BACKGROUND: Back in August 2016 I had the fantastic opportunity to visit Edinburgh and meet a bunch of people who are studying the same postgrad course in Brewing and Distilling that I am (which was pretty amazing). I met a great bunch of booze enthusiasts from all over the world, all doing amazing different things. Out of the exciting bunch is the bartender turned brewer Joe, who happens to work at a cocktail bar in Newcastle, UK (which has a great name). So after much contemplation, and conversation, I decided to start the Interview with a bartender series where I ask Joe a bunch of different questions about gin, cocktails, the cocktail bar he works at, and other exciting alcohol inspired things. So I hope you find it interesting team!!


Joe Summerfield at The Poison Cabinet  -  photography by Cormac Thomson 

Joe Summerfield at The Poison Cabinet  -  photography by Cormac Thomson 

What bar do you currently work in? How long has it been around and how would you best describe it to potential customers, e.g. classic cocktail bar, low lit speakeasy etc.?

 Currently in The Poison Cabinet, a basement speakeasy style bar hidden away behind an old prison door under a craft beer bar and smokehouse. We’ve been open just over 2 years now in a relatively small, intimate room, serving mainly prohibition style mixed drinks.

What is the most popular gin cocktail that you serve at the bar? 

The Lynn Collins is a simple refreshing long drink with lychee infused Beefeater gin, with lemongrass, elderflower and ginger beer.

What is the gin that is most commonly requested in cocktails, e.g. a Tanqueray negroni etc.?

Lots of people request Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire, Hendrick’s etc. but we have deliberately avoided stocking gins like these. We like to have spirits that are a little rarer to see in the area. Sipsmith V.J.O.P. and Jinzu are a couple of my current favourites. 

What would you say is the usual demographic that come into your bar?

Despite being a small, slightly more niche bar, we serve people from students to high society clubs. It’s generally an inclusive place.

Are there any new directions that you know of (and are allowed to talk about) that your bar is moving in, or any upcoming events that you are excited for?

I’ve recently written a new menu that is currently in the hands of the printing designer. Very soon there will be an additional 12 drinks on the menu, without the need to remove any of the other drinks we already serve.

 Does your bar stock any Australian gins, if so what cocktails do you usually make with them?

No Australian I’m afraid. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever had Australian gin.

What would you say is the most exciting, interesting or unique thing about your bar that makes it stand out from the rest?

 With it being a bit harder to find, it’s more rewarding once you’re inside. Once you are in, we focus on quality drinks, tailored to whatever you want. There may be a bit of a wait at times, but we thoroughly believe in not compromising service for speed, and everyone will get the same treatment.

What do you believe is the most exciting cocktail on the menu at your bar?

 On the current menu, I’m a big fan of our Chestnut Sazerac, with chestnut infused Bulleit Rye, Courvoisier V.S.O.P. cognac, chocolate and peychaud’s bitters, finished with a bitter chocolate infused Ardbeg spray and toasted sesame oil droplets. From the new menu, I’m excited to see how the Red Wings will be received. A tomato-less bloody mary with Mason’s yorkshire gin, Polugar garlic and pepper, ginger beer, with braised beetroot and fresh horseradish.