A few wee questions about becoming a bartender...

What first got you into bartending (and when), and what is it about creating cocktails that you still find exciting?

I started off pouring pints just over three years ago. That was my introduction to craft beer, cocktails, and general flavour in drinking. When the family company I work for opened a cocktail bar, seeing what was happening within those walls, I knew I had to be a part of it, so I read a lot of books, drank a lot of drinks, and learned on the job as best I could. I still love making new drinks for exploring new ingredients, trying new flavor combinations, and then sharing them with someone be it customer or colleague.

Joe Summerfield at The Poison Cabinet - photo taken by Cormac Thomson 

Joe Summerfield at The Poison Cabinet - photo taken by Cormac Thomson 

How did you learn general cocktail bartending skills?

I had a couple of people I worked with that I learned a lot from with respect to both skill and attitude. On top of that, I read a lot of recipes for classic drinks, and then made and drank them all. I feel like once you have the knowledge, the physical skills and techniques will all follow with time and practice.

Do you prefer the term bartender or mixologist or something else as a descriptor?

Definitely bartender. I appreciate all the molecular level techniques available, and the crossover with gastronomy and chemistry, even biology, but I prefer simpler drinks. To me, a mixologist focuses more on creating an amazing one off drink, regardless of its audience, and I feel bartending focuses more on customer service. I’d rather mix a simple drink tailored to what a customer tells me they like, as opposed to tell someone an essay about a drink I want to make and why they should like it, if that makes sense.


Check out Interviews with a bartender - part 1 to learn a little bit more about Joe and the Poison Cabinet!