James Hawkins is the Head Bartender of Sexy Fish in London. He makes us two cocktails, one with Whisky and Antica Formula and the second with Gin and Black Bean Cordial.
James introduce yourself
I’m James Hawkins and I grew up in the middle of England. I moved to Greece when I was 18 for a few years to work the summer seasons and spent the winters in Scotland. I moved to London nearly six years ago and worked in Japanese restaurants where my knowledge and regard for Japanese culture and Japanese whisky grew. When I had the opportunity to join Sexy Fish three and a half years ago, I jumped at the chance. I started here as a junior bartender and I’ve been the head bartender for the past year.
The classic you want to show us
40ml of Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt Whisky
20 ml of Campari
20 ml of Antica Formula Vermouth
The bar you dream of
I love working in high volume bars, so my bar would definitively be a big bar in London, for around a hundred people (a little bit like The Clumsies), where everyone has an amazing experience. I would have a good whisky selection because I love a good classic whisky and the music would be house music in the evenings to party. The interior would have a 70’s vintage vibe and as I love Japanese food we’d serve sushi and sashimi.
What do you do in your time off
I read a lot of fantasy and science fiction novels, like Game of Thrones, Dune or dystopia like 1984. Otherwise, I enjoy hanging out with friends in Brixton or visiting other cocktail bars with my colleagues.
The spirit you like the most
It’s whisky, especially Japanese. You have a lot of different Japanese whiskies, so they offer many possibilities when making drinks. Here in Sexy Fish, we have our own whisky which we made in collaboration with Chichibu, my favourite brand at the moment. The best whisky I’ve ever tried was a Kawasaki 1976, the Ichiro choice… it was insane.
What makes a good cocktail
There are the basics, like balance and technique, but it also has to suit the customer’s palate. Otherwise, an experience or innovation that brings the wow effect to a drink makes it memorable.
What ingredient do you enjoy using in cocktails
My inspiration comes from the kitchen, especially Japanese ingredients and one of my favourite things is yamagobo which only grows in Japan. It tastes like cheese and onion crisps and I used them in an infusion with Cocchi Americano recently. You can cook them sous vide and it adds a little bit of saltiness to a drink.
The signature cocktail you want to show us
50ml of Roku Gin infused with Peanuts
40ml of Black Bean Cordial
2 drops of Pineapple Bitters
60ml of Soda Water
Where do you think we need to go to interview another bartender
Obviously you must go to Japan and visit Star Bar in Ginza and High Five. Somewhere else would be Tommy’s bar in San Francisco.