tried?
Jim Beam Bourbon neat.

We’ve all had a bad experience with at least one drink. What drink do you most avoid?
Sambuca… not a fan.

Your hangover cure?
Being Scottish it used to be Irn-Bru, sadly they changed the recipe and it’s effectiveness didn’t work as well… so these days it’s Pre-Workout or a Session IPA.

£10m comes to you. What do you do next?
Disneyland… but really, I’d love to use it to try and become involved in a different aspect of this industry, be it brewery or distillery - I’d love to learn that aspect of this crazy world. The rest would be used to buy a home and sort my family out.

Bar or cellar at home?
A bar would be great for a social sense… but give me a Cellar… let’s just hope I could fill it.

Favourite beer?
To Session – Brooklyn, to have once in a while Brewdog vs Cloudwater – New England IPA v2.

Big Fan of Red, love a good Ribera.



Fav Bar?
Science & Industry – Manchester.

Opium – Glasgow.

World location?
Haven’t found it yet, every place I visit amazes me.

Fav film?
John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China.

Douglas Adams – Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory.

Singer – John Mayer.

Linkin Park.


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