We caught up with the talented young drinks supremo James Bowker who blew our cocktail-making preconceptions apart
After chatting to talented mixologist James Bowker who works his cocktail wizardry at The Edgbaston, we realised we’ve wildly underestimated what goes into creating the perfect menu. For instance, high flier James is busy concocting an inventive new menu with 36 drinks inspired by Birmingham that won’t hit the bar until February. Having researched Brum’s history extensively for inspiration, sourced the best ingredients and spirits – many of them local – he’ll spend time fine-tuning the details until every drink reflects the spirit of the bar and the concept.
Earlier in the year James reached the GB finals of the world’s biggest cocktail competition, World Class, and with 100 semi-finalists and only 10 mixologists in the final that’s an awesome achievement. And if you’re imagining a room full of hip young things furiously chucking bottles around a la Cruise forget it. There are numerous rounds that require super skills, precision, knowledge and inventiveness. Attention to detail is key, like being able to recognise five different tequilas through smell alone.
James began working in his local pub aged just 15 and fell in love with the industry. He revelled in chatting to guests and worked many events from fine dining to weddings. He started dabbling in cocktails and made a canny move to the Jekyll and Hyde where he cut his teeth learning a huge amount. When one of his colleagues moved to The Edgbaston and asked him to follow suit, he declined as the offer was to work on the floor and he’d got the cocktail bug. His colleague came back and offered James a bartender role at which point he snapped her hand off.
The face of cocktails is changing and James says that over the past few years people are less fussed about the strength of their cocktails and they’re more focused on quality. People care more about what they put in to their bodies and James responds to that – organic ingredients are standard for example.
The creative freedom James enjoys makes his job pretty perfect. He’s ambitious and dedicated to making the bar the best it can be with more competitions in the pipeline to raise his and The Edgbaston’s profile further.