Sam Boevey has been working for London Cocktail Club, a high-volume bar group focused on exceptional training, speed of service, delicious drinks and good times. Sam has been named as Emerging Bartender of the Year at the drinks industry’s leading CLASS Bar Awards 2020 recognising the best and brightest.
G: How did you find your ‘Why”? What inspired you to become a professional bartender? Why is it important to you?
S: I fell in love with bartending while I was at University. I was very comfortable in bars, as I was a sound engineer for live music venues, so when I needed a job it was the clear option. Like a lot of people, a great manager helped me find my love for hospitality. He pushed me to learn about everything on the back bar and as many classic cocktails as I could fit into my brain. After that I just read everything I could to learn as much as possible. The ‘why’ of bartending is simple – it’s an educated performance. I love playing music and performing and bartending allows me to perform every single night while still learning and training. At London Cocktail Club, as well as having our own online training platform and internal round build & cocktail competitions, we also run a weekly training session hosted by some of the biggest names in the industry. This has really helped me develop with my education and career, learning from people with a wealth of knowledge about the hospitality industry.
G: How did it feel to win the “Emerging Bartender of the Year” award and did it change anything for you?
S: It’s amazing, I was blown away! I’m trying to just take it in stride and keep doing what I’m doing. I love training and seeing new bartenders’ eyes light up when they achieve or learn something. It’s a dream for me, so I’ll keep doing it. I hope to train someone from the LCC family who can also go on to win ‘emerging bartender of the year’ soon.
G: We heard that you want drink menus to be just as highly regarded as food menus, so how do you create the drink lists for the bars you work at?
S: When making drinks I think it’s important to consider all elements: Does it taste good, does it smell nice, is it texturally interesting and does it look good? All these factors matter. This doesn’t mean I think that a cocktail should take an hour to bring out because someone is trying to position a mint sprig at a precise 47° angle. Each month at the LoCC we add 4 new cocktails to the menu, as part of our ‘Flavour of the Month’ programme, and I am fortunate enough to be involved in these drink’s developments. For these monthly drinks, we tend to look at ingredients that is ‘trending’ at the moment, so they’re usually very seasonal and current flavours.
G: Do you have a certain philosophy when it comes to what you put in your drinks?
S: I genuinely believe that there are no bad ingredients, there are just different contexts. Everything has its place. A lot of people are very quick to dismiss products, but I think it needs to be more specific. At London Cocktail Club we are trained on over 200 classic cocktails, so I love when customers come to the bar and order ‘off-menu’, as it means I am really able to tailor and build the cocktail and ingredients around their exact taste.
G: What is your signature cocktail and what is the cocktail that everyone has to try?
S: I don’t think I have a signature cocktail, but ‘gun to my head’ I’d have to say that my signature drink is the drink I made for the 1800 Tequila Visionaries competition: ‘Ceci n’est pas un Cocktail’: 1800 Blanco, Kumquat Liqueur, Aperol, Supasawa, Passionfruit Kombucha. Garnished with chilli sauce-infused grapes.
In terms of what people have to try, I would just say anything they haven’t yet. Be adventurous and always ask your bartender for recommendations – one of my favorite cocktails currently is a Jack Rose.: Calvados, lime juice and grenadine.
G: What would you say has been the most memorable experience in the industry?
S: It would have to be one of my first ever weekly trainings at London Cocktail Club. Walking into a room of enthusiastic and energetic bartenders all catching up like long-lost family. Then the moment the training started everyone stopped talking and wanted to learn. I loved it and wanted to be a part of it so intensely. There was an honesty about it I had found quite rare previously: “Be whoever you want to be, but be quiet when everyone is learning”. I moved to London to develop my education and my training sessions at London Cocktail Club remind me there is still so much more to learn and it really excites me!
G: What predictions do you have for bartending as an industry in general? Would you encourage someone into a bartending career?
S: The prediction which I truly hope will come to fruition is the trend of wellness being pushed within this industry. I hope the days of bartenders competing over how little sleep they had will be over. I like to think that now the pressure to essentially punish your body for choosing this career is waning. Don’t get me wrong, I love having a drink. But the wellness culture swooping in means that it’s acceptable to refrain and focus on making amazing drinks. At London Cocktail Club, we often hold healthy hospitality training sessions, which is great for teaching our staff useful life skills which they can take on throughout their careers. This could be from learning Krav Maga in Hyde Park, finance tips to staff gym memberships.
I would absolutely recommend a career in bartending and would recommend that prospective bartenders look at joining a company with a great training programme, support network and team. If you’re going to work hard, you may as well have a lot of fun doing it!