Mixologist of the Month - Jill Saunders
- Date of Birth: 26th September ...
- Birth place: Manchester
- Height: 5'4"
- Eye colour: Blue
- Nationality: British
"My career to date is quite varied as I was never 100% sure about what I wanted to do when I was younger. I studied Maths at University and then went on to work at MTV for almost 4 years, after that I became an event manager specializing in music and used to book musicians/bands to appear at events.
After a particularly tricky few days having to run round after a spoilt celebrity, I decided I'd had enough and would take some time out to do something I'd always wanted to do which was study acting. It was around about this time that I discovered my love of bartending, as I was working in bars while trying to get acting work, a massive cliché I know! Anyway, I started to learn about the bar almost by accident but I found it fascinating and loved the fact that there were so many different sides to it. You have the history, the art of mixing drinks, the creative side, the knowledge of spirits and also it is very sociable and you get to meet great people.
I had worked in a few places bartending and waitressing but my first proper cocktail bartending job was at the Hoxton Pony after I begged to move from the floor to the bar. I worked with some great bartenders who taught me pretty much on the job.
After about 2 years at the Hoxton Pony, I went to work at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant for about 6 months before getting my current job which is as bartender at the Savoy."
Jill's' Signature Cocktails
Awards, Accolades and Trophies
Have not really been entering competitions so far but maybe in the future.
Claim To Fame
One of my second cousins is getting married to Catherine Zeta Jones' brother so that makes me kind of related to Michael and Kirk Douglas.
Q & A
What do you as a mixologist think about beer? Any brews of note for you?
When I was a little girl I used to love the taste of beer and always used to ask my granddad for some of his lager but something went wrong in my teenage years and now it is one of the only things I can't drink along with Malibu and Mad Dog 2020. In theory though I think beer is great, I wish I could drink it!
If you could offer a couple of short pieces of advice to the average bartender, what would they be?
I think everyone has different things that they are good at so it's hard to give general advice. That said, I think my advice would be to visit lots of bars! You'll start to notice differences between the average and great bartenders and once you figure out what those differences are you can work on being a great bartender yourself!
Surely you have some pet peeves about bartenders -- care to share?
Probably bartenders who are really dismissive of other people's opinions and think that their way is the only way to do something. The best bartenders in my opinion are the ones who are open to discussion and new ideas and the worst are the ones who are too arrogant to see past their own point of view. The best people don't have anything to prove.
As a mixologist/consultant, you work directly with many restaurants on their drink menus -- describe the parts of this process.
In my career so far, I have mainly just created drinks for the menu's where I work and it has been fairly simple in that my manager will say 'I need a long rum drink etc. and then I work on making a long rum drink!
How did you get started?
I started as a cocktail bartender at the Hoxton Pony after my manager Max Traverse kindly trusted me to move from the floor to the bar.
How were you trained in bartending?
Mainly on the job by some great bartenders who I worked with at the time. It was pretty much a sink or swim type situation.
Did you take any courses?
I have recently taken the WSET. When I worked at the Hoxton Pony the training was great as Andy Pearson used to come in every month and go through a different spirit category and classic cocktails with us. He was a brilliant trainer and helped me a lot.
What are some trends you're seeing in the market?
Since working at the Savoy, it feels as if the Martini is more in fashion than ever! We probably make more of those than any other drink. Also speakeasy style bars and the more classical type of cocktails.
What's your process for creating a new cocktail?
It depends what it's for. If a customer asks for a new drink with a particular spirit, I stick to things which I know will work well together and I usually get a good result straight away though it's maybe not so creative. If it's a cocktail that I am working on in my own time I would say I am a lot more experimental and it usually takes a few different attempts before I am happy. I imagine the flavour I would like in my mind and then try and recreate it.
What is your favourite cocktail to drink?
I have a few at the moment... Tommys Margarita, Mexican 55, Negroni, Manhattan, Rum old fashioned and anything good with Tequila and chilli.
My drink Grounds for Divorce at the Savoy!
What are some of your favourite tools?
I love the Japanese style double jiggers and long barspoons.
What is your favourite mixology resource?
My boyfriend Julien Lafond! Not only has he turned our house into a bar with a great spirit, liqueur and bitters selection but he's also an amazing bartender so is always good for me to get advice from.
What does success mean for you?
I take success a step at a time depending on what is right for me at that moment so for now, I feel very happy to be working a the Savoy.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Seeing as in the last ten years I have gone from doing a Maths degree to working in music to acting to bartending I really have no clue!!!! That said, having lived in the UK my whole life, I would love to live in another country.
If you weren't in the drinks industry, what do you think you would be doing now?
I would maybe have moved to France and tried to teach English there.
Your hangover cure?
In the chemist near my house they sell charcoal tablets which seem to be great for a hangover!
Your biggest career influencer?
There have been lots of people who have helped me or given me great advice but I think I have always been the person who has influenced my own career in terms of deciding what I wanted to do.
First drink you ever tried?
Cocktail wise I think it was probably a Paradise Punch in TGI Fridays, I used to love that drink when I was a teenager! Alcohol wise, beer!
We've all had a bad experience with at least one drink. What drink do you most avoid?
£10m comes to you. What do you do next?
I would love to own a small bar somewhere but first I would travel around the world and treat my family to some nice things!!
Bar or cellar at home?
Cellar as we already have a makeshift bar!
I don't drink beer so pass on this one!
Hawksmoor, both Spitalfields and Seven Dials are great.
Don't really have a favourite but would say Apicius in Paris is probably the nicest restaurant I've ever been to!
I don' t think I've been there yet so this one is TBC. I'd love to live by a beach somewhere nice and relaxed.
True Romance, Sweeney Todd and the Lost Boys.
100 years of solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Aha Shake Heartbreak by Kings of Leon, it reminds me of being in Los Angeles driving around in the sun.
Nirvana, The Pixies, Spoon.