The festive season from behind the bar | Scottish Licensed Trade News

Scottish Licensed Trade News

The festive season from behind the bar

Nick Gordon, Orchid, Aberdeen

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• What is your personal favourite cocktail at Christmas and why?
I’m not sure if it would be classed as a cocktail, but over the festive period, I love mulled wine. We had a drink on our menu last Christmas that used mulled wine instead of vermouth in a Martinez, and it was unbelievably tasty.

• In your experience, are customers more or less likely to try a different drink at Christmas?
I think customers are more likely to try something new. Cocktails such as Flips seem to be more popular over the festive season as they are really rich and guests tend to indulge a little more over the Christmas period.

• What spirit do you think is particularly well-suited for use in festive cocktails?
I think darker spirits in general are much easier to use at Christmas. They really warm you up and guests can associate the likes of brandy to Christmas puddings readily enough, as they are willing to give a drink a try they wouldn’t necessarily try at other points in the year. Whisky drinks such as Hot Toddys are more popular as well.

• What are your favourite and least favourite things about bartending over the festive season?
I guess my favourite and least favourite thing is how busy it is. It’s non-stop and your social life and sleeping are put on hold for a month. Having said that, a busy shift is always much more enjoyable, so I can’t complain too much.

• What cocktail would you make for a visiting President Trump and why?
I guess I’d have to make him a Tommy’s Margarita, which has two parts tequila, one part lime juice and half a measure of agave syrup. I would probably have to hold the tequila, agave syrup and lime juice though, as I wouldn’t want to offend him by putting any Mexican products into the drink.


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• What is your personal favourite cocktail at Christmas and why?
It has to be the Penicillin, made with an Islay single malt; peaty whisky dominates with the warmth of ginger and the sweetness of honey. If you could put sitting around an open fire at Christmas into a glass, this would be it for me.

• In your experience, are customers more or less likely to try a different drink at Christmas?
I’d say more likely; people really enjoy indulging in all things seasonal at this time of the year and this includes drinks. Taking time to explain more obscure or homemade ingredients to those less versed in cocktail imbibing can yield great results in selling seasonal drinks.

• What spirit do you think is particularly well-suited for use in festive cocktails?
While aged spirits such as rum, bourbon and whisky all have flavour profiles suited to festive drinks, I think the use of bitters are great for festive cocktails. The multitude of spices and warmth that characterise all bitters, from the old faithful Angostura to more unique expressions, are all so important in creating cocktails that express the festive period.

• What are your favourite and least favourite things about bartending over the festive season?
The festive season is actually my favourite time to bartend. I love how busy the bar is, seeing customers unwrap their scarves and unwind from busy days of Christmas shopping. The underlying sentiment of excitement and goodwill seems to pervade the atmosphere in the bar. The only thing I don’t like about bartending over the festive season is the very cold walk home in the early hours.

• What cocktail would you make for a visiting President Trump and why?
I’d probably make him a Rob Roy, a Scottish twist on the Manhattan, to honour his Isle of Lewis heritage. Bold yet simple, I think it would suit him perfectly.

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