Once a part-time job to pay the bills whilst studying, Sophia Urwin has developed her love for mixology into a full-time passion.
From the bright lights of London to prestigious Parisian bars, Sofia learnt her trade from a wealth of international bartenders before settling at The Larderhouse back in Bournemouth.
Now developing her own unique style, drawing on inspiration from both the seasons and flavour combinations found in her bounty of cookery books, Sophia gives us an insight into life as a budding bartender.
ABOUT BEING A BARTENDER
Tell us about yourself – what’s your background, where you are from, what drew you to bartending…
I am originally from a town near Brighton, but it was in Bournemouth about 5/6 years ago I started making cocktails in the 1812 Bar & Restaurant. I was studying theatrical hair and makeup at the time and was bartending on the side and whilst I was doing my course, I realised I was spending more time reading books and recipes about drinks then studying makeup. So I’ve been a bartender ever since. Working from Bournemouth to London to Paris, gaining as much experience out of every place as I could.
Where did you get your training? How did you come up with your style?
Paris is where I truly knew I wanted to do this as a career. I worked in a high volume prestigious bar with a big reputation, learning skills from bartenders that had come from all over the world to work there. I continued to learn as I went from bar to bar picking up the techniques I liked the look of best, and then used my own natural flair to turn them into my own. My style came with time and will continue to progress as I learn about new products.
What do you like about what you do?
I love looking after people at the bar, talking to them and leading them through the night of drinks. In Paris you met people from around the world and hear so many experiences, it was because of this I got to play with so many different cocktails to help them carry on a journey and match their mood. The Library isn’t far different, you’re guiding people through their night with food and drink and I still meet people from far and wide, and have a place in their night through the drinks I create for them.
ABOUT THE COCKTAILS
What goes into creating a new cocktail? What inspires you?
When it comes to making cocktails my inspiration comes from the seasons, as well as tasting the spirit. On its own and finding flavours in the spirit that will compliment the seasonal vegetables, herbs and fruit. With regards on style, I’m very much into reverse style cocktails, these have a lot more flavours to play with, and when you work with vermouth and liqueurs.
What’s the proportion of art to science?
I try not to get too scientific, for me it is about palette. I read a lot of cookbooks to get flavour matching inspiration and work a lot with my palette to create something individual and of course, everyone is unique so everyone will have a different take on it. That’s the beauty and curse of making drinks, everyone will taste different things in a drink – some they love and some they hate, it’s all a trial and error. In the end, it’s only a drink and takes no time to make something that someone will enjoy rather then have something they don’t enjoy sitting in front of them.
What are some of the trends that you’ve been seeing in the country or in Bournemouth specifically?
I’ve seen a lot less trends since I’ve been back in England. However, something I’ve noticed, especially at Library Bar, is the lack of citrus in drinks. Which I think is amazing! Citrus is so expensive so we try to use them sparingly. Plus, there are so many creative ways of getting that sour element, for instance; I use raspberry vinegar in a drink with tequila rather than lime. This way you don’t have to worry about ingredients going off and you can find that zing in so many more flavourful things!
What is your favourite cocktail?
I would say my palette is bittersweet. I like dry light bitterness which I think I realised in Paris by drinking ominous amounts of Suze and tonics. One of my favourite cocktails and a liqueur I feel is underrated is White Negroni, equal parts Lillet Bland, Conker Gin and Suze.
Suze is a fantastic liqueur that is not to everyone’s taste due to its bitter nature but it has a strong length and body to it, and I haven’t tried anything that it doesn’t work in! Simple Suze and tonics are refreshingly delicious and its 15% abv so you don’t need to be TOO careful on it!
What’s a great simple cocktail recipe for people to make at home?
I would also say the above mix is a really simple cocktail to make at home, along with a normal negroni if you can’t find the Suze. You just need those three things, ice and some orange peel. You can also adjust the ingredients; if you like it more on the sweet side then add less Campari or Suze and a touch more Lillet Blanc or sweet vermouth and vice versa! Little stir in the glass and a spritz of orange.
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