Bartender’s who love what they do…part one

It’s time to celebrate some of the most revered drinks slingers across Scotland on the 24th February for World Bartender’s Day!  For this reason, Nicola Walker set out to speak to 10 great bartenders to discover what made them choose hospitality as a career and what they think makes a great bartender.
Paul Paxton –
General Manager,
The Spiritualist, Aberdeen
Paul Paxton – General Manager, The Spiritualist, Aberdeen

Paul began his hospitality career with Signature Pubs at NOX nightclub. After a stint in car sales with Jaguar Land Rover and Porsche he has now come back to hospitality and is GM of The Spiritualist in Aberdeen.

He tells me, “I’ve learned so many people skills through sales roles that transformed how I interact with customers in the hospitality world. I think the people, the togetherness and the healthy competition between venues makes it such a great industry. I love the creative side of what I do, as well as getting the chance to speak to guests, work with new brands and expand my knowledge too! However, the most rewarding thing has been seeing the growth and our hard work pay off.

“At The Spiritualist I have a fantastic team, creative freedom, and I love just how fun we’ve made the business. We hold huge brunch events, drag bingo and regular DJ’s – it’s a hoot!”

Paul’s advice for anyone wanting to get ahead in the trade is simple, he says “It’s important not to be scared to make terrible drinks as the fear of making a bad drink can hold people back – getting over that hurdle helps massively with your next creation.”

Selenia Di Palma – Manager, Panda & Sons, Edinburgh
Selenia Di Palma – Manager, Panda & Sons, Edinburgh
Selenia Di Palma – Manager, Panda & Sons, Edinburgh

Selenia first started in hospitality when she moved to the UK from Italy. After living and working in London for five years she moved to Edinburgh and is now a manager at Panda & Sons. She says, “I love working at Panda & Sons.  The style of the place, the music, the vibe the venue offers and the team I work with. It’s like a family of talented people who work hard and want to learn every day.

“The great thing about the industry is seeing and meeting so many different people. It’s my job to make their experience special and their day better, that’s what really excites me. I view every single day as a new adventure, with new things to learn, new drinks to create and new guests to impress. It’s never boring!

“I’ve always been fascinated by the bar world, and I believe being a bartender is like being an artist.  You create your drinks because of your knowledge and then use your imagination to make your own masterpiece! A great bartender should have passion for their job and a connection with guests to make their experience unforgettable. There is nothing more satisfying than understanding what the person in front of you wants to drink and then making the perfect cocktail for them.”

Jordan Blades – Deputy
Manager, The Corner House,
Jordan Blades – Deputy Manager, The Corner House, Kilwinning

Jordan started working in hospitality at 17 and loved the social aspect of the job. He tells me, “I would go to restaurants with my family when I was younger and I just loved the atmosphere, from the staff running around to the bartenders shaking their cocktails. I saw it as a great opportunity to improve my own confidence, so I started off with Buzzworks at Lido in Troon and then moved to The Corner House.

“The social aspect of the job is fantastic. Working with a team in hospitality after a while turns into a family, plus you meet so many people along the way, whether it’s brand reps or auld Jimmy coming in for his two pints to talk about his coupon. I also enjoy the training of the team, whether it be to help structure a new drinks menu or just simply pour the perfect pint.

“There are many things for me that make a great bartender as all people have different personalities and skills. Communication skills are important though, both with your work team, and when listening to the customers at the bar. I’ve always strived for three key things – pride, passion & professionalism – if you’ve got that in your locker, you’ll go far in this industry!”

Panos Dimou – General Manager,
El Santo, Glasgow


Panos Dimou – General Manager, El Santo, Glasgow

Panos is originally from Greece and started his hospitality career as a summer job. He quickly fell in love with every aspect of the trade and went on to study hospitality management.

After spending many years working at renowned venues in Mykonos and Saint Moritz such as Nobu and Hotel Belvedere he moved to Glasgow. Here, he worked at Anchor Line and as Bar Manager at the Atlantic Brasserie before moving to his current position. He is now General Manager of El Santo and tells me, “I love the combination of the food and drinks products we offer, especially the mezcals of course! The venue has such a vibrant and energetic atmosphere.”

“I am dedicated to the industry and love the interaction with people, the fact that every day is different and the challenges and satisfaction you get from customer service. Being a great bartender is about displaying a combination of many skills; a knowledge of the classic cocktails, a neat and clean presence, great customer service skills, a warm welcoming personality and curiosity about new techniques and ingredients.”

Ricky Wallace – Bar Manager,
Lochside Hotel, Isle of Islay
Ricky Wallace – Bar Manager, Lochside Hotel, Isle of Islay

Ricky worked at TGI Fridays for 25 years before moving to the Lochside Hotel. He explains, “I’m an outgoing guy and I’m good with people so a job in hospitality just seemed the right fit. I started in the kitchen before I moved on to the bar and that’s where I found my calling. I then quickly moved up to head bartender and was responsible for all the bar training.

“After covid, I moved to the Isle of Islay to work as the bar supervisor in the Machrie Hotel before starting my current position at Lochside two years ago. What I love about my current role is the laid-back atmosphere. The hotel team all have a good time whilst still providing great service to the people on the Island. I also enjoy training the younger staff on how to make cocktails with flair and style – I’ll never get bored watching a new bartender learning the ropes.” As for what he thinks makes him good at his job, Ricky tells me,

“I would like to think my sparkling personality makes me a great bartender! I’m a fun guy and like a laugh with the guests, but I’m also a great listener. Plus, an encyclopaedic knowledge of drinks definitely helps!”