Where did you learn your craft?
I had been bartending in pubs and wine bars for a couple of years before I thought it might be a good idea to add another string to my bow and decided to try and get a job at a cocktail bar. Luckily Match bar had just opened Milk & Honey, so they had some openings at Match W1.
Match at the time was staffed by what is now a role call of industry heavyweights, Michael Butt, Kevin Armstrong, Giles Looker, Vincenzo Errico, Sam Jeveons, Pete Kendall, Barry Chalmers, and the list goes on. Between working with guys like this, and Match’s awesome monthly training sessions, I couldn’t have hoped for a better place to learn.
Name a few of the places you’ve worked
I left Match to start Plan B, and so I haven’t worked for anyone else since. We opened the Loft in 2007.
Who’s the most inspiring person you’ve worked with and why?
Inspiring is a strong word. I’ve been lucky to have worked with some great bartenders. Michael Butt and Kevin Armstrong make delicious drinks. Giles is one of the most charming people in Christendom. Pete Kendall is unbelievably fast, but I think Barry Chalmers might just top the pile, because he was such a strong all-round bartender. Great drinks, really funny, quick, and he kept his bar immaculate.
What makes a good bartender?
A good bartender has to always have a smile, has to make a customer relax and feel at home. He/she has to create a fun time, whilst taking his job really seriously. Multi-tasking is an essential skill. I’ve worked with bartenders who were always joking with customers, whilst other customers waited and their stations got progressively messier.
Which barmen do you admire and why?
Aside from people I’ve worked with, Marian Beke is amazing. He is such a total professional, and his drinks are so good to look at, it almost distracts you from how good they taste. And to get Old School for a while, I remember going in to Townhouse in Beauchamp Place around eight years ago and seeing Will De La Praudiere bartend. The second I sat down at the bar, he asked me what I wanted. I told him, and then he told me he had to serve him, him, him and him, and then he would be on it. Great fun, really quick but poetry in motion at the same time, and that all important skill of helping your customer to relax.
What’s your proudest moment as a bartender?
Winning my first competition, the inaugural Smirnoff Penka competition. The field was strong, and so I wasn’t expecting to win at all. And the £1,000 was nice too.
Shaken or stirred?
It is a personal preference thing. For me, if it’s a Martini or Manhattan, definitely stirred. Shaking ruins the drinks texture for me, but if a person hates that oily mouth feel, then shaken would be right for them. Bartenders can be accused sometimes of deciding on behalf of all their customers what is right and wrong. And I would have to say that is bad bartending
What’s your favourite drink?
Too many to choose from.
Too many to choose from.
On your menu:
It would have to be our Spice Lemongrass Collins. The house spiced lemongrass liqueur that we hope to launch commercially soon (once we have saved up) has been a labour of love for three years, and I am rather proud of it, if that isn’t too vain.
What’s your definition of a bartender and a mixologist and where do you fit in?
A bartender tends his/her bar, he/she is friendly, creates a relaxing environment, keeps his/her bar clean, makes drinks quickly and so on. A mixologist creates new and hopefully interesting drinks. A great bartender doesn’t need to be a great mixologist. And a great mixologist isn’t necessarily a great bartender. I would say I am a much better mixologist than I am a bartender. If someone comes in and orders Vodka-Diet-Coke-No-Ice I would be lying if I said I would find engaging with them easy. If people come in and order cocktails I will be only too happy to ask them what flavours they like, how sweet they like their drinks, etc etc. and generally verge on boring them.
What’s your favourite ingredient?
Of our 40 or so homemade ingredients, our lemongrass liqueur is obviously the one I am most pround off, but our Triple Sec is rather nice too.
Where do you drink off duty?
With a young one at home, I don’t get out too often, but Nightjar is awesome.
What’s your essential piece of bar kit?
My Rotato Express. Google it. It is the most amazing bar gadget ever conceived.
What’s your failsafe recipe to mix at home?
I tend to drink wine or beer at home. If I kept spirits in the house, it would get messy.
If you could mix a cocktail for anyone alive or dead, who would it be and why?
I would love to mix a drink for Pierre Koffman. I was lucky enough to eat at La Tante Claire a few times when it was on Royal Hospital Road and when it was at The Berkeley. They are some of the most memorable meals I have ever had, And it was the first time I tried cinnamon and cardamom together, in a crème brulee which was probably the best dessert I have ever eaten. It is a flavour combination I have used several times over the years in my drinks.
Find Andy at The Loft, 67 Clapham High Street, SW4 9TG. T: 020 7627 2210. theloftclapham.com.