Mixologist Of The Month - Cai Anderson
- Date of Birth: Feb 1989
- Height: 6'3"
- Birthplace: Lincoln
- Eye colour: Brown
- Nationality: British
"My name is Cai, a Manchester-based lover of all things food/drink who’s been messing around with flavours in the world of hospitality for nearly 15 years. I have worked every position imaginable within the industry; from bar back through to operational and consultation roles for cocktail bars, restaurants & nightclubs through to festivals and private events.
Outside of the day-today I also work alongside brands (most recently Jagermeister & the European Tea Society) for developing products, branded serves, training and activations.
Currently locked down like everyone else and planning the comeback tour!"
List of your awards, accolades, trophies.
Nothing on an individual level other than a few UK finals. However, on a team level, there’s been a number of Michelin, Harden’s & Good Food awards for the teams/venues I’ve managed over the years.
Your claim to fame?
Most recent would be in 2019, I created a drink with Jagermeister to launch their new Cold Brew liqueur. The drink (Hanover 99) was created around a Lewis Capaldi song ‘Forever’, which I was then able to present to Lewis on his 2019 tour...following some serious blagging at the backstage entrance by their account manager!
Q & A
What do you as a mixologist think about beer? Any brews of note for you?
I LOVE beer. It’s amazing stuff, and the wealth of flavours that come from it are astounding...it goes with everything and every time of day!
If you could offer a couple of short pieces of advice to the average bartender, what would they be?
Don’t be late, don’t be hungover and if you are don’t let others know. Read / sample everything that you can get your hands on, and ask questions whenever you get a chance. There’s no shame or embarrassment in asking questions because I can guarantee someone else in the room is thinking the same thing, they’re just too shy for fear of not being seen as cool amongst these ‘trendy’ bartenders. And be grounded throughout, this is a service industry after all.
Surely you have some pet peeves about bartenders -- care to share?
I do, however that’s to discuss with them personally. Let’s help each other improve & not bring each other down.
As a mixologist/consultant, you work directly with many restaurants on their drink menus -- describe the parts of this process.
Getting an understanding of their vision, and being able to help them develop their concept, offering and team. Also, the variety that it brings you as you’re working on Indian Tea pairings one day and gin punches the next.
How did you get started?
Hotel bars at the age of 14 haha.
How were you trained in bartending?
Early on it was a case of just being left to get on with it. When I moved to Liverpool the love for the industry was growing and there I met people who were priceless in developing my foundations. It was more a case of learning through doing and then having to read up in my own time about the why. Not the best and not how I would train my own teams but still without those years of experience I wouldn’t be at the level I am now.
I have a constant desire to learn about products/drinks/techniques but also their history and their principles. This allows you to then flip it on its head and twist that flavour or style into something different or unexpected.
Did you take any courses?
For bartending? I've learnt most things through working in a variety of venues and always asking questions of those who’ll stand around long enough. I’ve completed courses such as WSET Spirits (1) & Wine (3) and my Certified Cicerone qualification. Read & practice, if you don’t try it how do you know what it is like?
What's your process for creating a new cocktail? And what inspired you in the first place?
This is tricky for me, as I need a flash of inspiration in the initial stages. That could be a dish I’ve eaten, a song lyric, something someone has said or a product/flavour/technique I have just experienced and I am now obsessing over (right now it’s milk punches, last week was spherification).
I tend to draft the drink on paper / in my phone and will review it over and over before trying it out on the bar. From there I start with my base flavour and slowly bring in each element tasting throughout until it’s at a point I am happy. Typically, drinks will also be directed by the bar (it is intended for) to ensure it is at the right skill level, accessible and also making use of what already exists in that bar (and their kitchens where applicable).
At this stage, the drink is then presented to the team for feedback and approval - it’s important to ensure that every drink/product on the menu is team approved. You need your team to be passionate and confident in everything you offer and by involving them in the final judging it provides a feeling of ownership and encourages further involvement within the venue.
What is your favourite cocktail To make?
All of them, there’s nothing better than taste-testing a drink before presenting and thinking to yourself “yes that bangs, I wanna drink that”. Hopefully followed promptly by approval from the guest themselves.
Espresso Martini is a lifelong favourite because it is so simple but so finely balanced. It’s method driven and so often you see the drink done an injustice through inexperience. This drink was the go-to drink from one of my previous employers so I had to master it quickly when there’s 17 on order in a single round.
Still to this day though I get a little excitement as the head looking all glossy domes above the rim of the glass. And I still recite “health, wealth & happiness” with every garnish almost as a blessing before the drink is served. Lame, right?
What are some of your favourite tools?
Reliable shaker, a clean palette…& Google.
What is your favourite mixology resource?
Everyone within the hospitality industry - it is always there to support each other with ideas and teachings...and then countless books by Gary Regan & David Wondrich.
What does success mean for you?
All bills paid, guests returning and I can afford to take my Mrs for dinner or buy my mate a pint whenever the opportunity arises. It’s not all about the materials or the benjamins, success is your own personal feeling.
What are some current trends you’ve seen in the market?
Sustainability, packaged serves & personal wellbeing have been bubbling up for a very long time. And in the current situation, we find our industry they will become even bigger players post lockdown. And rightly so. I hope to see these gain greater attention and investment whilst the industry as a whole also takes a look at itself - and realizes that it needs to value and appreciate itself more than it did pre-lockdown if it is going to survive and flourish once more.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In a dream world, carrying out a 5-year anniversary interview with yourselves. Discussing the success of my first two / three venues and the plans for the rest of them. I have got roughly five concepts that I’ve been working on for some time, whilst a few of them are nearly the finished product...just need to source the investment :D
If you weren't in the drinks industry, what do you think you would be doing now?
I would be bored! Honestly, I cannot imagine doing anything else as when I was younger I found retail so frustrating and I know a 9-5 would drive me insane. No other industry gives you such freedom, enjoyment and opportunity as the hospitality world.
Your biggest career influencer?
I owe thanks to countless people not just for my life in hospitality but their direction/example in how to live as a person. I honestly couldn’t name everyone! The biggest takeaway however is that hospitality is a way of life, it is not just about a dish or a drink. That by living this lifestyle we have the ability to change someone’s mood, mindset and create a positive lasting experience for them. And when you’re hungover, you work twice as hard to ensure your team and your guests are never let down.
First drink you ever tried?
Probably a bottle of Hooch or Metz (remember them?) and then some snide vodka from my mum’s cupboard, which was later replaced with water.
We've all had a bad experience with at least one drink. What drink do you most avoid?
Back when I was a student it was tequila that I swerved like the plague...until I was shown the difference in quality of tequilas thanks to the lads at El Bandito (Liverpool).
Your hangover cure?
Going to work (honestly), lots of water & a quality espresso! Followed by some form of pizza post shift...maybe a shot of Jagermeister.
£10m comes to you. What do you do next?
I start opening the venue’s I have been developing for myself so that I can finally bring them to reality. Which then allows me to really showcase my food/drink creations but also share my knowledge and approach to hospitality with new guests and new faces within our industry.
Bar or cellar at home?
Can your home bar not have a wine rack? I moved into a new home this year, literally just as lockdown started so I spent the first week or so designing and building my home bar. It’s so slick, we called it “Herbie & The Lama”, check it out on my Instagram (@cai.anderson) for glimpses of it.
Not a chance! Where to begin with that one :S A standout beer was a 2016 bottle of Wineybeest from Wild Beer that I enjoyed in 2020 - utter indulgence in a glass, polished the full 75cl off with pleasure.
Gewurztraminer or Riesling for white, Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinotage for red and a Blanc de Blanc for sparkling.
Jagermeister, seriously. Then a good quality reposado tequila or rum.
On menu? The Pinot Colada (Karl Stanley, Science & Industry) or the Prairie Oyster (69 Colebrook Row) are such amazing drinks. Off menu? Then an El Presidente is always my go too, if not that then anything rum based or boose forward. I’m a sucker for the obscure and wonderful too...I basically love to drink.
So so many! The Jane Eyre (MCR), Science & Industry (MCR), Bunny Jacksons (MCR), Crazy Pedro’s (MCR), Shady Pines Saloon (Sydney), Maybe Sammy (Sydney), Berry & Rye (Liverpool), Jake’s Bar (Leeds), Coupette (London) & 69 Colebrook Row (London) to name a couple :D
Again...how to pick...Pollen Street Social (London), TNQ Restaurant (MCR), Salt House (Liverpool), Maybe Frank (Sydney), all of the pizza joints in NYC & Brooklyn! Pizza is life.
Anywhere in Italy or Holland or just time off with the Mrs!
I fall asleep through most, so let’s go to either the Shawshank Redemption or the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy.
Flavour Thesaurus (Niki Segnit), The Joy of Mixology (Gary Regan), The Brewmaster’s Table (Oliver Garrett), Bar Chef (Frankie Solarik) and anything by David Wondrich...I read so much usually relating to food, drink, hospitality & psychology.
Errrrrrm...pick a genre haha.
Seriously, how do people answer these accurately? Current day it’s got to be Lewis Capaldi - that lad is absolute jokes and got one hell of a voice.