Sam Fish is general manager at MOJO in Leeds.
Where did you learn your craft?
I’ve learnt the most about my craft at my current place of work, MOJO. When I started working here, I thought I knew a lot more than I actually did. I quickly realised that you’re always learning and there will always be somebody who knows more than you do.
Name a few of the places you’ve worked.
I’ve been at MOJO for seven years now, before that I worked at Sandinista in Leeds and before that, Revolution which is where my bartending career began. I’m quite proud of the fact that I’ve been in the industry for ten years and my CV is so short.
Who’s the most inspiring person you’ve worked with and why?
My current boss, Mal Evans. Over the years I’ve worked really closely with Mal and he’s taught me a lot – he’s an incredible host and lives and breathes MOJO. I’ve got a lot to thank him for.
What makes a good bartender?
Bartenders who can make a stranger feel comfortable and welcome are the best bartenders I’ve come across. All of my bartending heroes I’ve had the pleasure of meeting – Jake Burger, Tomas Estes, the late Henry Besant (the list goes on) – they’re all perfect hosts. That’s what makes a great bartender in my opinion.
Which bartenders do you admire and why?
Chris Edwardes and his wife Amanda Blanch are great friends of mine and Chris is definitely one of my industry heroes. I met them on a trip to Mexico about four or five years ago and instantly clicked with both of them. I feel that my views on what makes a great bartender and his are very similar. He’s interested and excited about every aspect of being a bartender and has worked in and owned some incredible venues. They are very lovely and inspiring people who have enjoyed an incredibly long-lasting career in the industry.
What’s your proudest moment as a bartender?
Probably the night of MOJO’s sweet sixteen birthday party last September. It took us months to organise and was pretty stressful, but the night was incredible! The support we had from industry and customers alike was quite humbling. People took the time to travel up from London and across from Liverpool – it made me realise what a wonderful industry we work in.
Shaken or stirred?
What’s your favourite drink…
To mix: A Bloody Mary. I like people to tell me exactly how they want it and making them the best drink for their taste.
To drink: At the moment, a Rob Roy made with Johnny Walker Black Label and a nice, rich Italian vermouth like Cocchi.
On your menu: Millionaire, it’s a Hugo Enslin drink I discovered when I was researching non-Tiki rum cocktails for a talk I was hosting. It’s aged rum, sloe gin, apricot brandy and lime juice. It’s a fabulous drink – we sweeten ours up with a little cane syrup as well.
What’s your definition of a bartender and mixologist and where do you fit in?
A great bartender gives an entire experience when you’re in their place of work – great service, great drinks, great knowledge – they have an awareness of every element in that room at that time. A great mixologist has a natural ability to match flavours and should understand the science of how great drinks work and why. I’m definitely more of a bartender.
What’s your favourite cocktail ingredient?
Vermouth. It sounds a bit boring but there are some wonderful vermouths out there and I love playing around with them.
Where do you drink off duty and why?
There’s a cool little bar just around the corner from MOJO called Wax Bar and Juke Joint. It has two old-school juke boxes inside and the back bar is made out of ghetto blasters. It’s a very comfortable place to drink in and they always have a really great soundtrack. Another place I’ve spent time in lately is Blind Tyger which hasn’t been open long. It’s a cocktail den with a great menu and decorated with lots of cool gadgets, taxidermy and trinkets picked up from junk shops.
What’s your essential piece of bar kit?
A decent shaker, I have a vintage one at home that I love and I’m so frightened of losing it that I won’t take it out of the house.
What’s your failsafe cocktail recipe to mix at home?
Sours, you can’t go wrong and they can be made by the bucket load for parties.
If you could mix a cocktail for anyone alive or dead, who would it be, what would it be and why?
Bill Murray. I saw a YouTube video of him going into a bar in Texas getting behind the bar and making drinks for people. I love that!! He’s into his music as well, so I think he’d be fantastic bar company. I remember reading somewhere that he was partial to a Mint Julep, so that’s what I’d make him. A sweet Mint Julep made with an over-proof bourbon like Rowan’s Creek.
You can find Sam at MOJO, 18 Merrion Street, Leeds, LS1 6PQ. T: 0845 611 8643. mojobar.co.uk