"So we do the ‘classics’.... No, no, no, no, not those classics, everybody does those classics. We do the classics that time forgot. But we don’t just do the classics that time forgot, we do the classics that time forgot with a twist.... No, no, no, not just that kind of a twist, our twists are way twistier than anyone else's twists...
...We've got vacuum-reduced cod liver and tomato seed-rinsed White Ladies... We've got a gypsies slipper and pistachio-soaked shrub... We've got a dandelion and daisy-infused Daisy, garnished with three ferrets whiskers…"

I am really impressed with the level of sophistication and libation-literacy among modern drinkers. It seems there is no limit to humanity’s dedication to the art of getting trashed. Cocktail culture has long since moved on past the image of stuffy, bourgeois indulgence, or even pink-drinks-for-the-girls. Today it is met with a similarly hip, artisanal reverence as most other corners of the F&B realms, all the way up and down the spectrum from well-heeled and exclusive to the consciously low-rent. 

When it comes to the endless search for more challenging, creative recipes, the need to stand out and have a draw, the need to be doing more than the expected, the need to be revered by peers and have guests bow down at your white hot drink-dispensing alter, means there are incredible lengths bartenders go to to display authenticity and trailblazing innovation in their drink recipes. 

I have almost unlimited enthusiasm for trying out someones own creations before settling for my preferred default universal orders (classics). I want to support this effort toward shared drink-based journeys into deliciousness, and talk (tiresomely) until the small hours about the minutia of booze anthology. But… 

there is one aspect that bothers me in this effort to woo patrons with mouth-watering or indeed logic-defying ingredient combos listed under a drinks name - if you are going to tell me ‘ingredient X’ is in the drink, I might quite like to detect that in the final product. 

Now I’m not talking about ingredients listed among many other competing and complex flavour profiles to make up a greater whole; I mean if you are going to set out your stall and call something an ‘ingredient X’ Gimlet* for example, then I am now fully expecting to taste some evidence of that ingredient in the final serve. There is simply no point, and in fact it is downright dishonest, to call a drink ‘ingredient X’ if there is no discernible evidence of it in the flavour profile. Now a Gimlet is a strange example to choose, because you may be forgiven for thinking that a drink which is so fundamentally all about an 'ingredient X’, in this case lime, then to modify the flavour profile means it might as well get a new name entirely of its deserved own. Here in lies the art of the ‘twisted’ recipe. 

*I have in the recent past encountered two local bars offering ‘twisted’ Gimlets. One did it swell, the other not so well. 

Exhibit A, the Celery Gimlet. Delightful. It was fresh and suitably limey, true to the drinks roots, but was rocking a very definite celery strain throughout, a flavour compliment that worked perfectly due to the strong and opposing forces of tartness and sodium. I think there was a a touch of vinegar in the mix and one other modifier to smooth off any rough edges, but essentially, a really nice well developed drink with complexity, worth another round. 

Exhibit B, a Chrysanthemum Gimlet. Already you may be suspicious, knowing that on the one hand you will be expecting a mighty wash of sweet lime juice and gin, where does the delicate floral waft of chrysanthemum infusion fit in? The answer is, no where. Not at all. Not even the slightest hint. Why? Because it's a Gimlet. At its’ heart a hefty lick of gin and generous dousing of lime and sugar. It was a futile exercise, and while chrysanthemum would in another vessel in some other more delicate form work well with gin, it was completely lost here, pointless, and basically misleading. 

Do us all a favour, don’t call a drink a Kippertini unless it has actual kippers, that I can actually taste. 

There are tried and true ratios and formulas to use as jumping off points, occasionally doing homage twists might be appropriate, but don't be beholden to this reverence toward 'the classics', or even the classics that time forgot. Some things are best not meddled with, and you should just be confident enough to distance yourself from the slavish familiarity and perceived authenticity of basing all your creations around long since established and already great drinks. Drinks that evolve at first as a narrative, inspired by an individual, an event, an anecdote; a compliment of ingredients that belong together by some cosmic force, never before used in unison, there are plenty of ways to get busy creating your own modern classic.

Be out there with your recipes and ingredient pairing, but do at least be there.


If there should be one tool in your bartending arsenal, let it be the tapered pourer.

OK, assuming absolute basic items are a given: glassware, shakers, a knife, corkscrew, that kind of thing, then we are into the territory of items that make life easier, but not things we can’t live without or improvise. I propose the tapered pourer be the first critical item behind the bar after the basics.

I believe that great service means a couple of things, obviously the soft skills of the staff are one, great recipes well executed another, but what so often can make or break the atmosphere and customer experience is speed. You’ve got a hip interior, an achingly-cool music policy and all round great ambience, but if people get pissed off waiting 20 minutes for their drink order, all the rest of this carefully curated experience fades to the background and folks might not come back. People want a great drink and they want it tout de suite. This helps in both keeping people well lubricated; partly why they came to see you, but also from a business perspective, the quicker folks get served the quicker they are going to re-up and order another round.

There is no excuse for slow service. People don’t care how well groomed your beard is, or how dazzling your cufflinks may be, or that your equipment is plated in rose gold. A great recipe is just that, a carefully crafted set of ingredients - hand it over so I can get on with enjoying the company I’m with - I’m not here to wonder and worship at an alter. We assume you’ve put great care into developing the drinks, we don’t need to see you fussing reverentially over every step of building the drink. You are neither calibrating a swiss watch, nor handling radioactive materials in a laboratory. Efficiency of movement, accuracy and slight of hand are enough to let me know you know your perica. There may be enthusiasm for the elaborate serve, with creatively plumed garnishes, fantastic, but there is no need to labour over this either. 

So to the crux of it, the face off between free-pouring and sticking religiously to measuring everything with a jigger. Obviously, accuracy is a critical aspect of making a good drink. To this end measuring every ingredient carefully using the jigger guarantees this, but it comes at the expense of speed and efficiency. I would argue that taking the time to have all staff practiced and experienced in free pouring with all your spirits and central ingredients is a surefire way to significantly cut down the time taken making drinks. 

 Of course it doesn’t happen over night, learning the rates of pour according to variable viscosity in different products, getting used to volumes delivered by various tincture or bitters bottles and the like takes time. But it is possible to learn a personal head count and get very well tuned to a fine degree of accuracy in pouring ounces, half ounces, thirds and quarters, etc. Now, obviously for dashes or smaller volumes, you have a bar spoon or similar items, but for the biggies, free-pouring is the way to go. 

Having a hand free to do other small tasks, pouring two ingredients simultaneously, requiring less elbow room, there are umpteen valuable points to score in the efficiency stakes. Grabbing bottles and pouring long glistening arcs of liquor into your mixing glass looks great too for those concerned with the theatrics, and to be honest, providing you are in fact accurate with you counts and you are smashing perfectly balanced drinks out, it commands even greater kudos than laboriously shaving, trimming, caressing and noodling around trying to justify the expense by making it look complicated. With notable exceptions, and with all materials to hand, most drinks can be thrown together in a minute or two tops. So no more fumbling and faffing around, to all of you I say down with the jigger.


Drink, the leading on-trade publication in Asia, ran a brief feature on one of the recipes and bars I consulted for recently (Fang Bar) in their 'People's Republic of Cocktails'. It serves as a showcase for the unique flavours available to the cocktail barman in Asia, and the DNA of drink development from base spirit selection, through matching flavour profiles to feature ingredients and the not-to-be-underestimated naming and provenance of said drink in piquing guest's interest.


Some months back I was brought in to give bar consulting, staff training and menu development.

Xiao Shuai and Zak had strong ideas about their overall vibe, and while quite new to the ways of the mixed drink trade, they had plenty to bring in terms of their vision for the place. To this end, we crossed swords on a number of points, but we saw eye-to-eye completely on the style of drinks and wet product they wanted to offer - a menu of original, locally inspired, un-pretentious and accessible items with bags of personality.

This is of course super fun for me, developing new cocktail recipes is a voyage of discovery and research into products, flavours and of course building stories around the marrying of all these things. The hours on training I enjoy, the tasting sessions(!), but also writing up and designing the collateral gives me great satisfaction and, for a time at least, a level of complete involvement and a sense of shared ownership of a project.

On the point of consultation, I said we didn't always see eye-to-eye on everything; at the end of the day, it is not my bar. To that end if you are stepping in as a 'contractor' on somebody else's show, you have to tread lightly and cannot be imposing your will in contradiction to a client's vibe. Interior choices, bar set up, staffing and service style, it all warrants input, but gentle guidance and suggestions, rather than dogmatic insistence is needed, and the client will take as much or as little of it as they wish, hopefully taking on the more vital aspects of your shared wisdom.

So, in the end I passed on a cocktail menu, that physically manifested the traditional edge of the setting, while feeling not-to-formal. They wanted to present uptown drinks with the easy charm of a back-street bar. Also, being in Beijing, they wanted the recipes to draw heavily on local personality and flavour: this meant using local liquor (huang jiu for example); domestic fruits and other typical flavourings (teas, dates, grapes, yoghurt, cumin, amongst many other things) and tongue-in-cheek names like the Ping-Pong Diplomat, Dharma Rum, and Fang Dynasty. All in all, I was very satisfied with the job. Setting a new bar and team up with a world-class drinks offering, spirit selection and a strong foundation in understanding the DNA of creative recipe development to grow and keep customers coming back for more. Feedback so far is really positive on the drinks, and the bar too.


One of the strings to my bow happens to include being a once-upon-a-time industry nominated UK Bartender of the Year. Of the many hats I have worn in my working life, working in F&B was one of the most rewarding and valuable experiences for me; in terms of developing super-refined soft skills, as well as seeing the immediate impact on a customer/client for a job well done. It could be hard work for sure, but the personal satisfaction, pride and of course fun was a worthy reward.

Working in many areas of the industry before, during and after my student days in the UK, I stepped away from that world while in a role as head bartender and management team for an award winning boutique UK restaurant and bar group. This role required a great deal of time devoted to attending training, workshops, tastings, ambassadorial roles at industry events, competitions (winning one or two along the way!), and of course one of the aspects I loved most, developing new recipes, creating menus, pairing and balancing flavours to complement food offerings.

As someone who thrives on being hands on and of a creative bent, this line of work was fantastic... Anyway, let me introduce Wetwork, dedicated to combining my professional expertise as an F&B pro with my time served as a design and comms pro. 

The aim here is to present both formal and informal creative work associated with the on-trade, but also serve as a point of contact for any consultation or commissions that might come my way This may relate to the service side, the product, the venue itself and of course any VI and marketing-related needs. I was prompted to put this together after doing a little bit of moonlighting recently as consultant, staff trainer and recipe creator, alongside duties on the communications side for a few restaurant and bar venues. I've also had a couple of recent magazine features on cocktail related matters. 

So expect to see design work, plus a handful of words on the subject, photography and indeed showcasing recipes and other related topics that will be of interest to anyone in the trade, people looking to bring onboard any of my skill-set and folks with a passing interest in liquor, spice and all things ice.