Booze hounds

Hamish Smith

Who are you and what do you do? Tell us about yourself…

I’m a drinks journalist, which, contrary to what most people seem to think, doesn’t mean I drink for a living. Like a lot of people, I stare into computers for a living.

I have a few titles – both roles and magazines. Primarily I fall under the banner of the editor of CLASS magazine, but three months of the year, you’ll find me working on projects for Drinks International as its Bars Editor. In my spare time, I’m the World’s 50 Best Bars Academy chair for EMEA, which means I help pick the people that pick the bars that make up the list – it’s administration with advantages.

What’s the best thing about your job?

A journalist never gets bored of seeing his or her name in print. It’s part of the attraction for hacks no matter how earnest they appear – writing something you expect someone else to read is the ultimate excersise in egotism. I feel great that you just read that.

To edit a magazine though is a different thing altogether. You find yourself doing all sorts of things that you might not think amounts to journalism. One day I might be tediously inputting numbers into a spreadsheet, the next photographing Peter Dorelli in a bubble bath – this job has variety.

I should probably say something profound about my ambitions to change the drinks industry for the better, but really I just create a magazine I find interesting, at times humorous, and blindly hope others do too.

You can teleport to any bar in the world, where are you going?

Floridita, Havana. I know, a dreadfully clichéd choice. And yes, I know the drinks there aren’t exactly mind-blowing and I agree it’s a tourist trap of grand proportions… but there’s something about drinking Daiquiris in Floridita, under the fans, the four-piece band – bored out of their minds – singing the same old Cuban classics. Hemmingway would hate it now, but he’d stay for a Daiquiri. 

Where’s your favourite city for bar-hopping?

Somewhere where you don’t have to use transport. Lower Manhattan is pretty good for that, Athens too, Soho increasingly.

What’s your idea of a party?

I’ve got two young kids so the word party now conjures up images of soft play on a Saturday afternoon, chewing on orange food and making small talk with other parents that wish they weren’t there. It’s rare that I let loose these days. Though I’ve had enough experience in that area – let’s move on. 

Who in the industry would you love to rock up to the bar next to you?

Someone that talks a lot but is interesting with it. More specifically someone that has lived a decade or longer than I have and knows about things beyond drinks – so maybe someone like David Wondrich or Dave Broom. I know them but not so well that I’ve heard all their stories. 

What is your desert island bottle?

Lagavulin 16. I love smokey Scotch and I like the rounded edges of Lagavulin. Besides, I’d hate to be vulgar and chose something unaffordable. On a desert island, there’s a lot of time to ponder profligacy.

What’s your failsafe cocktail?

If it’s hot a Daquiri, if it’s cold, a Penicillin. If it’s somewhere in between, either or both.

What is your hangover cure?

Until we’re drinking Alcosynth, there isn’t one, but I find a nice mixture of inactivity and eating gets the job done.


Booze hounds