We’ve sat down with our very own Ross Fraser, who has recently secured the ‘Wildcard’ spot in the Jack Daniels Rye Cocktail Competition 2019. He will be taking part in the finals in Glasgow on Monday the 8th of July, but we grabbed him for a cuppa and a sit-down before he gets back to practicing his serves…
How long have you been a Bartender?
Just over 3 years now! As soon as I turned 18 I started working in the hotel bar at Banchory Lodge where I became the youngest ever bar supervisor.
When did you first start getting into cocktails?
I was thrown into cocktails within the 1st week of working at Banchory Lodge. The staff here were very creative and encouraging on the cocktail side of things and I had a knowledgeable team easing me into the scene. After building my skills I then got to the stage where I was developing bespoke menus designed for wedding parties, which is when I realised I had a passion for shaking drinks.
Did you always know this was what you wanted to pursue as a career in?
To start with I didn’t think it was what I was destined to do, no, however my friends and family couldn’t imagine me doing anything else. I grew up in the hospitality industry, with both of my parents working in bars and hotels. From when I was very small I would help out with what I could, with a little extra pocket money as a bribe from my mum!
Now, onto your JD Rye entry. Talk us through the story behind your entry…
I have always enjoyed exploring unique flavours and ingredients, adding twists to classic serves to put my own stamp on a cocktail. As soon as I seen the competition, I knew I had to enter it as I had always been interested in how Jack Daniels distill their whiskey compared to other brands and was a keen drinker of the product.
So, what made you pick the ingredients you did to create the cocktail with Jack Daniels Rye?
I’m not going to lie and say that it didn’t take a few attempts of different ideas! But cloudy apple being part of the serve immediately popped into my head, so I knew this was going to be a staple ingredient. With flavoured gin being very “on trend”, I wanted to include this to show how adaptable the spirit can be and how it can be paired with the unexpected. The tanginess of the Whitley Quince gin pairs extremely well with the rye and malted barley in the JD, balancing the cocktail out. I also had a picture of the cocktail in my head so that’s where I went from next. I envisioned a thick and creamy drink encased in an old milk jug, so I added egg white to achieve this. I then added a little lemon juice for some zest and a dash of smoked syrup for that ‘woody aroma’, giving you an experience rather than just a drink.
Did you find it difficult to perfect the serve?
I was slightly apprehensive when first making the cocktail, as I wanted what I made to perfectly represent what was in my head. After I made it for the first time I knew exactly what I needed to adjust and it only took a few more attempts to get it tasting how I wanted it. I had my fellow Siberia staff to test each attempt on, which was a great help and they didn’t complain too much.
So we have to ask, would you order your cocktail at a bar if you had never seen it before?
100% yes. It was really important for me to create a drink that I would enjoy myself.
Are you looking forward to the competition, and do you have any tips for aspiring cocktail bartenders?
I am really excited, but of course, slightly nervous. I think partaking in the competition will help grow my confidence and I’m sure I will gain a tonne of knowledge from the fellow contenders. I am still at the early stages of my career, so I’m excited to see what opportunities lie ahead and what potential doors these competitions can open for me.
Good Luck to Ross and all the other entries!