Going 10 Rounds With Top Bartender Iain McPherson
The co-owner of Edinburgh’s acclaimed Panda & Sons Bar tackles our speed round of questions.
What do you like to drink after a shift? “I love drinking cocktails, but all I want to do after a shift is drown myself in an ice-cold pint of lager…Well, that’s to start with and that’s the first two minutes after my shift is over, after that I’m game for anything.”
What is the all-time best dive bar jukebox song? ““Here I go Again,” by Whitesnake.”
After all these years bartending and creating drinks, do you still enjoy going out to bars? “Absolutely. I love going to a familiar haunt, where you know the staff and you know a fair few of the regulars. You feel at home, you can unwind, they know what you want to drink and you have a good laugh. Then there is also that incredible feeling when you walk into a new bar, have your first sip of a drink, basking in the new habitat and you’re like ‘yeah, this is awesome, well done.’”
Name the first good drink you ever drank and where you had it. “The first good drink I ever had was a Corpse Reviver No. 2 at The Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh. It was one of the key moments in my life, when I knew that I had made the right decision to become a bartender.”
What’s your favorite cocktail and food pairing? “A Penicillin and anything with haggis.”
What drink are you most proud of creating? “I released the technique called Switching recently and the first drink I created using this method was a Switched Negroni. I replace the water in the gin with a blend of clarified pink grapefruit and orange juice. Then I add the usual suspects, sweet vermouth and Campari.”
Is there one person (dead or alive) you’d like to make a cocktail for? “Probably Billy Connolly. He’s so funny and such an amazing storyteller. Making him drinks would allow me to hear more of his jokes and stories.”
What’s your favorite shot-and-a-beer combination? “There is an amazing local brewery here in Edinburgh called Pilot. We have a collaboration beer with them called Hush Hush, which is a lovely session pale ale. My shot of choice to go with this beer is the Ledaig 10-year-old Scotch.”
What is the one tool that you always make sure to pack when you’re traveling for business? “My inflatable panda costume. It’s best not to take yourself too seriously!”
Iain McPherson is the co-owner of Edinburgh’s acclaimed Panda & Sons Bar. This year it was a semifinalist for the best international high-volume cocktail bar Spirited Award at the Tales of Cocktail conference.
Interview has been condensed and edited.