One ingredient does not a cocktail make, but it’s a great place to begin. Our guest is breaking it all down for us in his new Youtube channel, and that’s not the only thing on his plate.
One Thing Drinks, Jack Wareing’s new youtube channel, may have started off during lockdown, but now it has its own permanent home. Not that he doesn’t have anything else to do with his time, Jack is also Global Brand Ambassador for Porter’s Gin, whose mission is to respect tradition while innovating, thus to avoid cliches.
This episode originally aired on October 27, 2020.
You can listen to this episode here, or any of your favorite podcatchers.
Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Jack Wareing. Just remember that I own the copyright in and to all content in and transcripts of Lush Life podcast, with all rights reserved, as well as my right of publicity. So if you want to use any of this, please email me!
Susan: I am excited to be drinking this Negroni that you sent me. I love the idea of Send A Negroni. Thank you, Cheers. It’s a great idea. What a great way to start a show!
Jack: Yes. If only every show can start this. Right?
Susan: Exactly. Every show, every TV show, every film, everything. I’m taking one more sip, then we’ll delve right in. Jack Wareing, Brand Ambassador of Porter’s Gin, I want to know how you got there, how you got to the big leagues: Dandelyan, photography, everything. Where I usually start is where you grew up.
Jack: Oh, wow. I grew up in a little place called Northampton, which is an hour and a half north of London. It’s a nice enough town, rugby town, grew up in a family full of rugby heads. It was a nice enough place. Went to college there for a little while. They’re very famous for shoes. Yes, there’s a shoe museum in Northampton, which actually has the famous shoes of rock. They have David Bowie’s shoes; they have Elton John’s shoes.
Susan: Is it a rocking town? I love shoes, but that’s a whole other podcast.
Jack: Kinky Boots is set there, the musical. That’s set in Northampton. Shoes made it famous. Then there’s the big Carlsberg brewery, which is the thing in town, that’s pretty much it other than rugby.
Susan: Did you have to drink Carlsberg when you were growing up?
Jack: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. Yes, it was Carlsbad Export. It was £3.10 a pint, and you’d have three and that’ll be your night, because it’s six and a half percent or whatever, but that was the regular thing to drink. Yes.
Susan: Well, the rumor is that you studied photography.
Jack: Yes. I didn’t go straight into Uni. I had a couple of years out. I actually started work as a mechanic at a go-kart circuit, which was awesome. It was really, really good fun actually, super long hours, you’d get there at six in the morning. You’d leave at midnight, but really good fun. Ended up the day completely caked in oil and exhaust fumes. You have to scrub your skin raw to get oil off your hands. But it was pretty fun.
Susan: Did you drive them? Is that the right word? Did you drive them as well?
Jack: Yes or no. I’m a little bit too heavy to compete. Unfortunately you got to be somewhat of a jockey. I’m about the right size, but I’m a little bit too heavy. You also have to start driving it at 6 or something in order to build up the muscle memory. I started a little bit late in the game, but this is something just to earn money while still studying.
I started off actually studying sculpture. I wanted to be a sculptor when I finished school and everything and that’s what I wanted to get into. I was making lots of stuff to do with photography. I was making cameras from bits and pieces that I found around. I used to make cameras from TV sets and mannequins and anything I could get my hands on, paint, cans, I used to make cameras from. They pushed me into photography. I spoke with my mum about this and she said, “There’s no money in sculpture. How are you going to get paid doing sculpture?“
So I went into photography, being a bit more of a legit moneymaker scheme. Then I moved down to Guilford to study that, which was really good fun. I studied at Farnham which was one of the only places that I found that had a C41 machine, which, these days, a lot of photography is digital, and this machine develops film.
A lot of universities got rid of them, since 2000s, since digital cameras came in, and this was one, I think it’s one of six universities in the country that has one of these. Yes, I was in there all the times and the dark rooms, still tinkering away that.
Susan: Well, because you are a tinkerer and now a tinkerer of cocktails. We’ll go into that, did you feel that moving from sculpture and also go-cart mechanism, mechanics, mechanist, that you missed using your hands to create something as you went into photography.
Jack: Yes, for sure. I think photography is weird. It’s this big envelope of media, of art essentially, that you can get into, and I think what I didn’t like about photography is that you can shoot something very, very quickly and print it out and put it on a wall and say, Hey, this is my art, whereas I wanted it to be a bit more hands on.
Actually a lot of the artwork that I did university was to do with the impermanence of photography. I printed a lot onto thermal imaging paper, which is the same paper that you get in a receipt roll. There’s no ink, it’s heat that actually makes the image and, over time, these things degrade, especially if you leave them out in the sunlight or near a heat source.
I made a few installations that would destroy themselves through time. You’d leave him, they’d be up on a wall near a window, and then, over time, they would gray out and it’d be completely destroyed.
Susan: Ephemeral – there one minute. Like a cocktail. It’s there one minute, and then it’s gone the next to someone, throat. I love it. How did this lead, I’m going to guess, but I’ll probably be wrong… on the side were you bartending to make money?
Jack: Money, Yes. To make money being a photographer, you have to sell your soul to the wedding industry, if you’re not incredibly talented and I wasn’t incredibly talented by any standards. I really tried this wedding game thing, and it’s a lot of hard work and I really hated it. You really do have to sell your soul to it. Every struggling artist leans on booze at one point or another, and I found myself in bars, more talking with bartenders more and more.
I did get one or two part time jobs, just cleaning glasses and picking up glasses. It wasn’t until I finished my degree that I really properly got into cocktail bartending. In Guilford, there’s a little bar just over by the theater, which was called Bar des Arts It’s a two-man bar, probably 10 seats. It was the swankiest cocktails in Guilford, all the other bars were doing two for one drinks and pitchers. This was the place that was actually doing proper Negronis, proper Old Fashioneds, all this stuff.
Being next to the theater and being that Guilford is a music town, all the colleges there were either music or theater. Well, musical theater. all the guys who were working there were really over the top, really engaging and, they’re all either actors or musicians.
I really got along with everybody and I really fell in love with it, because of the way they were selling it. It just took off from there. Really, it was a thing where it could still flex that artistic muscle, your making something, you’re using your hands.
You’re talking with people. It was something that I really pretty much instantly fell in love with. Why am I making art for myself that no one’s going to see when I can be in front of people every day and every night and make people happy that way.
Susan: It’s really surprising, because being an artist, a sculptor, any artist, really a writer, it’s quite a solitary job, as solitary passion. Even if you are taking photos of weddings, you’re still alone creating that. Sometimes I would think people aren’t so good at being outside that space or loving to be with other people. It’s interesting that you found that.
Jack: Yes, It’s that instant gratification, which you don’t get with art and photography, because you spend six months packed away in your space, in your studio or you’re making stuff. Then you go through the whole rigmarole of inviting people and getting people involved and all this stuff. Then you finally have this one big day where everybody comes and takes a look at your stuff, then it’s all done.
Susan. And they could hate it!
Susan: Yes. It’s pretty much if you make a Mojito okay. Someone’s going to like it. Or a gin & tonic? Because that part is not hard. I’m thinking, well, obviously it takes an art.
Jack: Even if you do it wrong and, if you do make a mistake, you can correct it then and there. You don’t have to wait for reviews or wait for someone to say something or anything. You can say, how’s your drink and they can say that they really don’t like it, or it was fine. Let me make you something else. There’s no big deal about it, which is really nice, I think.
Susan: Right. If Michelangelo had slipped while making the David, he would have to start it with a whole new stone. In Guilford, you were making drinks. Was there an immediate call to London? Did you think that was where you needed to go next? Or did you travel somewhere?
Jack: Well, being a photographer, in order to be seen, I always thought London was the place that I needed to be. It was either London or Bristol. We settled on London, because my housemates wanted to go to London as well and we were like let’s all go to London together. Let’s all share a flat and let’s just do it. No one had any ideas what to do at all. it was just the kind of thing where I was leaning on bartending at the time.
We moved to Croydon, the bright lights and dizzying heights of Croydon It was fine. In South Croydon, there’s a little strip that’s called the restaurant mile, and where every single shop is a restaurant and they’re all different cuisines. It was actually really, really cool. I loved that. I got a phone call from my girlfriend’s cousin who was just opening a hotel, she was the financial controller. She was just opening this hotel. Hey, I heard you’re looking for work. Why don’t you come and try out, and, it was the Mondrian back then. I went to this day where they had, I don’t know, it must’ve been 150 people trying out for 30 positions from all over.
Susan: Yes. Wait, wait, wait. Before you do say that, had you any idea what you were about to get into, or you just knew, oh, this is a new hotel opening up. Did anything about any of the people involved?
Jack: Yes, I did my research. I heard about this place. I did my research about what it is, who’s behind it, all this stuff,
Susan: Dad you heard of these people before?
Jack: I’d heard of Marcus and Nathan; I hadn’t really heard about Ryan or Ian. But I’d certainly heard about Marcus and Nathan and had a little look at what they were doing and had a look at what Dandelyan was supposed to be in the pre-renders on their website.
Susan: When you went into this room of 150, did you feel, oh my God, there’s much pressure or I don’t really know that much about it, so there’s not much pressure..
Jack:, It was strange because I didn’t have a job in London at that time, I was just sitting on my savings for a little bit, trying to find something, I put my CV into local bars, and I was, wait, why not? There actually wasn’t that much pressure, I just thought, well, I might get a job out of this, let’s go.
Susan: Back to the 150 people in one room trying..
Jack: It’s the thing where everyone’s in the same space at the same time. You start off in a group of 20 and then 10 people go off and they speak to this person, 10 people go up and speak to that person, and I got whittled down to six people, and I sat on the table with Marcus, and chatted with him for a little bit and talked about what it was doing and all this stuff. I said, Hey look, I really want to work for Dandelyan, I think I can be a real asset to this place.
The first thing he said was all positions are filled, there is no way we can get you on. I said, look, I don’t mind I’ll just glass clean or whatever. I just want to be part of this team. He said, “You’re not going to enjoy it here doing that. I’m going to put you in the restaurant.”
He started me off on the bar at the restaurant, just next door. Over the hall and, that was really great. One of the best people I’ve ever met was at that restaurant, who is a guy called Alex Casey, who recently left, but he was at Māos, and he was the wine guy there.
He’s this 6’4”, gray haired, Australian, string bean dude who was incredibly amazing with wine and he turned me onto wine. I hadn’t really looked at wine before, until I got to that place. I just dove in; I did all my WSET. I wanted to be the wine guy, especially that restaurant, it wasn’t a Michelin star place. It wasn’t suit and tie. You weren’t serving people with hands behind your back. It was very much more relaxed. I fell in love with that. Then after about six months or so, as with all openings, you get the shift in staff and people start moving on and doing other things and opening the next place and the next place.
Dandelyan was just over the whole the hall. Every time we’d close the bar at the restaurant, I’d go and speak with the guys over in Dandelyan. I’d just be, Hey, how are you trying to get to know people? I met Aidan Bowie and a couple of other guys there who I really hit it off with, James Wheeler, who was one of the best people in the industry. Every time a bartender left, I put my CV in to Dandelyan. I was just, Hey, look, I’m just over the hall. Don’t really need to do much, just change where I works. It took about four or five bartenders to leave before I actually had my foot in the door. It was persistence more than anything.
Coming into the Mondrian, I was really inexperienced, taking a look at the other guys and Dandelyan, who’d been working in the industry, really high-end cocktail bars for four or five years. I’d had maybe eight months in a little jazz bar in Guilford that no one’s heard of and moved to London. Hey, can I be part of this world-renowned team? Everyone was, well, maybe in a few years, or maybe in a bit. Yes, it took about nine months for me to actually get a foot in the door there. Then I was there for, gosh, best part of three years.
Susan: While you were at the restaurant, were you also making cocktails as well as doing wine? Or was it just wine, wine, wine?
Jack: Yes, it was really nice because I was part of the opening team and we had to two or three weeks before we opened to get everybody trained up on everything and get the company ethos and all that stuff.
It’s an American company, it’s very full on and very high energy. You have to put all of your energy into stuff all the time, which was nice. I’ve never been in that situation before. Yes, there was a lot of cocktails. All of the cocktail menu was designed by Marcus, Nathan, Brian, and Ian.
It was really cool because we got to spend quite a lot of really good quality time, especially with Ian, training us up on everything. Why does this taste good? Why is that good – really the fundamentals and the basics. We had two months pretty intensive, real connection with, especially Ian who really took us under his wing. Yes, it laid the foundation for everything cocktails that I now know, which is pretty awesome.
Susan: It’s the best apprenticeship you could have really, if you want to get into what you’re doing and the world of high-end cocktails. Now we could spend hours talking about your time at Dandelyan!
For the three years that you were there, three years, right? Three years that you were there just under three years, I guess, how did you see yourself progress and what did you really take away from it?
Jack: I was really thrown into the deep end with Dandelyan. I knew it was an amazing place, and when I joined we were about a month away or two months away from the first Tales (of the Cocktail) nomination, and at Tales of the Cocktail that year, it was Best New International Bar at that time.
I didn’t really know too much about Tales of the Cocktails. Then I really researched, and it was, Okay. This is the Oscars. This is crazy, and, it was the thing where I read about this and then I was, Oh, I’m part of this team now I’ve got to be this good.
I can’t let the team down. It was really do or die at that moment. Very early on, Alex Lawrence came on board and we hit it off. He was really good to me, I was seen as the youngster, even though I was a little bit older than everybody, which is interesting.
In my bartending career, I was very much younger. I was almost tutored by Aidan and Alex, really being spoiled that way. Actually, these guys are some of the best in the industry worldwide, let alone in London.
I think some of the best stuff there was the creativity, speaking with Ryan and Ian, they were very, very particular about what creativity was and how it’s very easy to be seen as wanky or bartender, doing something because it’s stunning or because it’s Instagrammable. Whereas they thought creativity was all about why. Why are we doing this? Why is this here? Why is that there? Why is every ingredient in this drink? Why are you making it this way? Why is the garnish this? Why is the glass that? After about a year, we all had a hand in making the next couple of menus, which was really great.
It was the thing where we’d all sit down six, eight months before the menu was going to launch. They’d tell us what the theme is for the next menu, then it’s just a free for all, you’re encouraged to get lost in Wikipedia, black holes and go speak with professionals and in libraries and really go wild with it.
That just appealed to my nature because that’s what I do for photography and that’s what I do for art. This is amazing. How can I make this really work for me? That was really cool, and, you’re spending six months making one drink, you really get to know everything about why you’re doing something, which is great.
Susan: A lot of people that I interview come from a food background, or they always love food, or they read about food. Was that an easy thing to pick up because we’ll talk about your YouTube channel in a second about using one ingredient, to make many, many different things.
But did you feel that that came naturally to you about what to mix with what, or that was really the education that you received there? Or both.
Jack: Yes. I come from family where we have a really good relationship with food, but it’s never anything too special or fancy.
My brother works in beef and he’s the chef of the family. He’d cook Christmas dinner and all that stuff, like six courses. He’d go really hog-wild with it and it was his passion that really sparked it. Why is this tasty?
I never really thought about food too much. I didn’t come from a food background, but it was more the creative aspect of taking raw ingredients and making them taste whatever you want them to taste like or getting the most out of what you’ve got, Being around the guys at Dandelyan definitely changed my perspective of what things should taste or can taste.
I learned on the job there about what and how things interact with each other, how ingredients interact with each other and how tastes have moved on from what we had before.
Susan: Did that lead you to start competing? Because I see that you won, and I always get this wrong, the Auchentoshan New World Order. You were one of the winners. It’s a very competitive place, Dandelyan, where everyone is very helpful and supportive – was that they said okay, you’ve got to compete now, come on, go compete Jack.
Jack: Well, the one thing I loved most about photography was the critiques. You would put your work forward and you’d sit in a room of all your peers and they’ll tell you exactly how they feel about it, or what you could have done better or how to improve or whatever. I was completely missing that in bartending.
I’m not a performer, I didn’t study drama or anything that. I never really thought that that was my thing but showing off really feels good. I’m sure everybody’s the same, Yes, I was really pushed into it through Aidan, who was gearing up for World-Class at the time. Really looking at the work and the amount of effort that goes into one of these competitions, I was really amazed with it. I really wanted to do this for myself. See if I could do it, it wasn’t much of a “I’m better than everyone. I really want to show the world.” It was more of a “I wonder if I can. I wonder if I’m good enough.” It was more to prove to myself whether I could do it. Yes, that competition was amazing,.
Susan: Wait, was that your first one?
Susan: No way. It was your first one. Tell me – you had to make a bitter, right?
Jack: Yes. You have to make your own bitters using Auchentoshan New Make. They sent you a bottle of new make spirit. You made your own bitters from it, and then you prepared a couple of drinks. This is where I really excelled, because it’s all research. You have to know what your judge is looking for, what the person on the other side of the bar is going to mark you on.
You never really told those things, but there’s a couple of common-sense things that are easy enough to get your head around. Ian and Ryan are both seasoned veterans for competitions, and I asked those guys, what should I be doing…what should I not be doing? They were really good help, but really it was research mode. It was just click find something that you could really grab a hold on, and you can sell, and you can make a story about, and that’s what I really excelled at. I wouldn’t say it was easy because it took a hell of a lot of effort, but it was something that really clicked.
Susan: Fabulous that you won. It’s funny. You’re the third person I’ve interviewed who said when you’re doing a competition, really know what your judges like. I should do one show on competitions. So you won this wonderful competition, you’re at Dandelyan, one of the most famous bars in the world. What could then tempt you away?
Jack: As I said, I met Alex Lawrence pretty early on.
Susan: As I take a sip of my Negroni. what could tempt you?
Jack: Alex hails from Edinburgh and he was working for a bar before he came down to Dandelyan called Orchid, up in Aberdeen. It was their goal to make a house spirit, to make something for the bar. They bought themselves a rotovap, a rotary evaporator. I’m sure you’ve seen these before. It allows you to distill at a really cool temperature and it allows you to distill things really, really quickly. They had this tool that I’d never come across before.
We didn’t have one at Dandelyan. There were a few bars like Peg and Patriot in London that were using them, and I was really intrigued about it. I started asking questions and getting to know Alex a bit more. I asked him about what’s all this and he told me that he was going to make a gin. I thought it was really cool, amazing. I asked when could I try it? When can I taste it? We really set a real firm grounding in what our language was all about which was tasting gin and tasting spirits and tasting wine. He really liked the way that I talk about wine. I think the word that he fell in love with was unctuous.
Susan: That’s a good word!
Jack: I was quite descriptive when talking about what drinks tastes like and what wine does and evocative emotions. He said to come try this gin, we’ll talk about it from there.
At that point, it was just a foundling company, called Porter’s. We’re going to make the spirit for the bar. It’s going to be a reason why people would come to the bar because we make it in house. Alex got really excited about it.
We probably should share it with everybody else. At that point, they’d been doing it for about two, two and a half, three years, maybe. No, a year and a half, sorry, but a year and a half. They finally had some liquid, so I could try it. I was, oh wow, this is pretty cool. I started doing a couple of little pop-up events for those guys.
One thing I was really bad at is – it’s no wonder I was a horrible photographer – is I didn’t value my time. I didn’t charge people for what I did. For a year, I worked for these guys on my off time. I was working the Dandelyan and then on my days off, I’d work for Porter’s.
I never sent them an invoice. They were like, “We want to pay you.” I said don’t worry about it, it’s fine. I’m just doing it as a favor. I stuck around at Dandelyan for another year doing this stuff and doing Porter’s part time.
It was about a year later where they said that they could afford someone. They said they could make it full time and that I was the only person that they could see for this job. I was like wow, this is amazing. cool. The company itself was only four people at that time.
I was the fifth person. I’m the only Englishman, everybody else is Scottish. I’m very much the butt of everybody’s jokes, somebody’s got to be! It was really cool. It was very organic. I fell into it; I spoke with the guys at Dandelyan. I really love what I was doing there.
I remember sitting down with Ian and being, “Hey, I’m thinking about doing this.” He thought it was amazing, an amazing opportunity. I was expecting him to be, “No, you can’t leave ever. You’re stuck in here,” He was super supportive and, I chatted with him a few times about what to expect, because I’d never known that side of the bar.
I’ve never been a rep for anything. I’d never known that ambassadorship, you get to speak with a load of ambassadors on the bar, but nothing really day to day.
Susan: Well, it sounded as if you were doing it anyway. Not realizing that you were doing it, but on those weekends. I remember it’s been about two and a half years ago, Tales on Tour Edinburgh. Porter’s had an event. Yes. that’s when I first was introduced to it and I went to that event and I thought it was really good. I had a little conversation with Alex in the hall with my little tape recorder.
I think it’s somewhere on one of my podcast episodes somewhere, way back when, Yes. that was the first time. That was when they only had one expression or maybe it was wrong. They may have had the old Tom as well. Yes, It’s been awhile. They’ve done really well. You’ve done really well. What was it like – the transition of being who you are now as the brand ambassador?
Jack: I thought it was going to be a big shift, but actually, I was doing all those things anyway, it wasn’t that much of a jarring difference.
I think the main difference is the way you use your creativity is completely different. The way that you wake up is different. Working at a bar, you get there at 4 PM and you’re there until three in the morning, and answering emails at nine o’clock, being at your desk at nine o’clock is not an energy that I was used to.
That was the biggest difference. I think that was the biggest change. The creativity and the innovation and the way we talk about drinks, the way I talk about drinks anyway, has changed dramatically, because it’s not, this is going to sound a bit weird, but, I was focused on what I was doing here in this tiny space.
I had my little box of ice and my cocktails that I was making. Now all of a sudden, you are opened up to what the world does and, we’re quite fortunate now. Well, we’ve been working very hard at it, but we’re in 14 countries now. This is something, which was when I started, we were here in the UK and we were in the Netherlands because we had some really good friends over there and all that.
It was something that is really different, looking at things globally instead of just your little part of the world, that’s the biggest change I think. It’s still pretty overwhelming, because you look at the bartending community as a whole globally.
Even though it’s amazing to go to new places, new towns and new cities, new countries, and you say, “Hey, I’m a bartender. Or, I used to be a bartender here, or I used to work there, Oh, amazing, come see my friend’s restaurant and let’s go here for a drink and that.
You have this global family. You suddenly realize that the town that you’re in, it is a very small speck compared to the rest of the world, and that makes you feel pretty humble. That there’s much more out there, and you can always do more, which is a big, big concept for me.
Susan: Let’s talk about the spirit itself and how you’ve seen it grow. When you started was there just one expression of the gin?
Jack: Yes. it was the modern classic. What really turned me on with it was that they were using cold distillation, as well as traditional distillation, a modern classic.
Having this modern technique and this classic technique put together. What really turned me on was that the guys behind, Ben and Josh and Alex, they’d really thought about why and where they want it drunk. It wasn’t, “Hey, we’ve got a shed and loads of spare time. We’re going to make a gin and just put it out. It was very much, “What do we want this drunk in? How do we want it drunk? Who do we want it drunk by?” I’ve never seen a company, well, a spirits company do that before, especially a brand new one.
The fact that the stills are underneath the bar was pretty cool. I’d never seen that before either. I went up to Aberdeen and had a look at the place. I had to look at what we call the micro-distillery, because it’s a stock room that’s been converted into a little still room.
I had a look all the attempts at making something delicious. They have a library bookcase, but it’s full of distillates and it represents a year and a half worth of experimentation. Some of them are grass from the common outside the bar. Some of them are from old fruits left lying around. Some things are lost and found – stuff that people have left in the bar. You have a look at these and think, wow. I never really thought about this systematically, and it wasn’t until Josh got hold of Buddha’s hand…
Susan: That funny looking fruit which they can find on your Instagram. I had never seen it before your Instagram. I actually thought that was a vase. I thought it was a vase sitting there, then you said this is a fruit.
Jack: Yes. It’s a citrus fruit from China, and it’s one of the oldest citrus fruits in the world. It’s the great granddaddy of lemons and limes. Yes, it looks a tentacle, a big yellow octopus.
Susan: It looks an art project. It’s a sculpture that you could have made in your class. Right.
Jack: Right! What we think of citrus fruit, we think of sharp and tart and sour. Whereas this fruit has none of that. There’s no flesh, there’s no juice. It’s just peel. Trying to peel one of those things is obviously not easy. It ticks a couple boxes in my head. These guys have really thought about what they’re doing. They’re not afraid to be out there and a little bit strange, but also it’s still very classic in its approach. The overall gin and the overall liquid itself are still very “I feel I’ve had something like it before.”
At the time, craft gin was very polarizing. It’s very one dimensional. You’d have gins that were very earthy or herby or very, very citrusy, but you wouldn’t necessarily have stuff that’s very well balanced, because the big guys have got that sorted. Why try and make something like that?
Yes, I was really turned onto the way they thought that they wanted to make something that’s classic and approachable, but still pushing the boundaries and still modern without being one dimensional. Without being cliche, which is one thing I was always trying to avoid during university, while making art and photography, you always try to avoid cliches.
Susan: Was their next gin the Old Tom and now we’re Orchard, I guess they took that approach with the Old Tom, it being tropical.
Jack: Yes, the Old Tom started off as a bit of an argument actually, which was interesting. The way that we do new product development is that we will sit down on a table at the bar in Aberdeen with a bottle of whiskey and we discuss. The bottle of whiskey gets drunk and no one leaves until we find out what we’re doing next.
It was probably an hour or two in when we’re all getting a bit frustrated going around in circles. Alex stands up and just goes, “Let’s just make a Tiki gin!” Then he just storms out to have a cigarette. then everybody else in the room thought maybe we could do a Tiki gin, and going through that process…
Susan: That’s why it’s tropical!
Jack: Seeing that we’re not one for doing something that other people have done. What’s the point! That’s one thing that we will learned from Dandelyan is this – if you see a picture of it or if you hear of it, it’s already too late.
Susan: Of course.
Jack: Somebody else has already done it. Going through the process of what can we do and then looking at drinks trends at the time. Now the Porn Star Martini is the most popular drink in the world right now, or is it just the UK? I think it might be worldwide.
Susan: it’s between that and Pina Colada.
Jack:, We were thinking about passion fruit. This is something that not everybody is aware of. You don’t see a lot of generally. I was just over in the States, in January, before everything was locked down and no one over there knows what a passion fruit is or what it tastes like.
Susan: I haven’t lived in the States for 17 years, I remember actually one of my first drinks here was a Porn Star Martini with chili. It was a little twist on it and that used to be my drink. All the time and maybe it’s because I didn’t have that much passion fruit in New York. I don’t remember. Yes. that’s why I like it so much.
Jack: We wanted to make something that we know people are going to enjoy, but also, without being twee and cliché of all the gins that are coming out at the time, which was rhubarb and ginger, or making it pink, and all that stuff that.
We wanted to be as playful as pink gin, but without being too on the nose as that. We went to a really cool company called Treatt, they’re flavor scientists basically, which is the coolest title I think anyone can have. We tried distilling passion fruits in house underneath the bar.
When you distill passion fruits, they end up tasting like grass because there’s many more different flavors in there: the skin and the husk and the seeds. It doesn’t end up tasting like passion fruit. The taste that we wanted to get at the end was this Porn Star-ish, passion fruit bomb that we wanted to incorporate in.
If you wanted to make that in the stills that we had, we’d end up spending load of money making it so that each bottle made would cost 120 quid. No one’s going to pay £120 for a bottle of gin. We had to think laterally and think in a more modern way.
We went to Treatt; they make ridiculous things from fruits and vegetables. One thing they do is isolate chemicals from discarded fruit and veg from the food industry and turn it into Industrial compounds.
One thing I always talking about linalool. Linalool is a flavor compound in lemon skin. It’s also found it in coriander. It basically tastes like lemon, but its secondary property is that it’s a really good degreaser. You actually find it in about 80% of all cleaning products in the world. When someone says, “Oh, this gin tastes dish soap, or it tastes washing up liquid.” Yes, it does. It does taste like that because they have this same compound. Actually, if anyone does say that they’ve got a really good palate!
Susan: It’s not a good sales tool though. Our gin tastes dish soap, right?
Jack: No, no. Yes, we went to these guys and we said, “Hey, we really want to make passion fruit. Can you do something for us?” Yes, sure. Why not? Josh, at the time, seeks out all on new opportunities and he went to go meet them. He went into the labs and was talking with the guys and there was this little bottle, it was called cucumber, just had cucumber on the label. It was probably about this big and he thought, “Oh, that’s interesting,” and opened it up. It’s a cucumber absolute., they were like what have you done? They had to turn on the extractor fan and evacuate the building, because, this is what they do. They deal with industrial scales.
We are actually one of the first people to actually make something this with them, which was really nice. We deal with the obstacles that were given in this real modern way, rather than putting our hands up and being like, Oh well, we can’t do it because we can’t do it in house.
We’d much rather help somebody else or work with somebody else to make something that is truly unique or truly one of a kind or whatever. That’s how Tropical Old Tom got born and, then much more recently this little puppy here, the Orchard Gin, which was born out of our entire company’s love for champagne, as I’m sure pretty much everyone in the world does.
What we really love is Ruinart Blanc de Blanc. That’s Alex’s Achilles heel. We wanted to emulate the flavors in a really good Blanc de Blanc champagne into gin and make something that was really special in that respect without being gaudy or kitsch or one dimensional.
We’re using apple and pear alongside a black soy distillate as well. Black soy being bready and yeasty and very much autolytic flavors that you get from champagne, that’s that part. Then the apples and pears being that bright fruit nose that you usually get with a really tasty Blanc de Blanc champagne.
Again, we’re working with Treatt for that, but we’re making our black soy distillate underneath the bar. That’s where we do this. We marry up the best of everything that we can find. We put it all together rather than making something sub-par in house that we’re not really happy with, but because we made it house, this is our thing. We’d much rather make something that’s knock out, amazing, of course.
Susan: That’s why you were all drawn to Dandelyan, a knockout amazing place. But one thing that I can’t leave you without discussing is your new YouTube channel, It’s One Thing Drinks. You take one thing and you make three cocktails, one Super Simple, one Make It Tasty and one Ultra-Fancy, where you do get out all of those things the sous vide. Why did you feel that you wanted to start these?
Jack: This was actually born out of lockdown. As I’m sure you’re aware as many of the listeners are aware as well, during lockdown, every brand ambassador, every bartender took to Instagram live and Facebook live. This is how you make a Manhattan. This is how you make an Old fashioned. That’s great, it’s wonderful. You have to have the creativity release, and I started a show on Instagram, which you can find on Porter’s Instagram, called, One Thing Wednesday.
Every Wednesday at three o’clock, I take one thing and I make three drinks from it, and it’s about 15 minutes long per thing, and it’s completely live, unscripted. It was really good, and I loved it and it was an opportunity for me to try new things during lockdown. It’s really, really easy to get stuck in a rut and be, well, I can’t leave this house. I can’t see new stuff. I can’t go to my favorite bar. I can’t talk ideas with people. Being forced to make three brand new drinks every single week was a real creative process that was really beneficial, actually.
I was thinking about the next one and the next one and the next one and the next one. I did this for 26 weeks. It went really well, and I pitched this idea to the guys at Porter’s. I really want to elevate this. I really want to make it something that I think has a bit more pizzazz, something that’s a bit more accessible, I guess, and YouTube was the platform to do that on. I wanted to step up the production value and step up what we were actually doing and make it a bit more timeless, rather than me in my garden chatting about gin.
I really wanted to include other brands as well. However much I’m a brand ambassador, and that’s what I do, I can’t ignore the fact that there are amazing people doing amazing things all over and hence why we’ve got up all these up here.
Susan: Yes. I saw Glasshouse and also one of the tequilas that I have over here. I think they’re wonderful and I love the Dorito salsa can and using really what you have in the house, and it’s for the ones that are easy. Not, not everyone has a sous vide machine.
Jack: The way I break the drinks down is really good as well. I’m a huge advocate of telling people that bartenders aren’t doing magic. They’re not magicians, but however much they seem like that in bars, flashy bars with cool tricks and things, which not everybody can wrap their heads around. What you’re actually doing isn’t rocket science, it’s cooking essentially.
Susan:, I don’t know. There was one that had about – I think it’s one of the melon ones had about 15 ingredients. I was, Oh, you’ve got to be kidding. I want you to make that for me, I don’t want to make that myself.
Jack: Yes. I think there’s a real, especially during lockdown, real push for making things which you’ve never made before at home. A lot of people got into baking. A lot of people got in making bread myself included. We’re pizza experts now, we make the bases and everything. We wouldn’t have done that unless lockdown happened for us.
There’s a real moment that we’re having as a society where the skirt of cooking and drinking is really being lifted up. We’re seeing that we can, actually, do this, or if I had enough time, I could do this, and that’s something which is really exciting.
All these people suddenly have the capacity and the capability to make amazing things at home. That’s something that I really wanted to capture .Each week is super simple, mega tasty, ultra-fancy – super simple being that you don’t need any special tools.
You just need a couple bottles and maybe a lemon or lime, if that’s the hand. Mega tasty stuff is that you’d make a syrup, or you’d make a quick infusion or something that doesn’t take you that long, but actually is really impressive. Then, the ultra-fancy stuff is that that’s when you really crack out the big guns and sous vide machines.
Susan: No centrifuges?
Jack: Not yet. Not yet.
Susan: It’s funny, you talked about your brother being in beef. I saw one of the comments on one of the videos. Because you always ask for recommendations. I saw it said, Seth Wareing, when are you going to do one about beef? Now it all makes sense. It has to be a brother, being a pain!
Jack: Actually there might be one coming up where I’ll be using Bovril anyway.
Susan: Well, they’re wonderful and they’re shot so well. It’s been such a delight now. I just want to end on the Send A Negroni, since I kindly was sent in a negroni, which I’m drinking now. Are you still doing these?
Jack: Yes, absolutely.
Susan: Oh great! Can you just talk a little bit about that and what it is and how you could send one, if you want. I love that idea.
Jack: It’s SendaNegroni.com, and you just head there, and you can send off a Negroni to any of your sorely missed pals, everybody’s missing people right now and not being able to see people, which is really difficult.
This is actually just launching in Canada as well. You’ll be able to do that within Canada as well. Yes. It’s basically £10, that includes your packaging and postage. You get to send a really nice note that goes with everything as well. You say whatever you want to say, if it’s an in-joke or something that only has a little card.
Susan: They also sent me a taster of the Orchard gin, which I’m going to try in a sec.
Jack:, Yes, you can send a Negroni to someone and it comes through the mail. You don’t have to go pick it up or it comes in a package or anything. It’s really nice to surprise people. It’s been going really, really well.
We started it off as a bit of, I wonder if people would take this, and actually it’s going great guns, and you can choose from Classic Negroni a, Tropical Negroni, or you can get a bag of five Negroni’s, if you’re sharing a house. If you’re fancy treating someone, you can buy them five Negronis, which is really, really cool.
It’s something that we wanted to do to, to have that a little bit of connection that you wouldn’t possibly get otherwise, especially with bars being closed, Yes, it’s something that we wanted to make people aware that you can still have a drink with your friends rather than the alternative.
Susan: It’s nice to be having the same drink with friends.
Susan: The same exact drink, at the same time during your zoom call that you have, and both experience it. Yes. I am definitely going to send a Negroni. I think it’s a great Christmas gift as well. Everyone may be getting to Negronis from me.
It has been such a pleasure to have you on the show. It has been nice to hear how you got where you did, and I hope to see you in the bar very soon so we can have an in real life Porter.
Jack: All right. I love that. That sounds awesome.
Susan: I’d love that too. Thanks much.
Jack: Thank you. Cheers.
TOP TIP FOR THE HOME BARTENDER
Jack: Well, I think firstly glassware is a big thing. What I enjoy the most about drinking at home is that you’re using your own glassware. I’m a bit of a fiend for secondhand shops and vintage shops and going hunting for that little bit of glassware for this perfect drink that you have. Yes, it makes it go a long way. I have these little top glasses from the Victorian times, which are 20ml gin glasses essentially, but there they are for gin and that’s the only thing they are for.
I love getting them out when people are over and say, Hey, this is just for this. this is amazing, and I have loads of vintage, glassware from bucks fizz which are super cool. I think that makes more of an experience than just a plain old, IKEA glasses as well. Not that IKEA glasses are bad because I have hundreds of those.
Susan: Great. I love that tip. Okay. If you could be drinking anywhere in any bar in the world anywhere right now, where would that be?
Jack:, I’m missing one bar in particular. I hate dropping names or anything that, but there’s a bar up in Northampton that’s called the Althorp Coaching Inn and it’s got low ceilings, totally old school. It’s been there for about 1200 years. I’m missing an open fire, dogs, and ruddy nose gentlemen singing bar songs at midnight, which I’m really missing. Yes. That local pub experience, I think I’m missing the most.