Sam Kershaw, 33 is currently Bar Manager at Babington House in Somerset. He has spent the past decade working as a bartender, manager, trainer and Brand Ambassador and goes through to the World Class UK 2012 Finals with his recipe for a Salted Caramel Manhattan.
What does the World Class competition mean to you?
A great deal, especially as it was blind judged. Sometimes a performance cannot match the drink, which is ultimately the most important thing.
What is your earliest cocktail memory?
Probably sneaking too much illicit booze at a wedding when I was 12 with my brother, then being sick and falling asleep under a table. However, my uncle allowed us a port and brandy to share, which proved to be a great, if horrible at the time, perker-upper.
Did you choose the profession or did it choose you?
It chose me. I fell into it, and after a period of say, a month, totally embraced it.
How do you think bartending is regarded as a career?
It’s getting more acceptable all the time. There’s never been a better time to be a bartender – the travel, the friends, the competitions are all unbelievable these days. And the deluge of new products, the development of skills and techniques are equally amazing. There will always be customers who relate it to the movie Cocktail and TGI’s flair, and the hours will always be long and anti-social; but if you learn and apply yourself, the rewards are greater than ever.
If drink hadn’t entered the equation, what would you like to think you’d be doing now?
The demon drink eh? Something creative, a chef or a designer.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Making drinks, fixing smiles. I have come out from behind the bar a lot more in the past two years, working tables, managing the floor and managing a team of bartenders. It’s opened up a whole new world really, but being five deep and smashing out amazing drinks is still the biggest buzz I’ve ever experienced.
And the hardest?
Wages, rotas, meetings, admin. Necessary stuff but once a bartender…
Who’s the most memorable person you’ve ever created a cocktail for? Who was it, what was it and why does it stand out for you?
Every menu drink, every customer with a specific cocktail ‘desire’ – you know what I mean? Everyone is different, looking for different flavours, end goals etc.
Who’s your favourite cocktail drinker and why? (living, dead or fictional)
Oliver Reed – an absolute lunatic from start to finish or Noel Coward – an eccentric touch of class.
What’s the most valuable piece of advice you picked up at the World Class Forum?
That it’s individuality that counts, as long as the base spirits are respected and enhanced.
What’s your favourite cocktail:
a) to mix?
Something I’d love to drink like a Martini or Negroni, where the passion comes through. You couldn’t or wouldn’t serve something you would never serve yourself. As your standards get higher, so do your customers expectations.
b) to drink?
That depends on the time of day and occasion. And who is buying…
c) on your menu
Best of British – a celebration of everything I hold dear.
List three ingredients you’d put in a cocktail to sum up the facets of your personality.
1. Something local – like me.
2. Gin or Scotch – the two spirits I absolutely love above all others.
3. Something bitter – like me.
You’ve created a World Class cocktail to secure your place in the finals, can you give us a simple failsafe recipe for cocktail lovers to create at home?
Something dead simple. Freeze lots of ice cubes and keep charity shop stemmed glasses in the fridge to start with. Find a biggish glass vessel and fill. Add three parts delicious gin, Tanqueray No Ten for example (I use parts, because as long as it is balanced, you can use and egg cup or a boot as a part, the drink will balance) to half a part dry vermouth. Stir with a spoon, a wooden spoon, or whatever stirring implement you have at hand until the liquid and the ice levels almost meet, then strain. You can use a julep strainer or carefully pour the lot through a sieve into your chilled fancy glass. Cut a lemon or grapefruit zest and snap the oils over the surface. Wipe the rim and the stem of the glass, then pop in the drink or throw away. Kick back and enjoy with friends; well made tasty drinks at home show you’ve made an effort!
The recipe that got him through:
Salted Caramel Manhattan
50ml Johnnie Walker Blue Label
20ml Rich Ollorosso Sherry
2 pinches Smoked Salt & Aphrodite Bitters
15ml Kingston Black apple aperitif
20ml Martini Rosso
Apple aperitif and sherry to be bottle married. Stir all ingredients briefly then strain into vintage coupe. Garnish with orange zest.