It’s been months in the making, but soon The Vanguard opens its doors to much anticipation. Headed up by all round cocktail boss Sam Boulton the bar is serving drinks with personality, and even delves into the wonderful world of mead. We chatted to the man himself.
Q: Thanks for joining us Sam! Tell us the story of your humble introduction to the cocktail world.
A: It’s been a long journey from my first job as a glass collector at TGIs on Hagley Road. After a few years working my way to manager I decided my planned post-university career wasn’t for me. I started to up my game, learned everything I could, researched in my own time and took part every masterclass available. I landed myself in a beautiful bar called Tiger Hornsby working under the owner who pushed me to progressing and moving forward.
Q: Full of experience, ripe for a return to the home city and with a bag full of dreams and cocktail shakers. How did Brum tempt you back?
A: I returned to Brum when I took the Bar Managers position at Harvey Nichols in the Mailbox. That’s where I realised working for other people wasn’t for me – I always felt restricted. I turned self employed and since then have had the opportunity to work with many clients from large commercial chains, multisite operators, aspiring Michelin Star restaurants, independent bars and even the owner of the national retail chain Oddbins!
Q: It seems like it’s been on the cards for a while, but why The Vanguard, and why at this moment in time?
A: Vanguard means “a position at the forefront of new developments or ideas”.
I’ve always loved introducing people to new things in the world of alcohol. I have a passion for the weird and wonderful and want to show it off. I didn’t want opening my own bar to become a pipe dream like it does for so many bartenders, so for the past 6 months this has been my only focus.
Q: Spoken like the words of a true Brummie. What can people expect from the bar, and will the preview sessions be a window into the experience?
A: I hope every time someone visits The Vanguard they’ll try something new and interesting, be it a homemade ferment, mead or grappa. The preview sessions will be an opportunity for us to gain honest feedback from customers on both our cocktail and hospitality offering. We’ll be selling drinks as tasters and we’ll develop our menu with the feedback we receive.
Q: Here’s a tough one: You’re allowed to pick one drink off the new menu, which one?
My favourite so far of our developments is our Banana Colada! Using Koko Kanu coconut rum, Gabriel Boudier kaffir lime leaf, fresh pressed pineapple juice, soy milk and homemade banana juice! There’s nothing more I’d love than to be sat on a beach drinking these all my life, until then I’m bringing it to the JQ instead.
Q: The inclusion of mead in The Vanguard’s offering has raised curious eyebrows, what was the inspo behind bringing it to the JQ?
Yes! A lot of people are unfamiliar with mead, but the reception has been fantastic. I love giving people new experiences and I didn’t want this to stop at the cocktails. Over the past two years I’ve introduced so many people to Gosnell’s Mead – one of my favourite brands – as it’s an amazing beverage. For this new drinking experience it made sense to focus on a vanguard market: Mead.
Q: Thanks Sam! Any final words for those waiting patiently for The Vanguard to open its doors?
This is a project i’ve been working on for a while and I’m already so proud of what it’s become. I look forward to greeting you at the door and introducing you to a new style of drinking in Birmingham.