Jamie Stephenson

JAMIE STEPHENSON

Regarded an authority on the cocktail scene, Jamie Stephenson spent many years behind bars learning the ins and outs of the hospitality industry. Jamie is now inspiring many bartenders worldwide by passing on as much knowledge and enthusiasm as he can.

What made you want to focus on the drinks industry, and who is the person that inspired you the most? 

I came into the drinks industry by happenstance. I was a teetotal student at University when a new “American Diner” announced they were opening and looking for cocktail bartenders. I had never even drunk a cocktail at that point in my life, let alone thought of making one, but I got the job. During our 3-week intensive pre-opening training, I fell in love with bartending lock, stock and barrel. By the time we opened to the public, I knew I’d found my calling and didn’t go back to University.

I think the person who inspired me the most was Peter Dorelli, who, at that time, was the Bar Manager of the Savoy and President of the UKBG. Although I was working as a flair bartender in an “American Diner,” I always had a penchant for the classic style of white-jacketed formal cocktail making and Peter epitomized that for me.

 

You are such a versatile person, you are the @cocktailguru, founder of the Bar Academy, owner of Jamie Stephenson Photography and passionate about sport. Which came first? How do you combine these worlds? How does the pandemic affect you and how are you working on getting out of it? 

I really enjoyed my time working full-time behind bars. I spent over ten years learning the hospitality industry’s ins and outs, but there came a time for a change in direction and my passion for presenting and educating took over. I devoted so much time of my career learning that I wanted to pass on as much knowledge and enthusiasm as I could to the people who wanted to develop as career bartenders. I know that I was put on the right path by the people who trained me and wanted to do the same.

The photography began during childhood, but I went many years without taking any pictures. It was only when a drinks brand published a book using one of my drink recipes that photography came back. I realized that recipes could be interpreted differently when providing imagery to sit alongside the recipes I create and add value to what I can offer.

I got into the sport after many years of inactivity, late nights and bad food, etc. I was approaching 30 and feeling like I might not make it to 40, so I started going to the gym and took up running. I enjoyed it for a while until I got injured and then the kids came along, so I ended up having a seven-year hiatus in which the weight piled back on and my self-esteem took a bit of a dive. Fortunately, I’ve been able to transition back into an active lifestyle which is great for keeping my head straight and feeling good generally.

 

You have been a close partner to Libbey. You contributed with your spectacular NEGRONI LEGGERO for “Modern Vintage Leaflet”; you have joined the Online Quarantine Cocktail Challenge on Glassology Facebook Community, and you were one of the five winners with the relaxing and fresh Toro Toro Toro, in Libbey’s glass The Gats. What can you share about these creative and unique interactions?

One of the factors behind my success with cocktail creations has come from the way I’ve interpreted the brief. I look at what is being sought and then begin the research process, ensuring that every stage is within those boundaries. Creativity and innovation are fine, but you must know how that fits within a customer/sponsor/client’s vision. I try to ensure all my ingredients are relevant and cohesive and that the finished result is something someone would be happy to pay for, drink and then order another.

“Negroni Leggero” by Jamie Stephenson

in Libbey’s Carats for Modern Vintage leaflet

 

Which cocktail (you created) are you most proud of? 

Probably the’ French Rock’ n’ Roll,’ which I came up with for the FLVR Bartender of the Year competition. The idea of it came to me in a dream; everything about its development literally fell into place and the result far exceeded my expectations. Its base is a large measure of Absinthe, which is quite polarising. One of the judges, who I learned on my way to the competition, hated Absinthe but ended up loving it much to his amazement – I love that kind of reaction to my drinks.

Photo & Cocktail creation by Jamie Stephenson

in Libbey’s Modern America – Martini shape

 

What is your favorite glass shape to drink from? And Why? 

A martini glass. It’s the perfect icon of the cocktail world. Other types are more functional, but my first and true love is the classic V shape.

 

Why is the glass important for a drink? 

The glass is absolutely the most important part of a cocktail. Far too many people see it as simply a means of delivery from hand to mouth, but it serves to stimulate all your senses and elevates your drink to greater heights. It provides a visual stimulus; if it looks awesome, people will judge it favorably before picking it up. The glass’s style and weight affect our perception of quality – heavy, textured, chunky or smooth, elegant, and light; drinks will appear to ‘taste’ different from different glasses. There’s also the development of bouquet and how the olfactory senses pick up aroma; your glass choice will have a huge impact on this, which changes how people ‘taste’.

 

What is your favorite Libbey glass? Do you go for sturdy or elegant? 

Do you go for sturdy or elegant? I’m torn, to be honest, because I really love the elegance of the SPKSY Nick & Nora, which is one of my go-to glasses for photographing drinks, but at the same time, I love the weight and feel of the Hobstar DOF on my hands too.

 

What do you think the next big trend in the drinks Industry will be?  

We seem to be getting a lot of next big things all at the same time. The diversity of this industry is being showcased by some very passionate individuals with the social media platform, so we see simple but serious low and no alcohol, fun, sustainability and responsibility all trending concurrently.

 

What will be the one major change in the Hospitality after the pandemic? 

I would like to think that we will see a rise in hygiene consciousness and that customers will start to reject drinks/bars that don’t employ good cleanliness levels, both in the environment and working practices.

 

What can be an awesome invention that will emerge in the Hospitality from this crisis?

Fast-speed Wi-Fi that works all the time when all your till and payment systems rely on it and and provide your guests the ability to Instagram how awesome your creations are! Probably asking a bit too much there, I know, but maybe sometime in the future…

 

What can we expect from you from now in terms of projects, new challenges?  

I’m still looking for the perfect opportunity to put all of my skills to good use under one roof. As much as I love developing and creating projects with brands, I really miss hosting and delivering exceptional service to people. Once I know my family is safe from me being out and about in public again, then I’ll start dusting the shakers off again.

RÉGIS CELABE

RÉGIS CELABE

A passionate cocktail artist for whom the container is as important as the drink it contains. Participant of Glassology by Libbey design contest where discovered a new world and a total new experience in the Glass industry. Régis is responsible for the unique Secret 8 by Buddha-Bar, Paris, a cabinet of curiosities with an intimate environment, where creativity and thinking out-the-box are the distinctive facts.

How do you introduce yourself at the bar when a new colleague joins the team? 

I work on my own at Secret 8, but when a new person joins one of the Buddha-Bar teams, I introduce myself as the person in charge of Secret 8, the Buddha-Bar Paris’s hidden bar.

What made you want to focus on the drinks industry?

Curiosity, the desire to grow and learn. Our drink industry is changing very quickly with new things every year: spirits, bar concepts, glassware, communication, etc.

Who is the person that inspired you the most?

I’m not really inspired by one particular person, but rather by all the bartenders and people I met.

But I still want to quote Sandrine Houdré-Grégoire and Matthias Giroud, who taught me a lot and always have been so supportive during my career in this industry.

You are the bar manager at Secret 8 by Buddha-Bar, which is a unique concept in France. Can you describe the feeling of working there? How did Libbey glassware help you to present your unique creations?

You access the bar with a password, which is a riddle that changes every month. We have a diverse and original collection of glasses, a capacity of only 25 seats and decoration and music that has nothing to do with the Buddha-Bar’s identity. Secret 8 by Buddha-Bar is one of the unique places in Paris.

Working there is something different than what I’ve experienced in the past, but very pleasant.

You must be multi-functional and very independent to work at Secret 8.

I work alone without any bartenders or waiters helping me; I take care of all cocktail menus, bar set up, cocktails’ production, serving the drinks, welcoming customers at the door by asking them for the password, bookings on the phone during the evening but also cleaning the whole place. It is as if it’s my own bar, but it’s not! I invest a lot of “myself” in this bar!

Working at Secret 8 requires strong self-involvement, a desire to succeed and strong creativity due to its cocktail identity.

I am fortunate to have managers that let me express my creativity, especially in terms of glassware.

The cocktail menu has 11 cocktails and therefore, 11 different glasses. LIBBEY has a very diverse range of glassware, with very different designs, which can be very inspiring. I love some of the LIBBEY ranges because they can tell a story through the design or shape of the glass, which helps a lot for the cocktail’s identity of the Secret 8.

Which cocktail (you created) are you most proud of?

More than 13 years ago, when I was working at the Murano Hotel, my bar manager asked me to work on a cocktail made from green peas, and a few hours later, “Bili Bili” was born. In these years, it was audacious to use green beans in a cocktail in France 😉

Which cocktail is the one you have made the most during the years?

Mojito! A timeless classic.

What’s your favorite classic cocktail?

Pimm’s Cup, low alcohol, fresh and easy to drink.

The most underestimated drink in the industry?

I want to say cider.

We’re starting to see some cider brands on the market, but it’s still very discreet. I love to drink cider, and I find it very interesting to create cocktail recipes with it.

Which ingredient will be used far more in the future?

Short-circuit products and ingredients from local producers.

Favorite glass shape to drink from? And Why?

I like the shape of an old-fashioned glass, easy to drink, good grip, wide enough to drink straight from the glass and most of the time you don’t need to use a straw.

Why is the glass that important for a drink?

I like to compare the cocktails universe to the fashion universe.  A dress needs a model to be highlighted, and the same goes for the cocktail! The glass complements the drink. One does not go without the other.

What is your favorite Libbey glass?

I had a real crush on your LEVITAS range: minimalist, refined, elegant. During a photo shoot, the rendering is very interesting with light.

Glass: Durable or Fragile?

As a bar manager, I would say durable, but I would say fragile as a bartender and artist. The fragile glasses are much thinner than a durable glass and therefore more pleasant to the touch or when you drink your cocktail. A thin glass will have a personality and will play easier with the light during a cocktail photo shoot.

You were one of the contestants at the first ‘Glassology by Libbey’ 2016-2017. Can you share the feeling of being part of this contest and what the contest brought to you?

I am very sensitive to projects that require a sense of aesthetics and imagination. When I heard about Glassology by Libbey, I said to myself: a competition that has nothing to do with the other cocktail competitions! I have to try it!

Even though I didn’t make it to the final, I’m proud to have been able to participate because I discovered a world that I did not know and met great people within the Libbey company and selected bartenders.

We can talk about a Glassology Family 😉

Which cocktail book would you advise other bartenders to read? 

The “Cocktail Book” by Florian Thireau, a very talented and perfectionist French bartender.

This new technical and creative book has just been released in September 2020 and will become a must-have in our collection.

Which book would you read over and over again?  (cocktails or non-cocktails)

I’m going to get out of the bar industry and go to a geekier universe: the collection of “Saint Seiya” manga books. Ever since I was a child, I am a huge fan of this universe, which mixes mythology and fantasy.

If you could travel back in time, who would you like to meet and why?

I would love to be able to experience the beginning of the Moulin Rouge Paris and the years with the famous and extravagant nights!

If you could go back in time and change any existing/classic cocktail glass, which glass would you change and why?

To be honest …. I wouldn’t change any of them. It’s because of what has been created in the past that we have all these diverse cocktail glasses today.

All the inspirations from the past tell a story and I think it’s very important to preserve that heritage.

As Nolo, classic cocktails, simple serves were trending, what do you think will be the next trend?

A strong co-working between kitchen chefs and bartenders. Real teamwork to bring our industry to the same level as the one of the culinary industry.

We are living in an unprecedented time, how are you dealing with this?

When the confinement came, it forced me to stop professionally on the physical level and breathe a little because our industry requires a lot of physical effort: night shifts, long days, sometimes a few days off, and to be honest, it made me feel good. I really need it!

The Secret 8 was closed several months since March 2020; this stop allowed me to take a step back on my career and take stock of my progress: how I want to move forward, with whom, what I want to do and what I no longer wish to do…

This is a period of reflection, which is not easy, because it’s very complicated to project ourselves into the future, but we have to get out of our routine and try new things

Two points are very important in our industry and this pandemic proves it to us:

  • Hygiene and sanitary standards, particularly for all the homemade products, for example. Many venues now make their own syrups, infusions and sometimes even distillations. Still, all of this involves being blameless in the way we work because we have a responsibility towards our customers’ health. Hygiene and sanitary rules must be well respected, which is not always the case in some establishments.
  • Customer service: this is the base of our industry, we must not forget it and keep focusing on that point.

What did you miss the most during the lock-down?

Space!

Staying locked in a 15 square meter studio in Paris was not easy every day, but luckily, I had my little bunny Muxu with me J

What was the first thing you have done when the bars opened?

I went to the Copper Bay Bar to see my friend Aurélie and then had brunch at the Divine Bar with her on a Sunday! I love the brunch at “Divine” on Sundays, a must-try!

What will be the one major change in the Hospitality in general, after the pandemic?

Listen even more to our staff and make them feel good about their work environment, so that they can thrive. This pandemic reminds us of the importance of being there to support our staff in difficult times.

What can be an awesome invention that will emerge in the Hospitality from this crisis? (You can be silly here 😊, think science fiction)

Teleportation! No more planes, cars or trains to get around!

That could be amazing… to wonder where I could go for a good drink tonight? Asia, Europe, Oceania,…. and to be there in just a few seconds!!!

What tips will you give other bartenders and bar owners to prepare for the future?

Think less about the “star system” and keep focusing on respect, sharing and caring for each other.

 

Photo credit: Cédric Jappont

Diego Ferrari

DIEGO FERRARI

The multifaceted Diego Ferrari, mixologist, author of the World Prized Book “Low Alcohol Cocktails-New Frontier in Mixology “ and creator of the famous community on Facebook ‘Cocktail Art’, shares the challenges across his career in the drinks industry. Teaching, learning, reinventing yourself are key to success in the industry.

How do you introduce yourself lately? 

Unfortunately, I don’t work in the bar anymore. I changed my role to Ambassador for Matusalem Rum but in any case, my introduction is easy “I’m the Rum Barista for Matusalem Rum”.

What made you want to focus on the drinks industry?

I was 18 and it was fun and sexy to be a bartender. In the meantime, the idea to stay in contact with people like this, was amazing.
Who is the person that inspired you the most?

To mention just one would not be ok for the rest, I had many mentors, who I met in the course of my career…. if I have to mention a few, I can say Dario Comini, Matteo Lussana, Ezio Falconi.
You are the author of the amazing ‘Low alcohol cocktails’ book, one of the most renowned books in the bar scene. What has inspired you to write it and how was it to team-up with Libbey for this project? 

The idea was inspired by my last work in Milano, in the Rotonda Bistro, where it was not possible to use spirits in the bar. We started this challenge in 2014 when the Low Abv world was not so popular. After four years of research and study, the editor of Bibliotheca Culinaria, asked me if I was interested to create a book with this topic. With the help of the photographer, the owner of Rotonda Bistro, and a friend of mine for 30 years, Pasquale Formisano, we decided to dive into this amazing experience! I decided to focus my book not only on the liquid ingredients, but to also feature one of the most important glass producers in the world, Libbey, showing how important the glass is in each and every creation behind the bar.
Talking about books, which book would you read over and over again?

Liquid Intelligence, by Dave Arnold
Which cocktail (you created) are you most proud of?

I created hundreds of cocktails during the course of my career and is not easy to say which one had the biggest success, but I’m probably the most proud of the Famedio, a twist of the classic Negroni with a touch of Hazelnuts liquor and Italian Amaro.
Which cocktail is the one you have made the most during the years?

Is impossible to remember….26 years behind the bar! LOL …In any case I suppose the top three would be: Spritz, Americano, Negroni.
What’s your favorite classic cocktail?

Daiquiri.

The most underestimated drink in the industry?

In this second golden age of cocktails a lot of mixology nerds started proposing that almost every cocktail was created in the last 150 years….from my side I think the cocktail Bronx is one of the less popular ones and maybe one of the most underestimated.

Which ingredient will be used far more in the future?

Not because I am working for Matusalem, but we have a lot of signals that Rum will be the next big spirit category!

If you could travel back in time, who would you like to meet and why?

If I get to travel back in time, I would love to meet some people that have made this world so incredible……Hemingway, Picasso, Martin Luther King, Einstein, etc…

If you could go back in time and change any existing/classic cocktail glass, which glass would you change and why?

In the past, there were only a few classic glass shapes and 99,9% of those glasses are still available and popular! I think we cannot change what is already perfect!

As Nolo, classic cocktails, simple serves were trending, what do you think will be the next trend?

In the years to come, the trend of Nolo will develop in different directions…. I suppose people will be more conscious about calories, vitamin intake and for sure the Covid19 will influence the culture of the drinks as well! How? Nobody knows at this moment….

Favorite glass shape to drink from? And Why?

Old Fashioned style! Nice quantity of liquid inside, you can play with different ice shapes, garnishes, etc…

Why is the glass that important for a drink?

Because of the first impression, visual effect…. a great glass can attract the attention of the people! A great glass prepares you for the importance of the cocktail inside.

What is your favorite Libbey glass?

The Hobstar – amazing glass, great quality, impact-resistant!

Glass: Durable or Fragile?

Durable for the Bar Owner point of view and Fragile for the glass producer…..the perfect match is somewhere in the middle!

We are leaving unprecedented days around the world, how are you dealing with this? Learning/ discovering/ reinventing?

Teaching, learning, reinventing! At Matusalem we started creating different approaches to be able to stay close to our colleagues…. live LIVE on IG, organizing Webinars, etc!

What did you miss the most during the lock-down?

Travel… if you think that in 2019 I did 75 trips and this last period I did maybe six, you can imagine!

What will be the one major change in the Hospitality in general, after the pandemic?

I think, now, we’ll go back to our roots…a lot of mixologists already understood that at this moment the most important thing is to innovate and that the customer comes first!
What can be an awesome invention that will emerge in the Hospitality from this crisis? (You can be silly here 😊, think science fiction)

Good question… If I think in an extreme way, I imagine that before the arrival of the vaccine, there could be an instant scanner that recognizes immediately if you are sick or not, without testing and doctors.
What tips will you give other bartenders and bar owners to prepare for the future?

Think “Different”.

Diego was the judge of the It’s Your Brand cocktail challenge, in which the winners have just been announced. Check it out!

 

Photo credit on the right: @overproofmedia