Mixing it Up!
Amanda Humphrey is a mixologist, travelling the country, training people on mixed drinks, spirits and categories. Part of the MIXXIT team, she specialises in American whiskey and scotch, something many Take Stock readers will relate to!
With London Cocktail Week from 5-11 October, Take Stock talks to Amanda about the industry and gets some of her top cocktail recipes.
How and when did you get into mixology?
In my late teens I spent 18 months living in Spain and Greece. When I came back I didn’t have a job so a friend of mine who was working at Harvey Nichols restaurant and bar in Manchester managed to get me a job in the bar. I was working under the very talented bartender and founder of The Bar Academy, Jamie Stephenson. I instantly fell in love with the bar and the hospitality industry. I knew I had found my calling. The rest is history.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
When I worked behind the bar, it was the dynamics of the evening service and new cocktail menu creations. Now I’ve moved to the other side of the stick, it has to be the variety of the venues I train on Maxxium brands. I could be training in a local pub, a five-star hotel bar or sampling whisk(e)y with festival goers in the middle of a field. I love people and interaction, so this would be my favourite part of the job as part of the MIXXIT team.
Is there anything you don’t like?
I’m away from home a lot as a national trainer so I miss my English Bulldog, Albert! And maybe I could do without 6am flights to Scotland. Apart from that, I love every aspect of my job and this wonderfully diverse industry.
Who has inspired you the most?
Jamie Stephenson. He was my Yoda when I first started. His passion was infectious and I learnt the beginnings of my trade with him. He was also ahead of his time with a lot of cocktails. For example, the Aardvark Martini he created with ants. This was on the menu 10 years ago and only now are other bartenders
starting to work with insects in cocktails.
What’s your favourite bar in the UK and why?
At the moment it has to be Satan’s Whiskers in Bethnal Green, London. It serves beautifully balanced classic cocktails and twists on classics in a cool but unpretentious environment. It also has the best hip hop playlist around. I highly recommend a visit if you haven’t been yet. You can often find me sipping on a Laphroaig Penicillin at the bar!
The best bar abroad?
It would have to be Nomad in New York for the beautiful decor, ambience and innovative cocktails.
What’s your favourite drink?
I never get sick of drinking a Penicillin cocktail. It consists of smoky whisky, blended whisky, fresh lemon juice, fresh ginger juice and honey. It was created at Milk & Honey in New York, and is a staple part of my drinking repertoire.
The weirdest food and cocktail pairing?
It would have to be insects paired with cocktails. Ants have a nutty citrus flavour to them that can work well with certain cocktails.
Is there any food you couldn’t serve a cocktail with?
No, I don’t think so. Some pairings might be more challenging than others but that’s the fun of trying to create serves that work with weird and wonderful foods. There is a cocktail for every taste whether it be sweet, sour or umami.
What’s your favourite bar gadget?
If I were to get geeky, it would have to be a RotoVap.
What has been the biggest drink trend of your career?
The Speakeasy movement that has been happening across the country over the past five years or so.
What are the common errors people make when making cocktails?
Putting too many ingredients together in one drink. Don’t put an ingredient in the cocktail if you can’t taste it! Try to stick to five ingredients or less and always use jiggers and measures when making cocktails, as this provides consistency in your drink serves.
Top tips to being a great mixologist?
It’s all in the learning. To be a great bartender you have to have great spirits knowledge, brand knowledge and cocktail history understanding. You won’t learn all of this on a shift at work. Put the hours in at home studying the internet and industry books, go to tastings on your days off and find yourself a mentor that can help you progress.