Ruari Cathmoir

Ruari is based in Edinburgh and in his own words, “has mixed drinks for such luminaries as his mum, his dad, that guy who always orders and Old Fashioned no matter how busy the bar is, and his mate Tom (a Perfect Manhattan, on the rocks). These days he can be found trying to explain the intricacies of the Dry Martini Cocktail and the perfect Gin & Tonic to bartenders and consumers all over Scotland, and has been known to jump behind the bar at the occasional private event. He really loves sunshine, wine, cycling and skiing, which has led him to wonder if he might, perhaps, be living in the wrong country; on the other hand, he also really likes whisky, which is probably why he’s stayed put.”

Ruari has been tending bar since uni days in 2002. Highlights include Booly Mardy’s in Glasgow and The Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh. He goes through to the finals with his rum creation, Epilogue…

What led you to become a bartender?

To begin with it was a job to fund my way through university. Over the years I began to realise that I had a passion for wine and spirits, not just for their individual complexities, but for the history of alcoholic beverages and their impact on society throughout the years. I don’t mean from alcohol abuse but from its role in the development of human civilisation. Tending bar gave me an opportunity to immerse myself in drinks culture and learn more about the trade. I often joke that it’s in the blood – my great-grandfather Alexander McGregor was a Director of McDonald & Muir Distillers and his son, Ian, was Distillery Manager at Glenmorangie.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Constantly learning and having the opportunity to disseminate that knowledge and information; it’s fantastic to be surrounded by like-minded individuals who all have something they can teach you, and can learn something in return from you. Across the bar, some customers come in knowing what they want and some want to explore new things. They’re the ones who really make my day.

Who do you admire in the industry and why?

The bar-backs, the bartenders, the waiting staff – all my colleagues and comrades-in-bar, every single last one of them. The general public have this belief that what we do requires no skill, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

If you could mix a drink for anyone alive or dead, who would it be and why?

Dave Wondrich. I’d then like to hop over the bar and join him for a few, and pick his brains on the history of the mixed drink. He’s done some tremendous work translating Jerry Thomas into a language that the rest of us can comprehend, and his history of Punch is a fascinating and mouthwatering read.

What’s your favourite classic cocktail?

Tough call, but I think the Negroni wins by a hair. It’s a ballsy, boozy drink with a rich, challenging, bitter-sweet character. There’s something about the three ingredients that just sing out when you mix them; a good gin such as Tanqueray No. Ten, Rosso Vermouth – I really like Carpano Antica Formula – and of course, Campari. Although the recipe calls for equal proportions, I usually like mine a little heavier on the gin.

What’s the most unusual request you’ve had at the bar?

After a while, you lose perspective on what an ‘unusual’ request actually is. I vividly remember a customer brand-calling a particular gin which I didn’t stock; when I offered her an alternative, she shook her head and ordered a vodka and coke, telling me that she didn’t like gin. I gently explained to her that the product she had ordered was gin, but I don’t think she had a clue. That kind of thing happens rather more often than you’d think – many people follow the herd and don’t actually know – or even care, to a degree – what they’re drinking, they just know that it had a cool advert and one of their friends drinks it.

What’s your proudest moment as a bartender?

The day a complete stranger walked in to the bar I was working in, looking for me. Apparently, I’d really looked after some friends of his and he wanted to check it out for himself. As it happens, he was also checking me out – literally – his mates had also told him I was ‘cute.’ I wound up with a decent tip… and a phone number. Actually I’m not sure if I’m more proud of the referral or the fact I got a phone number out of it…

Describe the inspiration for the drink/s that got you through to the finals.

Classic styles of drinks with modern techniques, balance and flavour. The earliest definition of a ‘Cocktail’ was published in 1806 in the Columbian Balance and Repository of Hudson, New York. It was an editorial response to a reader’s question, and he defined it as “…an invigorating drink, comprised of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters.” I used that basic framework, with
a good dose of local southern Caribbean influence, to build both of my rum drinks.

Do you have any funny/embarrassing anecdotes in the rounds leading up to World Class UK finals?

Sorry, there’s a ultra-hyper-super-injunction on those, I can’t talk about them. Kittens will die if I do!

Have you picked up any good tips from the competition? If so, what are they?

Be humble, support each other, have a steady hand, and above all, remember that it’s not just your drinks, it’s about you as a bartender.

What does winning your regional heat of World Class mean to you?

It means that I might actually be okay at this malarkey after all…

What would winning the finals of World Class UK mean to you?

Refer to the previous statement and replace ‘okay’ with ‘quite good’.

Who would you thank in your World Class acceptance speech and why?

My agent, my publisher, the cast and crew, my mum and dad, brother, uncle, aunt and cousins, pet dog and kittens, my hamsters, and Gwyneth Paltrow for inspiring me to take this joke too far… In all seriousness, everyone I’ve worked with, all the brand training teams and anyone who ever gave me advice. I ignored all of it, but by some streak of dumb luck I wound up doing all right.

If you were a cocktail, what would you be and why?

Aviation. Fresh, aromatic and floral with a fruity, dry finish.

The drink that got him through

At the final point of any story, just as at the end of any good evening, there is a need for something to bring about an ending.  In these modern times, the cigar is verboten outside one’s private residence; with that in mind, I began looking for a way I could bring that most satisfactory of endings to my own tale. Furthermore, I wanted to tie all the flavours I associate with a good evening in to a single drink.  When tasting Ron Zacapa 23 I am reminded of chocolate, of coffee, vanilla and spice.  I smell the rich notes of orange and caramel before the heady liquor even touches my tongue.  Rather than picking out coffee, chocolate and orange and adding those flavours already present, I began looking for flavours that worked with these elements.  Cardamom pairs with coffee and chocolate bringing citrus notes; an infusion of tobacco ought to bring a dryness to the palate and finish, more importantly bringing – to those of us who have tasted the dry, musty aromatics of a fine cigar – a certain smoked dry texture that lingers in the mouth.  Pedro Ximinez could add a rich dark raisined finish and sweetness to complement the rum and give a sly wink to the Solera system used by Zacapa.  Careful testing proved the theory.  The ‘live’ infusion demonstrates a quick and easy way to add interesting flavours to drinks with very little preperation time required.  A red chilli pepper garnish will add some spice (when skewered); dried chilli develops sweeter, leather and raisin notes, all of which pair with the flavours present in Zacapa 23, to which a quick spank of mint (yes, I did say a spank) brings an instant herbal freshness.  Thus my story ends, as all my favourite novels, with the promise of more to come…

Epilogue

38ml Zacapa
30ml Tobacco & Cardamom infused Vodka
25ml Chartreuse Green liqueur
4ml Pedro Ximénez sherry
3 dashes Xoxolate Mole (www.bittermens.com)

Method:

Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled flute. Garnish with mint tip and red chilli.


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