Joe Schofield has worked at some of the best bars in the world. Now he has designs on Manchester
It doesn't seem a natural career progression, contemporary art to cocktail bartending, but the two do share similar traits, when you think about it. There is, of course, a certain level of creativity involved, a touch of flair and a general proclivity for experimentation - such as creating a 'memory triggering' drinks menu involving gummy bears in flavours such as tonka bean, Coco Chanel perfume and, er, petrol.
The invention of former art student Joe Schofield, the 'Dreams & Desire' menu is the magnum opus of the Rossendale-born master bartender, who moved to Leeds, caught the bar bug and packed in university to take up stints around some of the world's best bars, including The Zetter Townhouse and the American Bar at The Savoy in London, and The Tippling Club in Singapore.
We are still keeping our concept under wraps, but what we can say is how excited we are to be coming home...
Now, with a clutch of international industry awards under his apron, Joe, 28, is returning to the motherland with plans to open a new bar in Manchester in 2019, alongside his bartending brethren, Daniel Schofield - currently of The Coupette in Bethnal Green.
Confidential caught up with Joe as he prepares to leave Singapore and embark on a whirlwind, 22-country fact-finding mission (knees up?), before fleshing out plans for the new Manchester bar.
Joe, you’re a Lancashire lad who’s worked in some of the world’s best bars, but can you still do it on a cold Tuesday night behind the bar in The Woolpack?
JS: "(Laughs) I certainly hope so. I actually started my career at sixteen years old working in the local pulling pints. I think you can learn a lot from them, such as appreciating and connecting with regulars as well as the basics of hospitality. I always love visiting English pubs whenever I am back in Lancashire."
Seriously though, you’ve just been crowned International Bartender of the Year - that’s a pretty big deal.
JS: "Yeah it was a huge honour for me and I am extremely grateful to have received the award. All of the previous winners have been people I've looked up to and admired throughout my career. I certainly had help to get me there though, I am fortunate to have been surrounded by amazing and generous people. Not just in the workplace but also at home."
Talk us through the journey: Leeds, Manchester, London, Oz...
JS: "After working in the pub, I moved over to Leeds to study Contemporary Art. It was here I started working in a nightclub before moving down to Call Lane to work at Jake's Bar. From there I went to Manchester to work for Lyndon Higginson as part of the opening team of The Liars Club.
"After a couple of years I headed over to Australia to work in Sydney and Melbourne, before settling in London. There I worked at The Zetter Townhouse for Tony Conigliaro and The American Bar at The Savoy. Most recently I headed over to Singapore to take over Tippling Club as Group Bar Manager and Head Bartender. This is where I met my business partner, chef Ryan Clift, who owns Tippling."
We had to hand make 1200 gummy bears a day.
You’ve earned plaudits at Tippling for something called the 'Sensorium' - what is it exactly?
JS: "The Sensorium is a concept that myself and Ryan conceived. They are multi-sensory menus which trigger memories through aroma, with each guest presented with fragrance blotters which remind them of a specific moment in their lives. Some of the aromas included rain, forest and campfire.
"With that menu we looked to memories of the past, with "Dreams and Desires' we look to the future. The menu features gummy bears, each one flavoured with the main ingredients of the cocktail and flavours synonymous with the dream or desire they represent. Take 'Supercar'. for example, the bear was flavoured with petrol, leather, metal and smoke.
"Both of these menus were voted among the 'World's Top Ten Best Cocktail Menus' in 2017 and 2018 - one of the most prestigious awards in the drinks industry. It was great to see the team get recognition for their hard work, especially when we had to hand make 1200 gummy bears a day."
Now you’re planning a move back home to open a new bar alongside your brother, Daniel. What can you tell us about that?
JS: "Watch this space. We are still keeping our concept under wraps but what we can say is how excited we are to be coming home to one of our favourite cities. We've both worked in Manchester in the past and it has always held a special place in our hearts.
"One of the great things about Manchester's food and beverage scene is that over the last few years it has continued to grow, with amazing and talented people opening new bars and restaurants. I cant wait to see where it will be in the next two years."
Ok now some quick fire…
Favourite current bar in Manchester?
Favourite bartender ever?
JS: "My favourite bartender definitely doesn't get the recognition he deserves. Russell works in a great neighbourhood bar called Basik in Brooklyn. He is an exceptional bartender, a consummate host and the embodiment of hospitality."
Your most impressive cocktail?
JS: One of our drinks at Tippling Club which took the most work was 'Rain' (pictured above). It was all about the smell of rain, which is technically known as 'Petrichor'. We made a rain spirit using Koalin clay, a specific clay found on the plains of West Africa, and beetroot. Petrichor contains large amounts of a compound called Geosmin, as does beetroot. We married this with citrus and soda and garnished with an edible raincloud. Maybe I like it because it reminds me of Manchester."
Worst thing you ever drank?
JS: "I cant really recall the worst thing I ever drank, but the worst thing I ever ate was goat brain foie gras at Gaggan in Bangkok. The rest of the meal was delicious though."
Most annoying thing a customer can order?
JS: "I don't get annoyed when a customer makes a special request, if that makes them happy I'm more than happy to serve it. We are there to serve people."
The next drinks trend is going to be...
JS: "We are currently going through a movement with low ABV and alcohol-free drinks, which is going to be interesting to watch. I also think venues are going to have to become more creative in the experience they give their guest. We live in a world where we are surrounded by good food and good beverage, I think consumers will start to expect a little more for their money."
Worst drinks trend to happen?
JS: "I've never been a fan of style over substance. For me what is most important is the liquid in the glass, then aroma, texture, aesthetics, glassware and garnish. Flavour comes first."
Easiest drink to cock up?
JS: "Negroni. It is such a simple drink on paper with three equal measures of ingredients. But the key to a good negroni is dilution. It is my favourite cocktail and I can count on one hand the number of great negronis I have tried."
Schofield's is expected to open in Manchester sometime in 2019. Confidential will be keeping on eye on progress. In the meantime, you can follow Joe on Instagram here.