Modern bartending is about so much more than just the drinks.
The service, ambience, and conversation are all essential aspects of the experience that complement what’s in the glass.
We caught up with eight bartenders from young professional hot spots across the country who deliver the entire package and asked them to let us in on their craft. We were especially curious about their thoughts on what makes London, England – home of the beloved Beefeater gin – such a special cocktail city.
Today we chat with Shane Mulvany of Toronto’s Little Italy hot spot Dailo.
Describe your job in under 140 characters. Go.
My job is making great drinks, making people happy, and ensuring they have a good night as soon as they walk through the door.
How did you start in this business? What was the inspiration for your career route?
I started working at a family friend’s pub in Ireland when I was 16. It wasn’t until I went to New York City that bartending became a viable career option. I learned about cocktails and how to provide the best service to guests.
What’s the latest trend you see in bartending? What’s something the newest generation of bartenders is bringing to the job?
I think pre-batching and pre-made cocktails will become more prevalent. This allows the bartender to spend more time with the guest and also allows for greater consistency of drinks. We have already seen evidence of this with bars having cocktails on tap and bottle-aged cocktails.
What’s the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? And what’s the most challenging part?
The best part of my day is making cocktails for people and watching them enjoy what I’ve made. The most challenging part is probably the back of house stuff like doing inventory and costing. However, it is a necessary evil. Being able to cost out a cocktail menu is as important as actually creating the cocktails for that menu. Also, dealing with those who had a few too many drinks at the end of the night isn’t always fun.
Why is London, England such an important player when it comes to the latest and greatest cocktail trends?
London is the Mecca for cocktails in Europe. There are so many great bars in London and this has forced all the bartenders to work harder in order to stand out. It is also a hub for great food and the cultural diversity in London helps a lot too. You can get any ingredient you want and the bartenders always bring flavours from their countries to their drinks. Not to mention, many people who come to London are natural adventurers and therefore are generally willing to try new things.
What is it about gin that makes it so unique and versatile?
Gin is a very approachable spirit and its ability to be used in both spirit-driven cocktails and citrus cocktails are part of the appeal. I believe there is a gin for everybody.
What’s your favourite gin cocktail – both to make for someone else and to drink yourself?
My go-to drink is a Tom Collins for its simplicity and taste. One of my favourite gin cocktails is a Martinez for the seasoned gin drinker, or a Clover Club for those who are just starting to get into cocktails.
If you could have a gin cocktail in any bar in London, England, where would that be and why? And, of course, what would you order?
After living in London for six years, there are too many bars and too many great drinks, but here it goes:
The Connaught: A gin martini made by the masterful Ago Perrone.
Milk & Honey: A London Calling, it was my last drink in London before I left!
Zetter Townhouse: Nettle Gimlet; I worked at Zetter and this was our after-shift drink. We would make a huge batch post-shift and sip one or two to unwind.
What is it about London that inspired your cocktail?
My cocktail is inspired by my six years in London. Each element of my drink is inspired by a different part of London and the time I spent there.
When I first moved to London, I asked around for the best bars and frequently found myself at LAB in Soho. While working at another bar, spending the morning picking mint for mojitos, I strangely found myself craving minty drinks. There the tradition was born – every Friday I worked a double and on my break I headed to LAB for a Mint Julep. The Julep has therefore inspired the style of my drink.
A few years later I was working for Marcus Wareing, a man who defines authentic British cooking. Marcus’s style and innovation with British flavours is what inspired my flavour choice for this drink. While working at The Gilbert Scott, one day I tried a dish centred on peas and mint. It was so simple and refreshing that it created one of those rare moments in life where you are truly inspired; simple and rare combinations that belong together.
Living in London, Borough Market quickly became the place I spent many Saturday mornings. I used to go there for inspiration and I would explore what fruits were in season. If I were making this drink in London, Borough Market is where I would pick up my ingredients.
One of my very last days in London, I finally got to visit the Beefeater distillery. After living only 10 minutes away from the distillery for three years, it was a great way to end my time in in the city. I went with the London Cocktail Society and got to hear Master Distiller Desmond Payne talk honestly and lovingly about his gin. Therefore, the last piece of inspiration (and by no means the least) to my cocktail is Beefeater, as it is reminiscent of one of the last genuinely wonderful memories of my life in London.
What does success look like to you? Other than a strong martini, of course.
Success is making people happy by doing what you love. If you’re really lucky, you’ll get to do what you love and make a living from it.
What’s the best (gin) order someone could ever give you?
I love making martinis and other classic gin cocktails. I will happily make (and maybe drink) those cocktails all night.
If you could have a gin cocktail with anyone in the world (James Bond doesn’t count) who would it be and why?
I’ve done it before many times, but it’s always enjoyable to drink gin with my mentor, Tony Conigliaro. I’ve never seen him take more than three sips to finish a martini!
And finally, what – to you – is notable?
Click here for your chance to win a trip for two to London England that includes a VIP tour of the Beefeater distillery.
Photographs provided by Vito Amati / www.medianeeds.ca