Connie Cain - Mixologist Of The Month
- Date of Birth: December 1993
- Height: 5'2"
- Birthplace: Reading
- Eye colour: Blue
- Nationality: British
"I started bartending in August 2012 at 18, the bar was a dive, but Reading’s most famous and longest running venue; a real institution. I was forced to go to my first tasting because I didn’t really know what it meant - it was U'luvka vodka at a bar called Cerise in Reading, and I was shown a whole new world of bartending that I didn’t know existed. I met the local industry legends that are still doing amazing things, and they introduced me to the world of cocktails. (Beyond the “Alien Secretion” that was the first cocktail I ever made). I started entering comps and although they petrify me (still do) I really enjoy them.
I’ve now been working at Milk in Reading for about 6 years and took over as an owner in December 2019 (excellent timing). We are a rum and cocktail bar, currently stocking about 120 rums with an extensive cocktail menu. Designing the menu is my favourite job role and we try to keep our drinks current but easily accessible to our clientele."
Claim To Fame
We’ve become very well known for our Mai Tai!
List of your awards, accolades, trophies.
2 x winner of the Chairman’s Reserve Mai Tai competition
UK finalist Rhuby Liqueur Global
Winner of the 24 hour Reyka Vodka competition
Winner of the “world’s largest cocktail competition” with Identity brands
Winner of Monkey Shoulder UBC heat
Have been to the last 2 Reyka Vodka finals which have been amazing!
Milk won best bar in Reading in 2018 with Explore Rdg
Q & A
What do you as a mixologist think about beer? Any brews of note for you?
I love beer! It is my drink of choice on a night out (often accompanied by a shot of rum and a daiquiri). We’re lucky to have a lot of local brewers in Reading and “Parka” from Double-Barrelled brewery is the best beer I’ve ever tried.
If you could offer a couple of short pieces of advice to the average bartender, what would they be?
Don’t be a dick. It’s just cold drinks.
Surely you have some pet peeves about bartenders -- care to share?
Self-entitlement. I love what we do and it’s an incredibly skilled and underappreciated job. But, as I say, it’s just cold drinks. **As a mixologist/consultant, you work directly with many restaurants on their drink menus -- describe the parts of this process. I work on our (Milk’s) menu with my partner, and try to get our staff involved as much as possible. The best, and my favourite, way to research is usually heading to London to try out new places and drinks. I have favourite haunts but it’s always good to try new things and see what the trends are. Also keeping an eye on social media is a great way to keep up to date with drinks trends.
How did you get started?
I lost my keys in The Purple Turtle when I was 18, went to pick them up and asked for a job. The rest is history!
How were you trained in bartending?
A lot is self-taught and having a really deep interest in the craft. I read a lot of books but I worked with some really great bartenders and learnt a lot from them. (Shout out to Team Rynd (RIP) and my partner Andy who taught me how to free pour.)
Did you take any courses?
What are some trends you're seeing in the market?
Sustainability is a focus of a lot of brands. Rum appears to finally be having its day in the sun; we’re selling a lot less gin than we used to, and people have stopped asking for weird tonics.
Within rum, Agricoles and Clairins are booming.
What's your process for creating a new cocktail? And what inspired you in the first place?
I start with the base spirit and learn about its history and its tasting notes to work out what would work well with the flavours of the booze as well as its story and heritage.
What is your favourite cocktail To make?
Two Daiquiris- one to neck, one to sip.
What are some of your favourite tools?
I’ve had my battered tins for about 7 years, and they truly are battered. They are the best tins in the world.
What is your favourite mixology resource?
The Flavour Thesaurus.
What does success mean for you?
Having a day off.
What are some current trends you’ve seen in the cocktail market?
The use of local ingredients is definitely a trend- people are becoming more sustainability conscious which is great! There’s much less juice about and everything seems to be clarified and pre-batched. I’m a fan.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
We’d like to have 2 more bars, but keep them small and in keeping with our ethos.
If you weren't in the drinks industry, what do you think you would be doing now?
I was a club photographer for about a year, and also used to play gigs, so I guess one of those!
Your biggest career influencer?
First drink you ever tried?
Guinness - a man bet me 2 quid to chin a pint when I was about 15. (drink responsibly, folks, and don’t give alcohol to kids.)
We've all had a bad experience with at least one drink. What drink do you most avoid?
Strongbow or sambuca. The smell of either would kill me off.
Your hangover cure?
7 thousand pints of ice cold water.
£10m comes to you. What do you do next?
Learn to drive (but probably move to the Lake District or Austria).
Bar or cellar at home?
Parka by Double-Barrelled.
Kamiak Rock Lake Red from Washington State.
Milk of course!
The Corn Stores, Reading.
Withnail and I.
The “Uglies, Pretties, Specials” trilogy.
Currently “So What” by While She Sleeps but it changes daily.
Jackson Browne for the family nostalgia.