Danny McManus is a Glasgow-based bartender with a passion for mixology and talent for finding your new favorite Scotch.
Danny is an experienced bartender, helping people choose their new favorite bottle of Whisky in The Good Spirits Company by day, and stirring up drinks across the bar at The Gate by night. How did he wind up in the wonderful world of Spirits? Let's sit back and have a sip with one of Glasgow's top notch bartenders. Sláinte!
When did that Eureka moment happen when you realized your mission is to be a bartender?
So I was pursuing a career in photography at college when I got my first job as a bartender. I didn’t know much, but instantly fell in love with the social and creative aspect of the role - being able to engage with people and provide them with an experience, whilst exercising my creative side at the same time? It was a perfect fit for someone like me who wasn’t academically inclined while growing up. This has taken me on to work in what I view as two of the finest establishments in Glasgow, The Gate, and The Good Spirits Company.
What are the TOP 5 skills every bartender should have?
Two skills that have benefited me are listening and patience, whether that be listening to a customer who’s had a rubbish day and just wants to sip a cold drink and offload, or taking constructive criticism - it's always steered me in the right direction. Good organizational skills are another, no one wants to work alongside a bartender who can’t keep their station clean and their priorities in check.
The last two would have to be quick thinking and having a good sense of humor - being able to deal with whatever the night throws at you and laughing about it after is key to getting through those tough shifts.
Which cocktail is the biggest pain in the ass to make, pardon our French?
Anything with cream, it gets everywhere no matter how clean and precise a bartender you are! We’ve all been in that situation when someone forgets to clean the jigger after making a Piña Colada and you go to pour something neat...no one likes milky, cloudy Whisky.
And which cocktail is served in your version of heaven?
I think it totally depends on what mood I’m in, however, right now I’m loving a Black Manhattan made with Talisker 10 and Amaro Montenegro. If you haven't tried this combo please do it and thank me later.
Which drink or cocktail would you say is way underrated? (And a tricky followup: Which one is the most overrated?)
In my book, The Adonis is a drink that I don't see enough of. I absolutely love Sherry and Vermouth, so this is a match made in heaven. I’ve never been a fan of Bloody Mary, never finished one and would never order one, but maybe I’ve just not had a good one? Recipes on a postcard, please.
You come home, slide into something comfortable, and throw yourself on the couch. What's in your glass?
I love nothing more than sitting down with a Belgian Beer like Westmalle Dubbel in one glass and a neat Ben Nevis10yr in the other.
I’ve never been a fan of Bloody Mary…
What are the five essential ingredients every booze lover should have in their home bar?
I would say a classic London Dry Gin, Whisk(e)y (either Scotch or American), a nice aged Rum, Angostura bitters, and lastly some Sherry or Vermouth. You can make some very tasty drinks with just these ingredients.
Which booze is the most versatile?
Over the last couple of years, I have surrounded myself with my national Spirit and it has opened my eyes as to how versatile Scotch can be I can feel all the purists judging me as I type this, but Scotch is just as mixable as Gin, is far more diverse in flavor and can be consumed in a range of different ways. Though I may be somewhat biased.
Is there a favorite life hack you learned at your job?
I wouldn't say it’s a life hack but being organized not only helps when I’m working a busy shift but helps keep me on track with things I have going on outside of the bar or shop. Properly utilizing a calendar has massively improved my ability to plan.
No one wants to work alongside a bartender who can’t keep their station clean and their priorities in check.
What's the craziest anecdote you're willing to share with us?
I worked in a bar where we used to have fake bottles of expensiveChampagne sitting near the front door and one night after shift they were gone. It always makes me laugh when I think about the thieves’ faces opening them up only to realize they’re empty.
What are your passions outside the world of Spirits?
Photography has always been a big hobby for me, though I set it aside when I first started bartending as I couldn’t find the right direction to take it in. This was until fairly recently when I decided to combine the two things I’m most interested in - drinks and photography. Since then I’ve rediscovered my passion for it.
What would you be doing if you weren't a bartender?
I have absolutely no idea, bartending has helped to define my character, so I can’t really envisage myself not standing behind a bar or working with Spirits in some way. I would like to see where photography takes me over the next few years.
Tell us what's your favorite tool of the trade and why.
We recently got an immersion blender on the bar, or what I like to refer to as the lazy man's dry shake! So much time saved and beautiful frothy cocktails every single time.
I can’t really envisage myself not standing behind a bar or working with Spirits in some way.
Fast-forward five years. Where do you see yourself?
I would love to be in the process of opening my own bar by then.
A Genie tells you to pick someone to fix a drink for; dead or alive, real or fictional. Who would it be?
I would love to fix a drink for Dave Grohl. I grew up listening to Nirvana and the Foo Fighters and he just seems like a genuinely nice guy. I also bet he has some crazy stories to tell!