Karl Stanley - Mixologist Of The Month
- Date of Birth: 18th May
- Height: 5' 11"
- Birthplace: Lisburn, Northern Ireland
- Eye colour: Blue
- Nationality: British
"My career started about 7 years ago when I caught the service bug working the main stage bar at Latitude Festival 2014. It was an amazing experience serving on a fast paced bar and listening to music, so much so when I went back to Nottingham for my second year of University I started looking for bar jobs.
Luckily, I stumbled across an ad for a new bar opening in the city centre of Nottingham, Das Kino; a ping pong, pizza and craft beer joint. I got the job and worked as a bar back for a few months whilst I learnt what service was like at a new bar, it was great to learn what a new open would be like too. Das Kino was an incredible experience for learning about fast service and classic cocktails, and a lot about beer.
I wanted to learn more about classic cocktails, cocktail service and open my mind about the creative experience when making new drinks. I was offered a job at Boilermaker Nottingham, this gave some insight into homemade ingredients and eventually took my first step into some local cocktail competitions. I learnt a lot at Boilermaker about classic cocktails and cocktail service generally.
Eventually, I moved back to Manchester to be closer to family and started working at Cane and Grain in the Northern Quarter, where I have been based for 3 years now. I started working on the Ground Floor ‘taproom’, here, I learnt loads about the plethora of beers we had to choose from and what it was like to work in a fast paced environment in a popular side of the city. I moved to the second floor, Science and Industry, to really hone my skills as a cocktail bartender and took on the role of Bar Manager in July 2018.
In September 2021 I moved from behind the stick to start working for Highball Brands, to learn my trade from the other side of the bar and keep honing my skills and work with brands and bars in my city more directly."
Your claim to fame?
Billy Zane used to come into one of the bars a lot, he seemed to really enjoy our hot toddy's.
Q & A
What do you as a mixologist think about beer? Any brews of note for you?
I’m not as into beer as I should be given my background, working in some popular craft beer spots but I’m a huge fan of the Camden Town brewery and anything that comes out of there. I enjoy easy drinking lagers after work, mostly, Asahi.
If you could offer a couple of short pieces of advice to the average bartender, what would they be?
Look after yourself! Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, hospitality is one of the most fun, sociable professions in the world, enjoy it.
As a mixologist/consultant, you work directly with many restaurants on their drink menus -- describe the parts of this process.
Learning about classic cocktails and the process in building drinks first. Then applying that with the knowledge of what my guests want and building up each drink from there.
How did you get started?
Slinging spirit mixers, beers and ciders at Latitude Festival.
How were you trained in bartending?
I learnt from my talented Managers at Das Kino, then started to build foundations by reading, watching and learning. Still learning from those around me and training to this day!
Did you take any courses?
Not during my pre-bartending career, but since March 2020 I gained my WSET L1 in Spirits and have just taken my L2 in Spirits exam.
What are some trends you're seeing in the market?
Batched and bottled cocktails, particularly during the Covid era for hospitality. The motivation seen from hospitality professionals to serve their guests at home using bottled cocktail services has been amazing.
What's your process for creating a new cocktail? And what inspired you in the first place?
Tasting and picking out flavours, using my knowledge of flavours that balance/contrast/pair to create ingredients and start pulling everything together. the inspiration depends on whether the drink is for a menu or comp or for personal consumption - for a menu, it’s my guests first, always!
What is your favourite cocktail To make?
I love perfecting the ‘stirred down and brown’ style of drinks. There’s nothing more satisfying to me than perfecting the balance of a Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Sazerac.
What are some of your favourite tools?
As a Bar Manager, I often find a drill, hammer and some nails really come in handy! Other than that, its books, I love reading my bar books during down time and making notes for training sessions.
What is your favourite mixology resource?
Books. There’s nothing better than turning a page and finding out something you didn’t know before.
What does success mean for you?
An evening service where every guest has enjoyed their experience.
What are some current trends you’ve seen in the cocktail market?
Batched and bottled cocktails. Mindful drinking - more 'no and low' serves, which means that wonderful aromatised/fortified wines - vermouth, port, aperitivos - are becoming more popular with the general consumer.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hard to say, still bartending. Hopefully half way to opening my own place.
If you weren't in the drinks industry, what do you think you would be doing now?
Working in an office as a politician's aide or something of a similar ilk - I made the right choice being in this industry.
Your biggest career influencer?
Anyone that has taught me anything about this industry. From bartenders I work alongside, to my managers. Right now, the team that I work alongside really pushes me.
First drink you ever tried?
Jack Daniel’s and Coke.
We've all had a bad experience with at least one drink. What drink do you most avoid?
Your hangover cure?
The coldest can of Irn Bru I can find.
£10m comes to you. What do you do next?
Treat my entire family to a holiday when it is safe to do so and we can travel again.
Bar or cellar at home?
A bar full of Bourbon.
Angel’s Envy Rye Carribean Cask.
Other than Science and Industry - Panda & Sons, Edinburgh.
Oaxaca - I was fortunate enough to visit in 2019 and can’t wait to return.
Back to the Future - Classic!
For reference, it’s got to be ‘The Flavour Thesaurus’, I very rarely read anything that isn’t drink or bar related.
Rumours, Fleetwood Mac.