Unique, stylish and in demand, that’s what we like to think NB Gin is and that just so happens to sum up our cocktail expert TJ Littlejohn from Bar In A Box.
TJ turned his gap year job into a passion… and then a successful events business and, when he’s not creating some of the world’s most innovative cocktails, he’s spreading the NB Gin word far and wide as the company’s brand ambassador.
We caught up with TJ this week, as he took a well-earned break from training up and coming bartenders all over the UK to get his insights into gin and cocktails.
TJ’s services are in high demand but how did it all start for him?
“I started off as a waiter when I was 15, and when I turned 18 I became a bartender and was working part time in a pub when I was at uni.
“I was supposed to be a marine biologist. I wasn’t enjoying uni, and had a year out. There are two types of people who work in bars – people who do it for a job and those who do it for the lifestyle. For me, it wasn’t supposed to be a career but I really enjoyed it and that was it from there.
“Cocktails and liqueur just grabbed me and it turned into a real passion. It became a lifestyle for me very quickly.”
Long, unsociable hours didn’t seem to put TJ off and as he improved his knowledge and abilities as a cocktail bartender, he started to find there was real demand for his talents.
“I started doing events, for people having birthday parties in the beginning, and people just started asking me to do bigger and better events.
“That’s how Bar In A Box started. It grew from initially just doing things for friends and it became a lifestyle. Suddenly I had a client list and we got popular quite quickly.”
Now, TJ and Bar In A Box – much like NB Gin – are winning plaudits far and wide. TJ’s company has branched out into festivals and other large events and was even hired for the VIP area at Party In The Palace.
The relationship that TJ has with NB Gin is one that he is proud of and it all started with a few new cocktails that he created for us. Since then, NB Gin and TJ Littlejohn have gone together like a Gin & Tonic.
“NB Gin took me to Madrid for three days for the Gin Show last year, which was fantastic and an amazing experience.
“As soon as I tasted what NB Gin produce, I really loved it. It’s something I always really enjoy.
“I think there’s a number of aspects to NB Gin’s success; partly, right place, right time; Viv [Muir, NB Gin CEO] is incredibly good at what she does and thirdly Steve [Muir, NB Gin master distiller] makes a fantastic gin and knows so much about gin.
“I love speaking to Steve as I always seem to learn so much from him.
“From the bottle, the design, the gin itself, NB Gin is run by the right people who have more than just passion for it, there’s love and insight to it and that’s something people can buy into and relate to very easily. People love that.”
We could not possibly interview a cocktail expert like TJ without getting some advice. For TJ, it’s quite straightforward. There are golden rules to making a good cocktail that must be adhered to. So what are they TJ?
“First of all, loads of ice. It doesn’t really matter what the cocktail is, but plenty ice is always going to give it a lift.
“Secondly, don’t be scared. Some people get intimidated by cocktails but there’s no need. Be bold and creative and think outside the box. That’s when I became a much better barman; when I learned to experiment.
“The last thing is, enjoy it. Cocktails are to be enjoyed and making them should be fun. Don’t try too hard and appreciate the ingredients that you’re working with. Remember that, but seriously, the ice is really important.”
Visit the Bar In A Box website here to learn more about TJ.