Manchester born Joe Schofield, an award-winning bartender from Singapore’s infamous Tippling Club, has had an eventful year.
Not only has he been awarded ‘Bartender’s Bartender’ at The World’s 50 Best Bars and ‘International Bartender’ of the Year at the Tales of The Cocktail Spirited Awards, the only person in history to win both awards in the same year, he has just been named as the UK Red Hand for the new Campari’s Red Diaries 2019 film ‘Entering Red’.
Taking over from 2018 Red Hand Rich Woods, Joe brings with him a wealth of international experience, most recently at Singapore’s infamous Tippling Club, where he established the Tippling Club in the Worlds 50 Best Bars at number 31. This year Joe was awarded both the ‘Bartender’s Bartender’ at The World’s 50 Best Bars and ‘International Bartender’ of the Year at the Tales of The Cocktail Spirited Awards – the only person in history to win both awards in the same year.
Joe’s celebrated experience and his plans to open his first bar in his home town of Manchester – Schofield’s – early next year with his brother Dan, made him an obvious choice for the role.
We caught up with Joe
In ‘Entering Red’ you play the role of a Red Hand bartender, what would you say the personal touch you bring as a bartender?
Two of the key things that I’ve always focused on throughout my career and I think are important aspects of being a bartender, is to create an engaging experience but also to make sure that your main focus is always the guest in front of you.
To be a brilliant bartender requires a specific set of skills and characteristics, can you tell me what qualities you think a great bartender needs to have?
A great bartender should be hardworking and be willing to put other people in front of them. There’s a philosophy that I love from Japan called kaisen which is ‘continuous improvement’ and I think that everyone working behind the bar should take that into consideration.
Can you tell me about the twist on a Negroni you created for Campari Red Diaries 2019?
I didn’t want to play around too much with the original as it’s one of my favourite cocktails – The Negroni I made just has added subtle elements of flavour. I wanted to create a Negroni that was very approachable. I worked off the main hero ingredient which is obviously Campari; without Campari you can’t have a Negroni, and so I just added a little fresh raspberry and rosewater. The raspberry plays beautifully with the Campari and the rose water adds a really nice long finish to it.
Can you give us three reasons why, in your opinion, The Negroni has earned it’s titles as a classic cocktail?
First of all, and most importantly it’s absolutely delicious. Second, its extremely simple to replicate, and thirdly it’s just such an elegant drink – people see you holding that bright red drink in a glass and just want to know what it is. Knowing that fact that people are interested, people are talking about it; that’s why the Negroni has become so popular.
As recipes that have stood the test of time, how do you come up with twists on classic cocktails?
I think what is most important is that you never take away from the heritage of the drink. Obviously now it’s 100 years old, it’s got so much history to it, it’s been loved and respected by people all over the world for so long that you don’t want to do anything too avant-garde. The best is to just really play up to the story and the heritage of the Negroni and just add a few bits and bobs or a few bells and whistles.
For Campari , every cocktail tells a story – do you have any special stories to share with us around The Negroni?
One of the drinks I created in Singapore for Tippling Club 1 , which is a very progressive fine-dining restaurant, has a cocktail bar that’s always been about innovation and creativity. We used to use a lot of scientific apparatus just to be able to extract the best flavour from our food and cocktails. So at Tippling Club I created this drink called a supersonic Negroni. We used to age a Negroni with sound waves; when you put it in a machine called the sonic prep, it collapses and expands the molecules of the drink so that you’re left with is a Negroni that has the same characteristics as a barrel-aged Negroni without the inconsistencies or flavour from the wood. It helps to intensify the flavour.
What trends are we seeing in the industry at the moment and what are your predictions for the future?
What I think is the most important things at the moment, and I hope it isn’t a trend and will be something which continues, is bartenders taking better care of themselves, and really focussing on eating healthily, exercising and being aware of mental wellness.
What tips do you have for people creating the perfect cocktail at home?
I think the most important ingredient in a cocktail is ice. Without good quality ice you can’t have a good quality cocktail. It’s super easy to make, just get some plastic containers, leave them in the freezer and then just chop it with a breadknife and use that to really get the best cocktail possible.You can measure the size of your ice cube. Essentially its about surface area of the ice in contact with the liquid, so if there’s less surface area of the ice it doesn’t melt as quickly, so it’s not getting too diluted… I’m a bit of a dilution geek.
How do cocktails and cocktail trends differ across the world?
Depending on which territory you’re in, the guests’ palates are different. What I really like, which is a trend that’s happening now, is that people are looking into their own backyard and using ingredients and flavours that are from the place where they’re working or where they live, and using those in cocktails.
What makes the perfect bar and cocktail experience?
For me the number one thing is hospitality, you can go to one of the world’s best cocktail bars and sit there but if you’re not talking to the people working there, you don’t feel at home, you’re not being engaged, it might not necessarily be a great cocktail experience. You can have just as good a bar experience if you’re going to a dive bar in the middle of nowhere and have a simple but delicious Campari soda or gin and tonic and it can be incredible – it’ss all about that interaction with the people that work there and the wider experience.
Do you have any predictions on which flavour trend will become the ‘next big thing’ in the bar world?
I think there’s two different sides to the industry – there’s people who focus on classic cocktails and people that focus on the contemporary; I think contemporary cocktail creation is very much in the limelight at the moment and I think it’s very important for the industry as we look to the future that we continue to create our own drinks and flavour combinations and try and evolve. I also think at the same time we should understand the fundamentals of classic cocktails and how to make those to the best of our ability,