The band of Bartenders is a close knit group and like great chefs, not only do they have the ability to engineer the perfect combination of ingredients to create a taste sensation, they also like to keep in touch about trends and new recipes. The Barman was delighted to catch up with Andy Mil who in 2012 won the title of Best Bartender in Great Britain at the first ever World Class Western Europe. Here’s what Andy has to say:
Firstly Andy thanks for taking the time to speak with me, the whole 31DOVER team are a huge fan of your work. In the World Class Western Europe finals you competed against the best bartenders from all over the UK. To come out on top against the best names in the industry is an incredible achievement, how have things changed for you since the competition?
Winning World Class puts you on a professional level where people start to turn to you for advice and ideas. I have been doing a lot of off trade press related work. For example radio shows, TV, lots of printed press like GQ, Cosmo and The Independent. The competition promotes bartending as a profession as opposed to something you do to pay your way through college.
You’re very young (23) for someone so successful in your industry. When did you first discover your love for cocktails and mixing?
I have always loved cooking and dropped out of college to become a chef. However, no one would give me a job, even washing dishes. So after a good few months looking for work I decided to try my hand at front of house. I have always made people feel welcome so I thought it would be a good way of tapping in to the bar trade. I got a job as a waiter at a gastro pub over on Lots Road. There I met the now owner of “happiness forget” Ali Burgess. He gave me all the inspiration I needed for a career in the bar industry.
What would be your best tips for any aspiring bartender?
Always make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. As a bartender you are not there to make drinks, you are there to make people feel welcome and cocktails just so happen to be a part of that experience. Use cocktails as a way of showing your passion for your craft. The most important thing is to remember we are not saving lives; we are just bartenders.
What’s your favourite spirit? How would you drink/serve it?
It would have to be Don Julio Tequila. I have always loved Tequila; it’s truly a magic spirit. I love to drink Tequila neat like you would with a fine Brandy or Whisky, but it also makes a mean Margarita.
I know you’re passionate about food pairings, what’s your favourite pairing?
The best food pairing in the world would have to be a cold pint of larger and a bowl of crunchy chips. However, if I was trying to be fly, it would be a wet (high proportion of vermouth to Gin) Gin Martini with some big Italian olives.
The most bizarre pairing you’ve come across?
Rhubarb cocktail made of Gin, rhubarb syrup and lemon paired with black pudding. The sweet citrus note of the rhubarb cut straight through the rich mouth feel of the black pudding.
As the discerning drinker becomes more adventurous, big changes in alcohol trends are becoming more apparent. In brand choices we’ve seen a shift from big and well established brands to small batch boutique ones. What trends do you predict for this year?
Whisky is still the world fastest growing spirit category in the emerging markets i.e. South American and Asia.
However, Tequila has grown massively in the past few years. With the sudden influx of South Americans to the UK and the rest of Europe, a taste for Latin cooking, drinking and more importantly flavours has emerged.
Tequila for a long time was reserved to Margaritas and end of the night shots. As with any credit crisis people spend more carefully.
Cocktails bars always flourish during an economic slump. Cocktails bars may be expensive but the staff are generally much better at their job as they actually want to be there. Cocktail bars and bartenders try to push good quality 100% agave Tequila instead of the cheap mixo tequila with salt and lime.
This push by bartenders and some great marketing campaigns by large Tequila brands like Patrón has led to a much more open market for the consumption of good quality Tequila, Mescal being a part of this growth as well.
Liqueurs are coming back in to fashion again. My grandparents would drink a liqueur after dinner. Then as trends started pushing towards dryer tasting products. i.e. Dry Martinis. Dry white wines, dry beers etc. people forgot about the good old liqueur. Now however things like Amaretto and Southern Comfort are massively popular and now some more boutique companies have stepped on to the market. The main ones being Chambord and of course St Germain.
How have peoples’ drink choices/drinking habits changed since you first started bartending?
The UK market is becoming a lot more brand loyal like the Americans. Not just with the major players i.e. like Jack and Coke, or Bombay and tonic, Grey Goose and soda.
They are opening up to smaller craft brands, for example Sipsmith Gin and Camden beers. These small brands have opened the door for a lot of people. Giving them a bit of space to finding and trying something new.
As I said above this extra dry flavour trend is dying as well. Whether you want to believe it or not sugar carry’s flavour in much the same way as salt does. To say sweet does not mean you have to drink syrup it’s just means something with a little more depth. For example Chardonnay is coming back into fashion and Pinot Grigio is slowly making its way home.
And finally could you suggest a Spring-themed recipe that the visitors of our site could make at home?
Bramley Apple Smash
50ml ml Gin
1 table spoon of bramley apple sauce
1 table spoon of elderflower cordial
1 table spoon of lemon juice
4 mint leave
Shake all to the ingredients and strain in to a small wine glass and top with a splash of sparkling wine. If you have a sweeter tooth and a tsp of sugar to the shaker.
You’ll find Andy and his specially created ‘Magnificent 7’cocktails at Match Bar just around the corner from Oxford Street, London.