London Cocktail Week has really taken the city by storm the last few days and mixing drinks has become the job of the moment.
But Samantha Fish, development manager at MOJO Bars – which has holdings in Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool – has been all over the world attending to our tipples, and she wants you to know bar-tending is so much more than just mixing drinks for people.
Read on to find out more about what makes the job tick.
1. How did you know you wanted to be a bartender?
Bartending is a career that delves deeper than just mixing drinks for people, and it was actually the service aspect that endeared me to the job the most. I wouldn’t say there was a particular moment as such, I fell into the job by accident and happened to find that I was pretty good at it. The good thing is I haven’t looked back once!
2. How did you get started?
My first job was in recruitment and I hated it. I walked into work one Monday feeling particularly down in the dumps and quit. In a panic and not really having a specific career in mind, I got a job in a bar, so that I could continue to make ends meet. I instantly loved it and am very lucky to have managed to carve out a career in the industry.
3. What’s been the most important moment in your career so far?
Getting a job with my current employer MOJO. I have been with them for nine years now, and have been lucky to have done some amazing things and seen some incredible places. But I wouldn’t have been able to do those things if I hadn’t started working for MOJO.
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4. Talk us through your day…
Today, I’ve been at London Cocktail Week taking in the amazing things that the capital’s bars have spent so much time putting together, and meeting up with friends and colleagues in the trade. It’s a tight community in our industry and it’s nice to be able to show support for such an amazing event.
5. What are the best things about doing what you do?
My official title is Bars Development Manager and the development part of it is what makes it so varied and interesting. That can be anything from training the teams, planning events, opening new sites, writing cocktail menus.
I’m never bored. The travel is great too, I’ve recently been to northern Italy with a vermouth brand, and in the past places like Mexico and Cuba.
Brands want to look after you, so you meet more people with similar passions for their work, and that’s a really lovely perk of the job.
6. What are the worst?
Every job has a boring admin side I suppose. Long hours and late nights are kind of a given, but I’ve been doing them for so long now it just seems normal to me.
7. What do you think people don’t realise about your job?
That you can make a career out of working behind a bar, it doesn’t just have to be that thing you do while you’re at uni! There are a lot of options: management, bar ownership, repping for brands, being a brand ambassador, consultancy… the list goes on!
8. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Always assume that somebody out there knows more than you! Humility is key when it comes to working in the service industry. Bartending seems to harvest ego, once people have been working in it for a while. That guest that’s walked into your bar might be an encyclopedia of knowledge about drinks or music or anything that could be really interesting to you, so never think that you know better.
9. What advice would you give someone wanting to get into the industry?
It’s called hospitality for a reason, be hospitable. The best bars in the world are run by the best hosts. It’s not just about great drinks, as a great drink with shoddy service means nothing.
10. Have you ever had a moment of self-doubt? What happened and how do you get through those?
I’m not sure that I have, not job wise anyway! I love my job and simply can’t imagine doing anything else. I’ve also always worked for great people who are passionate about their work and have inspired confidence in me. That helps you know that you’re doing the right thing.
11. What would you say to your 15-year-old self?
I’d probably explain how supportive my Mum has been. No parent jumps for joy when your kid says they want to be a bartender, but mine supported me when I was skint and is so proud of where I’ve got to today.
12. What are your career goals?
The MOJO brand has big plans to expand in 2016, at the moment we have Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool and we’re looking to open a London site next. I’ll stay with the group and the next level for me is becoming Operations Director. I also work part time as UK Ambassador for El Dorado Rums, it’s a small boutique brand and I’d love to see that gain more of a profile.
Check out what’s going on at London Cocktail Week here with this handy guide