Bartender wins national mixologist award for innovative cocktails

A local bartender has been named mixologist of the year for his innovative drinks, which include cocktails made with jam and oak barrel aged rum.

Andy Thompson, who works at the Rutland, beat out stiff competition from across Scotland to take home the accolade at the 16th SLTN Awards ceremony.

The 31-year-old credits attention to detail as the reason behind his win.

Andy said: “The standard in Scotland for cocktails is very high and it is little tweaks that elevate you.

“I did six jam-based cocktails for the judges for the SNTL. My fiancée and I both work in hospitality so we hardly ever get to go out at night. We go out during the day and get a cup of coffee and a scone. We went to this really nice place that did different types of homemade jam.

“I took their idea, made six different types of jam myself and incorporated them into cocktails. The drinks were named after different places in the world – Jammin in Rio used cachaca, a Brazilian spirit. One of the drinks used Swedish vodka, so that became Jammin in Ikea.

“The jam is the main ingredient and does all the flavouring. All you need to add is base spirit and lime or lemon juice to balance the cocktail out and take the sweetness away.”

The cocktail that got Andy onto shortlist was the Rutland Mai Tai, which incorporates three different types of rum. They are blended and rested in an American oak barrel for a couple of days to create a rounded, smooth flavour.

Andy was hired two years ago by the Rutland to revamp their cocktail menu. All of the 15 cocktails on the list are his inventions. The menu changes roughly every three to four months.

“My inspiration comes from lots of different places,” he said.

“Sometimes I come up with a name I like and build a cocktail around that. Other times I am given a spirit I have never tried before. I write extensive tasting notes on the different flavours I find and then build a cocktail around them.

“I spend hours and hours in the fruit department in supermarkets trying new fruits and experimenting.

“Today I have been working on a Havana Club contest. The final is in Cuba so I am putting a lot of effort into it. The cocktail I am doing comes from the tasting notes I did for Havana Three Years rum.

“The main notes for me were green apple, grass and floral notes and oak smoke. Using those flavours, I added a little Sauvignon Blanc, which is really crisp and brings out the green apple. I made a cigar-flavoured sugar syrup.

“My fiancée hates me doing this stuff because I do it at home. I managed to destroy three pots yesterday, one by making a sponge sugar syrup dome to go over the top of the cocktail.

“I cut up a really expensive Havana cigar that my brother bought me and made sugar syrup out of it to bring out the smoky notes of the Havana.

“I used fresh mango juice as I think it has a little bit of floral grassy notes in the aftertaste. Using those three ingredients brings out the three main tasting notes.”

Andy finds himself getting invited to parties because of his skills.

He said: “I always get roped into doing cocktails for my family during Christmas and New Year. The secret to making cocktails at home is lots of ice and fresh lime. What I do is take a bottle of vodka and a bottle of rum and lime. You can make lots of different drinks.”

The Rutland’s winter cocktail menu is being launched today.