Raising the Bar

Joe Harper, Head Bartender, Beaufort Bar at The Savoy.

Published: 27th July 2018

Our exclusive editorial feature series ‘Raising the Bar’ gets behind the bar and meets the head barmen and women at some of the world’s most respected, loved and admired bars in the world. With a focus on Scottish Gin, mixology and more, ‘Raising the Bar’ provides a fascinating and unique insight directly from the people who are at the forefront of global bar culture.

What’s your name and what do you do?

I’m Joe Harper, I’m the Head Bartender at the Beaufort Bar.

How did you get into the world of bartending?

Completely by accident – I was looking for some part time work whilst studying at University. I became immediately enchanted with the world of drinks and hospitality. After graduating, I decided to pursue that enchantment and haven’t really looked back since.

What makes The Beaufort Bar unique?

The Beaufort Bar has a few things that makes it special – first and foremost, it will always be its team. The team at The Beaufort Bar is an incredibly passionate group of individuals and I am privileged to work with them every day. Secondly would be the physical room where The Beaufort Bar resides. Prior to it becoming The Beaufort Bar, it was a stage, and that theatricality is woven into what we do, and the cocktails we present. This gives the bar a genuinely unique feel, atmosphere, and overall experience for everyone that comes through the doors.

Scotland is famous for its Whisky but are there any Scottish Gins you’ve heard of that you would like to try?

Fortunately when I come across a new liquid it’s usually in a context that allows me to try it as well. Having said that, the growth of the category in Scotland is very exciting at the moment, and producers like Arbikie and Edinburgh Gin to name just two have made some very exciting products.

You serve an array of amazing cocktails and drinks but does your clientele have a favourite cocktail? 

Our cocktail mix is very varied; we have guests coming for drinks from our menu as well as a wide variety of classics. I will say that our martinis are a standout in terms of popularity.

It currently feels like gin has never been more popular. Have you seen a gin renaissance over the last few years? 

There has absolutely been a renaissance in the gin category. Ten years ago if you asked a guest ordering a gin and tonic if they had any preferences, they would often just say “no”. Now, consumers are much more aware of the variety of what is available to them, and keen to explore different options as well. The idea of a consumer targeted gin tasting event five or six years ago would have been a tough sell, but now it’s a popular idea in various arenas in the industry.

What’s the best part of your job?

This has to be creating great guest experiences. When people arrive with already high expectations and leave with those expectations exceeded, that gives you a kind of satisfaction that is hard to describe.

Are there any other bars on your tick list to visit?

I’m really excited to see Laki Kane, the team behind it are very talented so I’m keen to experience what they’ve put together.

Who are you bartending heroes? 

This is a very long list, but Craig Harper has been a good friend and mentor since I started my career.

What are the essential ingredients for running a successful bar?

I feel that the most important ingredients for a successful bar are humility, passion and patience.

What Scottish Gins do you currently have behind your bar?

Currently we have Tanqueray and Tanqueray No TEN, Hendrick’s and The Botanist.

How important is provenance to you and does this influence the spirits brands that you keep behind the bar?

Provenance is incredibly important. Producers are taking more and more care and providing more and more information about how their spirits are made and where their ingredients come from. This is very much in consumer awareness now as well, as people are increasingly interested in how their drinks are made – reflecting this in what we choose to use behind the bar is crucial as it helps us to engage with our guests by sharing the stories of how the wonderful liquids we have came to be.

What’s next for The Beaufort Bar?

The Beaufort Bar will always strive to be at the pinnacle of luxury hospitality, finding wonderful products for us to share with our guests. That’s the direction the team and I are very excited to continue down as the Beaufort Bar develops into the future.

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