The Raconteur is one of Gintime’s fave bars. Here, Juliet Lawrence Wilson puts Jamie Mac on the spot about life, love, drinks and running his own bar.
JLW: So Jamie, What’s it like being the pub landlord then?
JM: Hectic, but thankfully not like ‘Angie & Den’s’ debauched lifestyle!! No seriously it’s great fun, but hectic.
JLW: What was the most challenging part of setting up The Raconteur?
JM: Cost planning and budgeting and overall licensing issues. In other words: ‘red tape’.
JLW: Where did the name come from?
JM: I actually had the name in mind for a long time but with my incredibly bad understanding of English I believed it meant something completely different to what it was. When I found out the real meaning of Raconteur it fitted perfectly. So I was right all along in a way. (Raconteur – one who tells stories and anecdotes with skill and wit.)
JLW: What sort of crowd do you attract?
JM: Those who enjoy the finer points of service and drinks with a hint of debauchery, good fun and bad jokes!
JLW: What’s your drinks philosophy?
JM: Minimalist, classic, quality ingredients, seasonal variations with vintage glassware and modern twists.
JLW: What’s the best aspect of running your own bar?
JM: Apart from working alongside two of my best friends who are also great bartenders, it must be the great sense of satisfaction that we receive from the customers, clients and friends.
JLW: How did you get interested in cocktails?
JM: I hold the wonderful and charismatic Mr. Dick Bradsell responsible for that I’m afraid.
JLW: Did you have a mentor in the early years?
JM: A protégé of Dick’s trained me through the Gaucho Grill.
JLW: What’s going on in the gin world that excites you right now?
JM: Martini culture, corpse revivers, gin sours and the wonderful micro distilled and small batch or boutique gins on the market.
JLW: Any top tips for wannabe mixologists?
JM: Find your own style but be open to other styles, learning, people and fashions. Most of all listen to others and not the demons in your mind.
JLW: What’s your favourite bar or bars?
JM: The Raconteur of course!! No joking aside definitely Death & Company, New York, Merchant Bar, Belfast, Green & Red, London and on our home turf of Edinburgh it has to be Bon Vivant and Bramble.
JLW: Who in the industry do you most admire?
JM: David A Embury (deceased) – David Paskins (alive)
JLW: Describe your ideal night out.
JM: Unfortunately that’s a bit X-rated!! I’ll tell you over the bar with gin martini in hand.
JLW: Who would you spend it with?
JM: There is a particular lady but I cannot mention names! Other than that close friends and family – my little sister definitely deserves a good night out: she just gave birth to my baby nephew James. He’s a beaut!
JLW: What’s your favoured G&T serve?
JM: Good solid ice cubes or hand cracked ice, layered with Fentiman’s tonic and freshly squeezed lime (no rimming of the glass, can’t be abided).
JLW: Where do UK bars get it right and wrong?
JM: Style over substance is something far too apparent within the UK market, especially those groups who have grown here. They become complacent and start setting trends are run by accountants in a dark room. They forget the value of the customer. Bars like ourselves, Bramble and Bon Vivant are great examples of service and standard. On a commercial scale The Merchant is a fantastic example of getting it right.
JLW: What’s going to be the next big trend in the cocktail world?
JM: Restaurant equipment used at the bar level. Better production of syrups, bitters, gommes and such like. More importantly bars still need better ice and less attitude.
JLW: What’s your favourite gin cocktail?
JM: Has to be the ‘Last Word’ at the moment; Equal parts of the following -Hendricks or Martin Miller Westbourne, Green Chartreuse, Maraschino and fresh lemon. We serve stirred and straight up – much more rounded than shaken. We will shake but we won’t throw (as the American was told).
JLW: What’s next for you?
JM: There are a few exciting proposals in the pipeline but I’m not telling a soul! Other than chasing a girl and getting to know Sweet Baby James.