Mixologist Of The Month - Rachel Orange
- Date of Birth: 10th June
- Height: 5'7"
- Birthplace: Newcastle
- Eye colour: Brown
- Nationality: British Mixed (Portuguese)
"My career in the bar industry started a long time ago, first washing glasses in my local pub when I was 14. I’ve worked in bars ever since, alongside school and university. At 20 I was studying in Newcastle and working in a small cocktail bar, realising I was enjoying my job far more than my degree, I left university and went after a career in hospitality. Over the next two years I worked at a couple of independent bars as both a supervisor and bar manager, trying to learn as much as I could in different environments from experienced bartenders. In 2017, I started working as a bartender for The Alchemist. Toward the end of that year I was asked to move to Manchester and open another site where I am currently working, now as the Head Bartender. Next for me I’ll be going to work with the Schofield brothers as their Assistant Head Bartender at their new bar opening soon in Manchester. Exciting stuff!"
List of your awards, accolades, trophies.
Mixologist of the Year – 2019 (Alchemist) Chase Cup Top 3 Manchester Final Winner - Monkey Shoulder Kitchen Cocktails
Your claim to fame?
I’ve made a cocktail for Judge Rinder and poured a pint for Jeremy Clarkson, doesn’t get much better than that.
Q & A
What do you as a mixologist think about beer? Any brews of note for you?
Beer is just great isn’t it - I don’t think there’s anything more rewarding than a pint after a long shift. I love Tiny Rebel Brewing Company; they’ve got some really great stuff, Clwb Tropica and Pineapple Express IPA to name a couple. Cloudwater Brew too which is a Manchester based brewing company churning out some great beers. And Guinness, who could forget Guinness.
If you could offer a couple of short pieces of advice to the average bartender, what would they be?
Never underestimate who you can learn something from. I’ve learned things from incredibly talented and awarded bartenders, and also from the brand new barback who just started working with me. Knowledge can come from anywhere you just have to be willing to listen.
Surely you have some pet peeves about bartenders -- care to share?
I think my biggest pet peeve is when bartenders forget that the foundation of what we do is hospitality. Sometimes I think that gets forgotten. We are there to look after people and should be honoured they trust us to do so.
How did you get started?
At a nightclub in Newcastle. One of the managers asked me to help open a new concept and so my world into cocktails began.
How were you trained in bartending?
I was thrown in the deep end to start with; the people who trained me initially saw some potential in me. It was a sink or swim situation. I then started working with people who loved what they do and had fun doing it and I they taught and encouraged me to do the same.
Did you take any courses?
Not before bartending no, but I have done a WSET in wine and in spirits.
What are some trends you're seeing in the market?
Minimalist Menus, I’m seeing more of. Earlier in the year I was doing a guest shift at Artesian for International Woman’s Day. They had recently launched their incredible new menu of two ingredient cocktails. One amazing spirit, paired with one additional flavour designed to showcase that spirit.
As well as this, carbonated drinks are huge at the moment. There’s been a huge rise in premium mixers and also bars creating their own in house sodas and carbonated cocktails.
What's your process for creating a new cocktail? And what inspired you in the first place?
I cook a lot and I’m really enjoying working with food, so a lot of my inspiration comes from my cooking. Usually If I’m creating drinks I’ll find one ingredient I like and take inspiration from there. It’s often not the spirit; but some element I can take and adapt, for example I recently made a drink using kaffir lime leaf as it’s something I’ve wanted to work with for a while, so I found other ingredients that complimented that particular flavour.
What is your favourite cocktail to make?
That’s a difficult one… It depends who for. I love making classic stirred down cocktails such as Manhattans and Old Fashioneds for guests who are quite particular about how they like things. It’s a challenge but when you get it exactly right, a really rewarding one.
What are some of your favourite tools?
I love bar tools. They take up about a quarter of my kitchen, but I would say my absolute favourites are my 3 piece shaking tin, my nice long spoon and my Japanese paring knife.
What is your favourite mixology resource?
My vast collection of cocktail books. Death & Co, The Savoy Cocktail Book and Schofields Fine and Classic Cocktails are my favourite. I guess unsurprisingly in the 21st century, Instagram and Youtube are pretty great resources too. I’ve learnt a lot from watching the world’s best give masterclasses online.
What does success mean for you?
There’s a famous saying ‘success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm’, which I really identify with. I’ve faced struggles in this industry for sure; I was once fired from a bar for being a female as the manager decided one day he only wanted male bartenders, but you just have to keep going, because if you love what you do it’s all worth it.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Honestly, I don’t know and I don’t want to. I know I’ll still be involved in the cocktail world, because it is my passion, but I don’t know where. Where my career is at the moment, I really want to spend my time enjoying and absorbing every bit of knowledge that I can, wherever that takes me.
If you weren't in the drinks industry, what do you think you would be doing now?
Probably desperately trying to get into the drinks industry! Other than that another passion of mine is cooking, which definitely ties in with what I’m doing now. That’s really the only other career I could see myself doing, being a chef.
Your biggest career influencer?
It might sound daft, but Gordon Ramsey. I admire him so much because he is so incredibly passionate about what he does that he is unwilling to accept anything other than perfection.
First drink you ever tried?
I mean in terms of cocktails it was a Daiquiri – what a great first drink to try. The second was a bright purple Woo Woo. I definitely preferred the Daiquiri.
We've all had a bad experience with at least one drink. What drink do you most avoid?
Sambuca, I can’t deal with it. When I was 15, I was in Italy on a school trip. Me and a friend went to this seedy dive bar where Sambuca shots were 50 cents. We bought 10 euros worth each… Needless to say I don’t remember what happened next and I can’t touch the stuff 10 years later.
Your hangover cure?
A really spicy Bloody Mary. Works every time.
£10m comes to you. What do you do next?
I’d buy my mum a house in Portugal, and then I’d take my girlfriend travelling across the world. Finally settle down and buy some land to build a bar in a city I love, probably somewhere in Berlin or Barcelona.
Bar or cellar at home?
Can I say both?
That really is an unfair question… but I’d have to say a pint of Big Wave. Lots of memories attached to that beer.
I’m a red drinker and will always be. My absolute favourite is probably Valpolicella, because it reminds me of my mum. That’s what we drink when we’re together.
Whisky. Bourbon. Closely followed by Tequila.
Probably a Negroni, but if I’m feeling a little fruity, a Junebug.
This is a really really hard one because I love so many bars. Buck and Breck in Berlin was one of the best bar experiences I have ever had. Such an intimate cocktail experience. I didn’t ask for a specific drink all night, instead the bartender made drinks for me based on my preferences, and nailed it every time.
There’s also an incredible shisha and cocktail lounge in Barcelona called Ziryab. It’s an amazing place. The staff are wonderful people, and all completely deaf. The atmosphere is incredible, so quiet and relaxing. You sit there in silence listening to gorgeous jazz music, and the sound of ice rolling against cocktail tins.
Two notable mentions because I can’t possibly pick a favourite ... Rio Maravilha; a bar in LX Factory in Lisbon. It’s completely open rooftop from which you can see the entirety of Lisbon, at night it’s just beautiful. Finally Puffin Rooms in Liverpool, an incredible jazz lounge with extremely talented musicians. If you ever get the chance to go, go. It’s stunning.
Currently Street Urchin here in Ancoats, Manchester. Amazing restaurant, with incredible seafood. It’s owned and ran by one of the most hospitable couples I have ever met in my life. Every meal I’ve had there I’ve felt incredibly looked after and full of delicious food!
Berlin is probably my favourite city, it’s filled with so many amazing memories for me. However, I went on a scuba diving trip to the Red Sea in Egypt - nothing beats an experience like that. There are plenty of places I would love to visit, top of my list is Rio - it has been for a very long time.
Kill Bill. Hands down. I love it.
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks.
CHVRCHES – Love is Dead.
Etta James or Aretha Franklin. Their voices are beyond incredible.