Joe Schofield rocketed to bartending fame with his innovative multi-sensory Sensorium cocktail menus created for Singapore’s Tippling Club.
With the Memory Triggers menu, guests smelled menu blotters infused with nostalgia-inducing aromas then chose a cocktail that evoked a pleasant echo of their past. With Dreams and Desires, they sampled an array of gummy bears with tastes representing various aspirations, then selected a cocktail that matched their heart’s most intimate wish.
Schofield’s creative genius saw him take the title of International Bartender of the Year at the 2018 Tales of The Cocktail Spirited Awards, while his down-to-earth charm got him voted as Bartender’s Bartender at The World’s 50 Best Bars in the same year. It’s an unusual mix, and indeed he’s the only person in history to have won both accolades.
In this exclusive Food24 interview – ahead of Schofield’s visit to South Africa – we got some insight into what makes him tick.
Tell us more about your fascinating Sensorium menus.
The two menus, designed by chef Ryan Clift and I, were created to explore the senses. Our first was Memory Triggers – the best way to create memory triggers is through aroma. You took out menu blotters, and each one had a unique fragrance: rain, grass, leather, etc. Next we wanted to look to the future with Dreams and Desires, an edible menu. Each of the gummy bears took on the main flavours of the drinks, plus flavours that were synonymous with different dreams and desires.
You worked with flavourists and perfumers to create the menus, right?
Yes. We collaborated with International Flavours and Fragrances to help our vision become a reality.
You’ve since created a business called Sensorium. What’s that about?
We started Sensorium after I left Singapore [to start Schofield’s Bar in Manchester] to continue exploring the relationship between bartender and chef. We do consulting and products, and we’re exploring the possibility of standalone venues around the world.
Where do you find inspiration?
I’m a huge fan of cross-pollination; collaborating with different industries to create something truly unique. [For instance] there are many things we can learn from the chef world: ingredients, techniques and ideologies, such as mise en place.
What do you love most about bartending?
I love being given the opportunity to meet new people and have the chance to understand their background and culture a little more. Currently I’m travelling around the world to do masterclasses, pop-ups, seminars, food-pairing dinners and to judge cocktail competitions, and I feel very fortunate for this.
You have some serious accolades under your belt. What has been most crucial to your success?
I think as bartenders it’s so easy to get caught up in the craft of making cocktails – what’s most important is to take care of your guests and make sure they have a great experience.
You’ll be in SA this week. What brings you to our neck of the woods?
The main reason for my visit is to support Beyond Bars Akademia. It’s an incredibly inspiring charity run by Stephanie Simbo that’s about giving ex-offending women a second chance in life. I think this is a great way to encourage diversity in our industry, and it also gives the women the tools that they need to have a career in hospitality. Beam Suntory has been very generous to support this activation.
Schofield will be doing guest shifts in Cape Town and Joburg bars during his visit.
Cape Town: Athletic Club & Social, Saturday 29 June 6pm to 8pm
Joburg: Sin & Tax, Monday 1 July 7pm to 10pm