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SPOTLIGHT: Dominic Jacobs, Head Bartender At Harvey Nichols

Dominic Jacobs is always in the thick of the action at Harvey Nichols, Knightsbride. The Suffolk-bred barman is responsible for creating bespoke cocktail menus up at the famed Fifth Floor bar, for luxury brands loved by people all over the world.

On a recent trip to West London, FashionBite sampled the stunning Penhaligon’s Peoneve cocktail menu – we just had to speak to the man responsible for such sumptuous flavours…

I grew up in the heart of Suffolk close to Cambridge. Food and drink has always been very important in my family with both my parents being incredible cooks growing lots of our food ourselves. I was taken all over the world as a child eating in incredible restaurants – my parents were not willing to give up their passion when they had children so my sister and I were forced to sit and behave whether we liked it or not.”

Has he always been passionate about cocktails? The FashionBite team certainly are…

“The first cocktail I ever tried was at home in fact – we had a white peach tree in our garden and when they ripened we had an abundance so one year my parents made fresh peach Bellinis – it became a bit of an annual occasion after that!

I started working in bars whilst at University in Leeds. When I finished, I started working in television – the career I had originally hoped to work in. After a month of doing this, I longed to be back in the bar so I made the decision to follow my career that way. I returned to Epernay (a champagne bar in Leeds) where I took over as General manager a year later. After a year I felt it was time to move to London and fortunately the Bar Manager position became available at the Fifth Floor.”

With London Fashion Week kicking off tomorrow, Dominic has plenty of ideas up his sleeve…

“I’m working on a cocktail menu for London Fashion Week which we will be releasing soon, and I have some fun new seasonal cocktails for the Fifth Floor Restaurant which has some big, very exciting changes taking place. I’m also working on a few cocktails for a new store Beauty Bazaar opening in Liverpool One, inspired by perfumes that will be stocked. There’s never a dull day in the office!”

It’s such a creative profession – where does Dominic find his inspiration?

“From all over really. Occasionally I can have a brain wave and can write 3 or 4 menus in an hour. Unfortunately such days are very rare and most take much longer and require lots of research. I am very inspired by the seasons. I love British produce and am often inspired by what is growing around me. I try to get out to the country as often as possible, which helps in that sense.

“I often draw inspiration from designer collections when working with fashion. I try to take an overview of a collection and imagine how styles, cuts and colours would transform into flavours, textures and scents. It sounds complicated but once you break it down it comes quite naturally. I always take huge pride in how the cocktails look. You taste in many different ways but one of the most important is with your eyes. Your perception of a drink can be transformed by the way it looks.”

Did he ever have a career ‘Plan B’?

“I always wish I had been a Formula one driver. I am pretty sure most men say this but I am confident that I would have been very good at it! Had I gone down that route I could also potentially be married to a Pussycat Doll by now too. I blame my parents!”

What’s the biggest setback Dominic’s ever faced?

“I have been fortunate not to have too many setbacks. When I moved to London the job I had originally moved down for fell through. That felt pretty rubbish, not having a job doesn’t sit well with me and I went from having a nice flat, great lifestyle and lots of responsibility to having nothing and living back with my parents.

“I found that really hard. I found exercise helped me focus a lot and fortunately I got set up again quickly. Exercise is something I use a lot when I am finding things tough; it helps me to focus my thoughts.”

Dominic is famed for his inventive cocktail menus, often emulating elements of new fashion lines or perfumes – who does he dream of collaborating with?

“There are some cool British brands that I really admire – I love the way Barbour has brought British heritage to high street fashion, but also other heritage brands like Burberry would be fun to work with. I’m not really inspired by most celebrities, but I like Molly King – I would make a nice cocktail for her!”

Now for the all-important question – what’s his favourite cocktail?

“I like working with rose and other floral flavours, I find the structure of them intriguing and I love the way you can transform flavour profiles with very little. I used lots of rhubarb this year, it is a flavour lots of people have fond memories of from childhood. I also like using herbs, like thyme, and rosemary, they are very underused in cocktails and they add such a wonderful dimension to drinks.

“I like to drink in season – I am not a fan of drinking cocktails containing fruits which have flown from the other side of the world, losing flavour every mile of the journey. I am always a fan of a good Bloody Mary, it is amazing how many people get it wrong though!”

So where does Dominic see himself in ten year’s time?

“I guess my dream would be to own a string of successful bars and restaurants of my own. I would say that is achievable in 10 years, but who knows where my career will take me. There’s still time to win the Grand Prix and marry a Pussycat Doll!”

We hope he continues dreaming up cocktails for years to come – we’re hooked on his creations!

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