Tim Homewood is head bartender at Babylon restaurant at the Kensington Roof Gardens in London. He recently triumphed in the 2010 Saffron and Sides cocktail competition and is keen to pass on the word about why a career as a bartender is a great one that anyone starting out in the hospitlaity industry should consider.
How I got here:
I joined Babylon last November but I first got hooked on the hospitality sector after I decided not to go to university and ended up doing a ski season in Switzerland instead. At the time working in the bars and clubs there was just supposed to be a winter job but I soon realised it was a lot of fun.
I come from a sailing town in Essex and the local yacht club needed help behind the bar on my return and before I knew it I was heading things up. Next up I worked in London at the Hospital Club, which was owned by Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics for a few months in 2005 (in fact not knowing the music duo I once tried to charge him when he was having a Bellini in his bar). It was an interesting place with the likes of Travis and Radiohead knocking about and thanks to Dan Warner (now with Beefeater), my first proper experience of bartending.
I went travelling, worked at Dirty Martini in Covent Garden until July 2008 and the birth of my first son and then oversaw beverages ahead of the launch of ETM’s Cadogan Arms, part of the group that owns the Botanist. It was fun but once done I missed the creativity of a bar and headed to Babylon.
What I like about my job:
I enjoy the creativity and playing around with cocktail combinations. The team side of things is important to me as I’m self taught and have learnt on the job with guidance from some great people during my career so I’m keen to do the same for those starting out. I also get too work with old colleagues from Dirty Martini, and Restaurant Manager of the Year 2009 winner Peter Avis.
My Big achievement:
Winning the Saffron and Sides competition, the first I’ve entered since the birth of my son, against peers from Nobu, Skylon and Claridges was great. I thought it was particularly interesting as a competition because it requires you to create a cocktail but also a complimentary sweet or savoury dish, which was handled by Roof Garden head pastry chef Dipti Shevalkal. It’s that sort of approach we’re trying to foster at the restaurant. My winning cocktail was called the Crocus Club, a combination of Saffron Gin, quince liqueur, lemon juice and syrup paired with a crumble topping with fennel bread.
What’s hot in cocktails at the moment:
We launched a new menu of 30 cocktails that I’d pulled together this spring with the help of Andy Crofts here at Babylon, and I’m one of a number of bartenders in the past year that have been looking back to the classics of yesteryear for inspiration. In a sense bartending has gone full circle with the likes of the Negroni (gin, sweet vermouth and Campari) and the Clover Club cocktail very much back.
Short term I’d like to take part in more competitions to raise Babylon’s profile as a great place to enjoy a cocktail. Shevalkal and I have also won a trip to distiller Gabriel Boudier in Dijon to visit the Saffron Gin distillery as part of our prise for winning the competition. Longer term I’d like to raise my profile so that I can act as a representative for the industry and give something back. Ultimately I want to make bartending an acceptable career for those wondering what to do.