John Collingwood - Mixologist of the Month
- Date of Birth: 25th June 1979
- Birth place: Newcastle Upon Tyne
- Height: 5'7"
- Eye colour: Blue
- Nationality: British
"It is crazy to think that I started my career back in 1998, serving 95p pints at my Halls of Residence bar while at University in Manchester. During my second year I decided that I wanted to take things to the next level and got a job at the first ever Living Room on Deansgate.
This opened my eyes to the wonderful world of spirits and cocktails. Their training programme was second to none, giving me the perfect foundation for a moving forward into this amazing industry.
Moving home, I had a chance meeting outside of a nightclub, which resulted in me getting a job with Bacardi Brown Forman Brands. 6 years later I had worked in the Brand Development & Training Team, working with world class products and more importantly people.
In 2008 I left the company, went away to Fiji to do marine conservation and while there decided I wanted to set up my own cocktail training and events business. Want to impress was born. This has proved to be the hardest 3.5 years of my life, but would not have changed it for the world.
Whilst running my business I decided to return to behind the bar to hone my skills working as Head Mixologist at the Hotel Du Vin and No 28, Newcastle. It felt like I had returned home, nothing beats it.
Now I am entering a new chapter of my career, as I have just accepted my first contracts with Fling International and fingers crossed for the next few years, will be traveling the globe educating bartenders in luxury 5/6 star resorts."
Awards, Accolades and Trophies
2010 - UK Finalist Havana Grand Prix
2010 - UK Finalist Zubrowka Competition
2012 - UK Finalist Bols Around the World
2012 - UK Finalist Naked Grouse
Claim to Fame
Meeting Nelson Mandela.
Q & A
What do you as a mixologist think about beer? Any brews of note for you?
Nothing quenches the palate like a nice cold beer and I am really fortunate to have a plethora of local brewers on my door step. Wylam is a particular favourite and are always pushing the boundaries with new and interesting beers. Rocket & Gold Tankard are particularly awesome. I am huge fan of the American beers, Sierra Nevada and Brooklyn, plus Brewdog has just opened in Newcastle, so I frequent there quite often as well.
If you could offer a couple of short pieces of advice to the average bartender, what would they be?
Remember that the most important person is the customer, be courteous, polite and above all make sure that they walk away with a huge grin of their face, having had an amazing night in your company. Learn the classics, as this is the basis for any budding bartender.
Surely you have some pet peeves about bartenders -- care to share?
Bartenders who think they know it all... forcing information onto me that is not relevant and untrue.
As a mixologist/consultant, you work directly with many restaurants on their drink menus -- describe the parts of this process.
Every menu is different, so there are many things you must take into consideration...the food that is being served, it's location, the clientele, the skill level of the bartenders, the stocking policy, the ingredients available to you and listening to what the staff have to say. The key is to put yourself in the eyes of the customer and the bartender, as if someone likes what they see and the bartender is confident in making it, then you know you have delivered the goods. Don't think that once you have produced the first menu that is it, you can never predict if it will succeed, therefore alterations may have to be done over time. However that only cements are long lasting and fruitful relationship. To me it is all about ongoing training, as then you can start to introduce more interesting ideas and know you have a team that can step up and make these delicious drinks.
How did you get started?
Working in a Halls of Residence Bar when at university in Manchester.
How were you trained in bartending?
The Living Room gave me a brilliant foundation, as I had to learn from the bottom up, it was 3 months of hard graft, bar backing, tests tests and more tests, and learning what it takes to be a bartender. To this day I have never stopped learning. Working for Bacardi Brown Forman Brands, allowed me to truly immerse myself in spirits and cocktail, learning about not only their portfolio, but also their competitor products. As in this day and age, it is not only about having confidence in making fine drinks, but knowing about the ingredients that go in to it.
Did you take any courses?
WSET Level 2. Mainly though I am self taught, as there is so much information at your finger tips
What are some trends you're seeing in the market?
At the moment it is all about long forgotten cocktails, prohibition, homemade syrups, bitters and infusions. It is fantastic to see such an abundance of fine spirits being released, that makes our job so much easier to do. As if the main ingredient is epic, then there is no excuse for your final creation not to be as well. Local craft beers are making a massive resurgence as is cider.
What's your process for creating a new cocktail?
I get inspiration from everywhere, cliched as it may sound. Something I see or read, just ignites a spark in my head, that I can not get rid of...which means I then have to go away and refine the idea, until I happy to start experimenting. My bible at the moment, is The Flavour Thesaurus. This just opens your eyes up to so many combinations that you thought would just not work.
What is your favourite cocktail to drink? To make?
I am partial to drinks on the sour side, you can not go wrong with a Daiquiri. If I have the time, I love to ask guests questions, finding out what styles they like, the spirits they drink and then making a bespoke cocktail for them.
What are some of your favorite tools?
My Mexican elbow, cocktail books and the internet.
What is your favourite mixology resource?
The Flavour Thesaurus, www.foodpairing.be, BBC Food and all the amazing drinks related blogs.
What does success mean for you?
Being happy and healthy.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully I will have had the chance to see all corners of the globe and with all those experiences and influences become an establisher writer, respected figure in the drinks industry and open up a series of small bars.
If you weren't in the drinks industry, what do you think you would be doing now?
Working in the advertising business... my brain is always on the go with crazy and creative ideas.
Your hangover cure?
Orange Tropicana, a strong Americano and a crispy bacon sandwich with ketchup.
Your biggest career influencer?
My family, they have been my rock.
First drink you ever tried?
Port when I was knee high to a grasshopper. I thought it was Ribena.
We've all had a bad experience with at least one drink. What drink do you most avoid?
Anything super sweet.
£10m comes to you. What do you do next?
Have a beer and contemplate my next move.
Bar or cellar at home?
I have an ever expanding spirits cupboard... but I don't really drink at home, to me that is just a recipe for disaster.
Wylam Brewery or Brooklyn.
I am partial to a nice full bodied Argentinian Malbec.
Diplomatico Exclusif Reserva or Ron Zacapa 23.
Daiquiri or Sour.
The Tyne, Newcastle. It has a great selection of local ales and perfect location when the sun is shining.
A great BBQ with family and friends, nothing beats it.
Fiji or South Africa.
Anchorman, Will Ferrell is just a comical genius.
The Yes Man, Danny Wallace.
Jack Johnson - In Between Dreams.
- Singer/band? Chemical Brothers.