Bartender of the Month

James Hagen of Stables Bar, Barloch

It seems quite apt that the barman at an establish- ment called the Stables Bar should be a keen horse-rider. When he's not behind the taps or serving from an array of optics, James Hagen, the latest winner in Black Heart Rum's Bartender of the Month competition, can often be seen on horseback around the spectacular countryside of Balloch and Loch Lomond.

'l've been riding for years,“ he says, 'although now it's just for fun. Unfortunately, however, I don‘t have time to keep my own horse, because that's almost a job in itself.“

James is kept particularly busy due to the fact that the large central bar in the Stables serves not only a public lounge, but also a snack area and a dining room. The three-in-one nature of his job means

that he is able to juggle the skills he has picked up since he left school, including those he mastered during his eleven years in the hotel trade.

'Sometimes people come in for a special meal to celebrate a silver wedding, things like that,‘ he explains. 'If the bar is quiet, I'll be able to get into the kitchen and help there, serving the party

As yet, I haven't had to become part barman part tourist guide.

that's in and getting a chance to talk to them. It makes a difference to get out amongst the tables and not have the barrier of the bar itself between me and the customers.‘

Although the Stables Bar has its own cocktail

menu, James is willing to mix up any special preferences the customers might have, and Black Heart Rum regularly plays an important part in the proceedings. And, during the summer in particular, it is always possible to get some unusual requests from the hordes of foreign tourists who visit the area.

'Sometimes the language differences can cause a few problems,‘ he admits, 'and I'll have to take more time with them, but that‘s all part of the barman'sjob. I'll find out what they want to drink, or whether they're in for a bar snack or wanting to order from the a la carte menu. But as yet, I haven't had to become part-barman, part-tourist guide.“

Photograph: Douglas Robertson