21 December 2011

Stefanie Holt Interview

Stefanie Holt has been an easily recognisable face around the London bar scene for many years. She has been heading up the El Dorado Brand in the UK since 2008 and in January 2011 she took the next step and became the International Brand Ambassador for the rum and holds the post to this day.

1. What is the first cocktail you ever made?

Hmmm, I worked in a Belgian Beer bar which had awful creamy blended
cocktails on the menu, so I probably made a few of them (although I used to
hide the cocktail sections of that menu whenever I started a shift to avoid
having to make any!), but after that I moved to a proper cocktail bar and I
think my first one was a lovely, foamy French Martini. We made millions of
them and after my first shift it felt like my arms were going to fall off!

2. What are your 3 favourite drinks plus recipes; old, new and your own?

I think my favourite old drink recipe is a negroni. Love those equal
measures for making quickly/easily and it tastes soooo good at any time of

Favourite 'new' one that really surprised me was a Rhubarb & Coriander
Mojito that the Sanderson Hotel did with El Dorado a couple of years ago. I
think of Rhubarb as really British and very wintry, and Coriander as more
exotic and summery, so it was a surprise when the flavours worked so well
together. Nice & easy to make as well!

Hmmmm, my own; well its been a while since I have come up with anything, but I always love it when I use stuff on a bar that doesn't really move. There was one I created at the Groucho (called 'On Your Marx') which contained Pisco, limoncello, yellow chartreuse and lemon juice which was very tasty...

3.Tell us about a new flavour you have discovered recently?

It's not new, but I am mostly playing with Kummel at the moment; bit of a rediscovery as I used to use it a lot in comps.

4. If you could pass just one thing, on to an apprentice bartender or someone wishing to enter the drinks industry what would it be?

Oh god! Quite a few of my old trainees still call me 'Mum', so I'm sure they
would tell you I couldn't pass on just one thing! Mainly to have fun & to
smile, that you can never stop improving/learning and that going even a
little bit above & beyond pays dividends.

5. What does the future hold for yourself and what do you see happening in
the future in the industry?

I think the industry is pretty exciting just now as there are a few really
developed markets who are really pushing the boundaries, but also they are
influencing the more developing countries/cities around the world who are
growing & becoming advanced really fast. It's nice to see that bartenders
around the world are using the internet to form a global community and
sharing ideas. For myself, I'm pretty happy - I still have a lot to learn
about markets around the world, and my brand still has plenty of growing to
do, so I'm settled!

6. What has been your biggest satisfaction from working in the bar world?

I think the biggest satisfaction with this industry is discovering that you
can have a career/job you love and lots of fun. I think at school all jobs
sound quite boring and like proper 'work', and I never dreamed I would find
such a vibrant and interesting industry. It certainly wasn't suggested by a
careers advisor!

7. If you were to have a conversation with a cocktail, (and presuming it
could talk back to you and tell you its past). Which cocktail would it be
and why?

It's kind of pre-cocktail, but I reckon the most interesting
stories would come from Navy Grog, I'd want to hear all about the daily
routine as well as battles it played a part in! Get it to teach me some sea
shanties as well...

8. What influenced your drinks from outside the industry (I.e. art,

Science probably - I did genetics at university so things have to make sense
scientifically for me. When I was learning I thought of cocktails as
following formulas to make balance - they usually tasted good, but my
garnishes often needed some work!

9. If you where to break a bartending golden rule what would it be?

Goodness, I can't think of any golden rules now! I'm sure I have broken them
all at some stage...

10. Outside of flavour and the craft of the cocktail what in your opinion
effects the appreciation of cocktails and spirits the most?

I think the overall environment in the bar (decor, lighting, music etc)
affects the appreciation of a cocktail a lot, but the thing that can sweeten
or sour an experience in a bar the most is service - v simple and it seems
like people never stop banging on about it, but you can still walk into a
bar and be ignored while the staff talk to each other or do 'more important'
things, or be made to feel like a nuisance for wanting a drink.

11. If you where to champion a cocktail or spirit which would it be?

Apart from El Dorado & Rum? I reckon a spirit would be Mezcal - there is so
much fascinating heritage there as well as the interesting production
techniques, and that flavour - wow!

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