Pop Up bartender thinks collectively

Kelsie Hamilton explains how William Grant & Sons initiative has inspired her

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Picture: Grant Anderson. Kelsie has mixed cocktails for two years

KELSIE Hamilton, bartender at The Pop Up Geeks in Edinburgh, was invited to join William Grant & Sons’ on-trade advocacy programme, the 1887 Collective, this year

Here she explains how the initiative has benefitted her – and talks mezcal, Margaritas and Maggie Smith.

How long have you worked in the trade?

I just recently had my two-year ‘cocktail-iversary’ but have worked in pubs and clubs since I was a student.

Describe your venue

The Pop Up Geeks is an awesome theme/concept bar in Edinburgh. Every three or so months we change the ‘geek’ theme – for example next up for us is Star Wars – and change the whole decor of the bar and the entire drinks menu to fit that theme.

What’s your favourite part of the job?

While I absolutely love being five people deep at the bar, my favourite part of the job is sitting down at tables with customers who have no idea what they want, speaking to them and not only getting them a drink that they love at the end of it, but learning something about them, making jokes, whatever it is that makes them happy and comfortable.

What’s your favourite drink?

My favourite drink is a Mezcal Tommy’s Margarita.

It has always been my go-to; I never don’t feel like drinking one.

Moreover it takes me back to drinking in the Aussie sun – and when you live in Scotland that’s definitely something you need a reminder of now and then!

What’s your career highlight so far?

My career highlight definitely has to be, along with the rest of Team Scotland, winning the Reyka Expedition this year. Not only did it mean we got to go to Iceland, which was a huge tick off of my bucket list and a once in a lifetime trip – it was also just an absolutely incredible and unique competition to be a part of.

Who do you admire in the industry and why?

This is a question I’ve been asked before and find very difficult to answer, not because I don’t admire anyone but because there have been so many incredible people within the industry who have mentored  and inspired me.

Saying that, my good friend Beth Gellan, who works at Hoot the Redeemer in Edinburgh, is someone from whom I’m constantly learning. She is one of the most switched on, caring women I have ever met, both behind the bar and in her everyday life.

If you could invite anyone for a drink who would you ask, where would you go and what would you drink?

I would absolutely love to sit down with Maggie Smith, in the beautiful wing-backed, fireside armchairs at The Last Word Saloon in Edinburgh and enjoy a nip of whatever inevitably delicious break-even bottle of whisky they were running at the time.

She’s such a boss woman and she’s long been an inspiration for me.

What did the 1887 Collective programme entail?

The collective so far has been so packed with a really varying array of activities.

There’s been an excellent focus not only on drinks, the industry and what we do behind the bar, but also on our physical and mental wellbeing. We’ve done a whole range of things: from trainings from previous collective members (which are invaluable as each person’s knowledge and experiences are so unique) and rum blending, to paddle boarding and yoga!

In which ways did the 1887 Collective benefit you?

The collective has really opened me up to a group of amazing bartenders and beyond; and career possibilities that I had never considered as options before.

The BAs at William Grant and all my fellow collective members are all so individually inspiring and encouraging, they not only make me want to be better and work harder but support me in doing so.

Through them and the collective as an experience I have really grown in confidence; both personally and behind the bar.

What was your own highlight from the 1887 Collective programme?

While it might sound like pandering, my real personal highlight has been meeting and becoming lifelong friends with a group of really incredible, talented and compassionate people – bartenders and BAs alike. 

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