Full name: Alex Kammerling
Twitter Handle: @kammandsons
Fun Fact: “I once had a dump in Elton John’s toilet” [Ed: strong]
J: Let’s start at the beginning. You launched Kamm and Sons, the aperitif that has made your name back in 2011, which was inspired by Campari. You yourself have quite an exciting career trajectory – I read that you moved to London to pursue your sculpting, took a job in a bar to make ends meet, eventually became a brand ambassador for Grey Goose and some years later…here we are! Could you help us fill in the gaps? Where did this all begin, did you always know that a career in food and drink was on the cards for you?
A: Not at all! I totally fell into the drinks industry by being in the right bar at the right time and channelling my creativity into making cocktails. I was lucky enough to get a job at Detroit bar in the 1997 and learnt how to make Espresso martinis, Brambles and Mojitos from Dick Bradsell’s bar team. I won a few cocktail competitions and started doing some writing for Class magazine.
This lead to writing a cocktail book and moving from the bar into training and consultancy. From there I started doing brand ambassador work for Martin Millers and it was whilst I was working for them that I thought of the idea of Kamm & Sons.
For a few years, you had the guys at Thames Distillers making Kamm for you, under contract, but you’ve now gone and built your own distillery in your parents’ back garden (I’d definitely do that if I could distil and our garden). You’re making a newer gin there, right? Could you tell us a bit about that the process of building a micro-distillery (in a garden) and the gin?
Actually all of the testing was done (illegally!) in my garden shed before we moved the kit to my parent’s garden. Getting the distilling license was fairly straightforward and much easier than I thought it would have been – a few forms, a visit from HMRC and then an approval! Our still is a basic copper alembic, which does a great job at making gin.
You’re based in London, right? Whereabouts are you? What’s good in terms of food and drink in your vicinity?
I am in Finsbury Park area – Not exactly world-renown for it’s culinary offering, but there is a great Sushi place, Dotori, a cheap but excellent vegetarian Indian, Jai Krishner (where you have to write your own orders for the kitchen) and Season Kitchen which is a bit posher. Apart from a couple of decent pubs (Fultering Fullback/The Diary) the nearest place for a good cocktail is probably Upper St.
What’s a ‘day in your life’ like? Could you give us an insight into the business of distillation?
Most of the distillation is now done my Mum & Dad, so my days are very different to theirs as I now do more of the coal-face promotion/selling. I normally start my days with a coffee in the office (at the end of the garden) catching up on admin/paperwork before heading out on appointments with bars/managers/buyers. I normally do several aperitif training’s per week around the sweet-spot of 3pm before shifts start. Depending on the week, I will then either head back to the office to do any testing/tasting that needs doing or hit a few bars to try some drinks before heading home.
What’s your greatest/most memorable professional moment been, so far?
I am always pretty chuffed when I get a random tweet/instagram post from someone who has just tried Kamm & Sons for the first time, or when I walk into a new bar and it is on the list already….but I guess making drinks in Elton’s John’s house was pretty showbiz!
Where do you get your ideas?
They normally just pop-in unannounced, but could come from a conversation I have had, a magazine I have read, a piece of art I have liked or a combination of all of them.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had, how did you overcome it, and what did you learn from it?
Having to change the brand name from ‘Kammerlings’ in the first year of business was a painful mistake – a steep lesson learned about checking your Trade Marks!
Who’s the person who’s most inspired you in your work? Is there anyone that you draw inspiration or strength from, or do you have any specific influences?
Although a bit cheesy, it has to be my dad. He also had his own business when I was growing up and I liked the fact that he was his own boss. He has a good work ethic but if he needed to take time out in the week or during long school holidays he would.
What do you enjoy most and least about what you do?
Although I don’t mind admin, but I prefer being ‘out and about’ with customers. My least favourite part of my job is chasing people. A lot of the bar industry don’t use E-mail like the rest of us!
What advice would you give to aspiring drinks entrepreneurs who’d want the kind of results that you’ve had?
Don’t get disheartened, it is tough out there and will be days you want to pack it all in but stick with it!
If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing instead?
If you could get anyone to try your drinks (fictional or real, living or dead) who would you pick and which of the drinks would you like them to try? Assume that they go on to be your brand ambassador…
I would like to crack a bottle of Kamm & Sons Islay Cask with comedian Nick Offerman
And we always ask three customary ridiculous questions…
If you could swap lives for the day with any fictional character (and you’d be guaranteed to return to your life after 24 hours), who would you choose, and why?
Asterix…I would like to find out what is in his magic potion!
If you had to become some kind of vegetable related superhero, which would you become, and what would your superpower be?
Captain Kale – Cleansing the world of fascism, one bite at a time
If you were forced to live on one kind of food for the rest of your life (assume that your metabolism becomes specifically adapted to use this as your sole source of calories, so you had to eat this to survive) – which would you pick, and why?
Bacon. So damn tasty!