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Personal touch behind spectacular cocktails at Aberdeen’s Sandman Signature Hotel

Callum Davie is hopeful that more people will make a night of it at Chop Grill &Bar within Sandman Signature. Image: Paul Glendell/DC Thomson.
Callum Davie is hopeful that more people will make a night of it at Chop Grill &Bar within Sandman Signature. Image: Paul Glendell/DC Thomson.

You’d be hard pushed not to like Callum Davie, suited and booted with the wit to match.

At just 21 years old, he’s often the smiling face to greet you from behind the polished bar at Chop Grill & Bar within Sandman Signature Hotel in Aberdeen.

He admits that people are often surprised at his young age, but he possesses a quiet confidence beyond his years.

Misjudge Callum at your peril, for he is an expert cocktail maker and an all-round showman when it comes to serving up the most glamorous of cocktails.

Shaken, not stirred; Callum and his team know what they’re talking about and make it their business to get to know each and every customer.

With an array of colourful umbrellas hanging from the impossibly high ceiling in the grand reception hall, the Granite City is lucky to have such as venue as Sandman Signature, complete with a luxurious spa and beautiful rooms.

It also offers the Robert Gordon Ballroom, alongside four other function spaces.

We of course got to experience the beautiful ballroom for real after Sandman Signature played host to The Society Awards 2022, where guests enjoyed an excellent three-course meal and entertainment.

But outside of functions and hotel stays, Callum believes that people may not be aware that you need not be a guest to sample what’s on offer at Chop Grill & Bar alongside Freedom An’ Whisky Lounge.

Sandman Signature bar and restaurant open to all — not just guests

“Both Chop and Freedom An’ Whisky are open to anyone, not just hotel guests,” said Callum, who has high ambitions of becoming the general manager at a Sandman venue within the next three years.

“We’re really pushing towards having our entity, and we’re creating a custom cocktail menu which should be ready next year.

“We also have a huge selection of whisky, crafted cocktails and of course our gin selection.”

Callum Davie is passionate about excellent food and drink, including cocktails. Image: Paul Glendell / DC Thomson

Callum is passionate about good service and believes there are some classic cocktails which are here to stay.

“The Pornstar Martini for example, when it is done right it is a fantastic drink,” he said.

“All our staff are trained in cocktail making, but we can also create custom cocktails.

“I think that’s one of the things I love about the job, letting the creativity flow.

“The Bramble cocktail is very popular,  it’s made with gin, blackcurrant liquor, lemon juice and gomme. It looks really appealing and it’s such great fun to make.

“The secret is of course to make the whole process look both simple and intricate.”

Impressing customers key to good service

Callum also has a soft spot for a Bloody Mary, and guests can enjoy seeing the staff demonstrate “showmanship” behind the bar.

“There’s a technique called ‘throwing’ which is so fun to do, where you’re pouring the cocktail back and forth,” said Callum.

Callum believes attention to detail makes Chop Grill &Bar stand out. Image: Paul Glendell / DC Thomson

“Bartenders of course, make it look easy.

“If you add fire to the mix, things get even more interesting. That’s what makes people say wow.”

One of Callum’s favourite aspects of the job is catching up with customers, with people visiting Chop Bar & Grill alongside Sandman Signature from all over the world.

The gorgeous whisky lounge stocks more than 100 whiskies from across Scotland. Image: Paul Glendell / DC Thomson

“Everyone has their own individual life story,” said Callum.

“I think it’s important to take the time in finding out about people, that personal fine detail.

“People visit us from all over the world; we get a lot of international luxury tour groups staying here.

“American, German, Dutch, Norwegian. That’s the fascinating aspect of the job.”

Signature style perfect for Aberdeen

If you’re after a selfie, Chop has just the right interior.

You’ll find a modern Scottish twist with tartan feature walls, and of course a nod to Aberdeen.

“The ‘gies us a bosie’ sign is pretty popular for photos,” said Callum.

Selfie-ready thanks to Aberdonian-inspired decor within Sandman Signature. Image: Paul Glendell / DC Thomson

“It’s that aesthetic which people want to show on their social media, and that’s what we’ve adapted to here at Sandman Signature.

“I think my favourite space has to be our whisky lounge though, it’s Aberdeen’s first premium whisky lounge so that’s pretty special.”

Venture inside and you’ll find a gorgeous snug vibe, with cosy armchairs and dimmed lighting.

It’s difficult to believe that the bustling streets of Aberdeen are right outside, for Freedom An’ Whisky Lounge is the perfect place to relax and unwind.

What’s on offer at the bar?

And with more than 100 whiskies on offer, it’s the ultimate dream for enthusiasts and novices alike.

The extensive menu covers whisky by region, and includes everything from Aberlour Distillery to Speyside and the Highlands/Islands.

And if alcohol isn’t your thing, fear not.

Callum loves the creative side to his job as bar manager.  Image: Paul Glendell / DC Thomson

“We also offer none alcoholic drinks, including a virgin Bloody Mary and non-alcoholic gin,” said Callum.

“We’re really proud of the alcoholic gins which we offer as well.

“We offer Scottish small-batch gins, including Porter’s Gin.

“You can’t get more local than that.”

A round of questions with Callum Davie

Callum Davie is a master at cocktails, but which drink does he think represents Aberdeen. Image: Paul Glendell/DC Thomson

What’s in your drinks cabinet at home?

I have quite a lot of gins, whisky, a couple of vodkas and cocktail ingredients.

What drink would you make to represent Aberdeen?

I think a Pornstar Martini is what would really appeal to the people of Aberdeen the most.

What three things would you take to a desert island?

A bottle of alcohol of some description, clothing, I’m not sure what else. Definitely not my phone though.

Tell us a secret to the hospitality trade?

Be yourself.

If you had to serve a famous person, who would it be and what would you serve them?

Nirmal Purja, a Nepal-born British mountaineer who holds the record of climbing all 14 highest peaks in the world which he called “Project Possible”.

If he sat down at the bar, I’d serve him a Rock Rose Scottish gin with dehydrated grapefruit and a smoked sprig of rosemary paired with Fever-Tree original tonic, or a Highland Park 18 Whisky.