A Q&A with Sir Edmond Gin & Sound Pairing Competition winner André Montijn

When André Montijn started bartending twelve years ago, he had no idea it would become a lifelong passion. Now 45, he manages The Dublin House and The Peacock Bar in Zwolle, Netherlands.

André isn’t just passionate, he’s driven by a vision: to seamlessly blend the worlds of fine dining and handcrafted cocktails, providing guests with an exceptional experience. We’ll also delve into his recent triumph at the Sir Edmond Gin & Sound Pairing Competition, where his pairing secured him the win.

Before diving into the competition, let’s talk about your experience as a bartender. Where did your passion for this craft begin?

My passion for cocktail bartending started around 12 years ago and about 8 years ago I’ve decided to take a deep dive into this beautiful way of artmaking. After meeting a lot of amazing bartenders through competitions, masterclasses my passion for bartender grew by the day and now I’m really interested to bring the fine dining business together with our industry, cocktailbartending.

What are some of the key qualities that make a great bartender?

In my opinion a bartender needs to be a part of a team with different qualities since we as a person are all unique in our own way. But if you look at the perfect bartender he/she needs to be social and give the guests a warm feeling at the bar and also be a good listener.  Also creativity is a part of bartending combined with knowledge to provide our guest of the best advice. Keep on learning. Most important aspect is teamwork since you cannot run a bar alone, so set aside the ego and work together is my alltime advice.

Can you tell us about the bar you work at? What kind of atmosphere do you create for your guests?

I’m working as manager at The Dublin House ( Entrée Awards winner Best New Café 2022 & The Peacock Bar in Zwolle ( Entrée Awards runner up Best New Cocktailbar 2023), a place in the east of the Netherlands, responsible for running a super great team of around 70 amazing people. The Dublin House is a Modern Irish Pub where you can eat quality pub food, mostly from the charcoal grill,17 taps for beers, a inhouse whisk(e)y bar (130+), 2 professional cocktailstations ( 14 well educated bartenders ) and a massive terrace. The Peacock Bar is a super fancy speakeasy bar which you enter with a special code and a hidden entrance in The Dublin House.

When it comes to creating cocktails, what inspires you?

Oeh, good question, I think it inspires me the most to create a cocktail for a guest who gives me his/her flavor profile and make something that fits totally with what they said. A happy face is the best compliment for a bartender. If you take a look at the industries I’m very inspired by fine dining and cocktail bartending. I think food pairing is the next big thing in the coming years. Who doesn’t love good food and impeccable drinks?

Now that we’ve gotten to know you a little better, let’s move forward to the competition.

Congratulations on winning the Sir Edmond Gin & Sound Pairing Competition! Can you tell us about the competition and what made you decide to enter?

Thank you!! The Sir Edmond Gin & Sound Pairing Competition  is one of the coolest competitions i’ve ever entered and since I also have a great passion for great music I didn’t hesitate to grab that invitation from the ambassador of Sir Edmond Gin.

What was the pairing you submitted for the competition? Can you walk us through the thought process behind it and how you ensured the gin and sound complemented each other?

The pairing I’ve made was  with a song from Jean Knight called Mr Big Stuff, a very big hit from 1971 reaching No2 position on Billboard Hot 100. It’s song about a man who thinks he can have all the ladies in the club by flashing with his money and status. Jean Knight is a strong independent who tells him in this song he cannot get her. It inspired me a lot since there are a lot of assholes in bars who have the wrong intensions towards women with an attitude that doesn’t fit in the time we are living.  This touch of awareness in my presentation is probably the winning factor. I’ve also made a food pairing together with my friend Niek van Leeuwen ( restaurant owner & top chef of L’Église restaurant in Zwolle to complete  my presentation. It was a Baba Au gin with orange, blueberry foam and off course Sir Edmond Gin.

Speaking of Sir Edmond Gin, its distinctive Bourbon Vanilla character is a key element. Have you experimented with other creations using this unique flavour profile?

The Bourbon Vanilla character is a beautiful flavour to work with in other cocktails, as a matter of fact, we have the Sir Edmond Collins in our bars on the menu and especially people who love to drink an impeccable gin with an unique taste really appreciate this one of a kind gin. A very popular drink at the moment. Also the Ramos Gin Fizz with Sir Edmond Gin is an absolute cracker!

Do you have any advice for the bartenders who are going to enter the Italian Sir Edmond Gin & Sound Pairing Competition?

Yes I have! Have fun! Let the music inspire you to create a marvellous pairing with Sir Edmond Gin. Choose a catchy song with funky beats and rock the bar at the finals! ( it worked for me 😉 )

Looking ahead, what are your hopes and aspirations for the future of your bartending career?

My aspirations for the future are bright and clear, I’m going to focus myself more on coaching and teaching young bartenders to inspire them to make the best of themselves in their bartending career combined with motivating them to enter competitions. For myself I want to take a deeper dive into the world of fine dining and all the techniques you can adjust in the world of bartending.

Good luck to all the Italian bartenders,

Yours sincerely

André Montijn

The Dublin House & The Peacock Bar

Read the full article about our previous Sir Edmond Gin & Sound Pairing Competition here.