Words by: Jane Ryan
Manchester is on the verge of losing one of its best bartenders. In a mere two weeks Chris Mosey will be boarding a plane for Canada with a view to plying his trade in Vancouver after a brief spell in Toronto. As a tiki-style charismatic Liverpudlian bartender, Canada is in for quite the shock.
It was through necessity that I became a bartender. I was 19, in Preston and out of work when I took a girl on a date to the Cocktail Factory. I got a bit drunk and the girl left me there, but the bartenders said they needed a bar back.
I stayed there for a year, eventually becoming a bartender, and then one of their head bartenders. We were always playing around with things and I helped write my first menu. When the venue switched owners I left. I tried work outside of hospitality for three months, launching an app with a friend. It was a pipe dream, we thought we were going to be millionaires. We even had an office in Leeds before we became so skint we had to shut it down.
The only job I could find after that was in a café-style sports bar. It was soul destroying, not at all the type of bartending I wanted to do at all. I thought, I can't be dealing with this, and left there, heading in the direction of Manchester. A friend of mine from my days at the Cocktail Factory recommended me for job at Keko Moku.
My first week in Manchester was spent sleeping in a train station. The same tramp used to wake me each morning with a bash on the head. If there were any parties going on I'd crash there but if not it was back to the train station.
I've ended up with a pretty broad spectrum of cocktail knowledge in the two and half years I've been in Manchester. From working in a champagne bar where it was classic-dominated to Keko itself which is tiki-style. I enjoy both sides to this industry, the fun disco drinks just as much as the serious and traditional serves.
Keko Moku was a pretty exhausting place to run once I became manager though. It was only a small bar with three bartenders, but it was tough. I moved from there to Hula, a basement 1950s-inspired tropical tiki bar. I'm there as bar manager right now and I've had a lot of time to practise and mess around with the stock thanks to its phenomenal back bar.
Manchester is always surprising me, just when you think you know it, something else opens up and changes the game. There is a fantastic cocktail culture here, and often it's the hotel bars, which get overlooked, that are equally brilliant. I do love it here and it's easy for a bartender to become king in the small world of the Northern Quarter. That said it can be difficult to branch out, the city is a lot smaller than people think, you can cross it easily in an hour but it's been big enough for me.
On the 31st of March I'll be flying to Toronto, which has an amazing bar scene itself, although there is something about Vancouver which attracts me more. It seems very down to earth so I'll be looking for work there. I think my style there will have to be toned down from the tiki flame throwing that I'm used to.
What I want is to be able to talk to customers about what I'm doing, explain to an interested audience about the rum or whisky I'm using. It will be a good change of pace from people coming up and saying can I have a Mojito with no ice or can I have less ice watering down my drink? In fact it will be a massive breath of fresh air. I get that a lot at the moment, but it doesn't make Manchester customers any less enthusiastic, they're still prepared to come and pay £9 for a Zombie which proves that cocktail culture is a big part the city. The lack of knowledge is not their fault, it's a bartenders job to tell them that stuff. Yes, it can be annoying, but I've never ever demeaned a customer. I just try and explain why you put ice in a Mojito. If someone wants a Sex On The Beach, I'll make the best one they ever had.
I'm thinking about London to be honest after Canada, I've always enjoyed coming down but it's best to come for a purpose, if you just come to walk around it's an absolute nightmare. I imagine I'll want to carry on bartending till I'm in my 30s. 10 years ago carrying on till that age was a faux pas but there are opportunities now. The thing about the UK is that unless you get right experience it's difficult because there is so much competition.
I do want my own bar, when I have a more level head. Nothing massive, just a small space for 30 or so people. I wouldn't do it till I know for certain what I'm doing. The Liverpool scene is ridiculous right now, there are so many great bars opening but it's harder to keep your customers coming back, they're more fickle perhaps than London where it's so packed it's easier to find a customer base. So maybe it would mean going home, but I'm not sure.
A good cocktail needs a good story and I've had a pretty good time of late in competitions. I love showing off, getting dressed up and talking away. The biggest one I've been in so far was Olmeca which involved a week in Mexico where I came third. It was definitely an eye opener, everyone was so different. What caught me out was that the other bartenders were so well prepared. I thought I'd left no stone unturned but then there is always someone who rocks it better on the day and I think that was nativity on my part. I've learnt to become less naïve in competitions. What was really phenomenal though was the chance to meet some of the judges and to be able to ask for advice, to have those contacts in your phone book.
So to Canada, where no one believes I'm English. They think I'm Scottish, or I even get Italian which is just weird. A scouse bartender is going to make their heads explode so I think I'll just embrace whatever they say I am. I'm very lucky to be going over, I can't wait to be part of the Vancouver scene and live in a different country. Hopefully I won't be staying in an Canadian train stations though.