Get to know one of our Mixologists, Jack Bray – from what he loves about hospitality, to his favourite cocktail is and where’s on his food and drink bucket list. He’s also been named ScotHot’s Rising Star – Brilliant in Beverage 2023 – congrats, Jack!
Tell us a bit about where you’re from
I’m from a small town in south Ayrshire called Troon, which is probably known to most for its beach, but I know it mainly as a place full of rugby (and alcohol!). As I got a bit older, you’d play rugby on a Saturday morning, watch the senior team play and then head off to the pub to watch the pros do it – with a lot of beer involved! When I visit nowadays, it’s much of the same and there’s no place that does it better.
Tell us about your role
I’ve worked for voco Grand Central Hotel for nearly two years now, always in Champagne Central. It’s been full of excitement and has been a fast-paced environment from the word go, which I love. My role is a mixologist, so part of my job is to uphold a great guest experience in our bar by making sure the quality of the drinks we serve is up there with the best in Glasgow, but to also be a part of creating our own original cocktail list, which is something I thoroughly enjoy doing. I’ve also got my eye on doing some cocktail competitions in the near future and representing the bar in those!
What’s your favourite thing about the job?
The creative aspect – working to find the best balance of different flavours and spirits is challenging, but very rewarding once you find it. Also, getting to create a drinking experience for our guests that maybe they haven’t had before or opening them up to new spirits they wouldn’t normally try is a lot of fun. Drink creation is something I take massive pride in and have a passion for, it pushes me to always try and be better than the day before. Being able to pull experiences from my own life and express them in my drinks and for them to do well is an amazing feeling.
What do you love most about the hospitality industry?
The hospitality industry is one of the best for pulling people together from all backgrounds, whether it’s the team you work with every day or the guests that come in to enjoy the bar, its experiences and interactions you carry with you for the rest of your life. Meeting guests from all over the world and sharing stories is definitely a massive part of our bar—with it being in the centre of Glasgow and in the train station—and something I very much enjoy about the industry.
What led you to a this career?
My career started when I was about 16 working in a local hotel back home. Without trying to sound like too much of an alcoholic, I was immediately drawn to the bar, and cocktails in particular really interested me. Unfortunately I had to wait till I was 18 to jump behind the bar, and when I did, I fell in love with it. The world of bars and cocktails is so deep that it always feels like there’s something new to discover every day, which keeps me entertained and excited to come into work each day. I’ve been very lucky to have some amazing mentors over the years who have helped me along the way and giving me new avenues to explore.
What’s your go-to drink/dish when eating out?
I’m going to be pretty boring and say a Negroni is my go-to drink – I’m yet to find a drink that fits for any occasion better than the Negroni – I had one in hand nearly every day when I visited Italy. Although mezcal is slowly creeping up as my favorite cocktail spirit, as I tried a Naked and Famous when visiting a good friend down in London. When it comes to food again, I’m going to be boring and go with a steak – I absolutely love a steak and if I could eat it all day!
What country is on your food and drink bucket list?
Japan is definitely top of the list; I already love Japanese food so to get a proper authentic Japanese food experience would be amazing. I’ve always admired the precision and attention to detail they put into the drinks they serve, and I feel as though I could learn a lot from a visit there. The Champagne region in France would have to be a very, very close second though!
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want to have with you and why?
I’d bring a massive barrel of Negroni and hope that counts as one. I’d bring my girlfriend, because if I’m going to die on this island then I’m sorry but she’s coming with me – to be someone to talk to so don’t end up drawing faces on volleyballs! Lastly, I’d take my dog because I’m sure she’d love to run around an island care free.