My Way: 'I saw Tom Cruise in Cocktail and thought, I could do that'

Bartender Wayne Collins is an award-winning bar trainer and mixologist, providing bespoke cocktail-styling for events such as the Baftas. He is a development manager at Maxxium, the drinks company.

What did you want to be as a child?

A professional footballer and play for Arsenal.

What did you realistically think you'd end up doing?

I thought I might be in catering or hospitality. But I also wanted to be a paramedic. Then I stumbled on what I do now.

How did that happen?

I worked on a fruit and veg stall in Queens Crescent Market in Camden, North London, first as a Saturday job, and then full-time when I left school at 16. I enjoyed it and I made decent money but by the time I was 19 it was playing havoc with my social life. When a relative bought a pub in east London, I found my vocation.

Any regrets about leaving school at 16?

None at all.

How did you get into cocktails?

That 1989 film Cocktail, with Tom Cruise as a bartender, was a massive hit and when I saw it, I thought: "I could do that – go to New York, sling whisky and wink at the girls." So I started to research, I read books, and then I got a job at the Bar Royal in Camden. I started off collecting glasses and clearing cellars but I worked with very experienced bar tenders who had spent years on cruise ships and at hotels. My ambition was to do something that would take me round the world.

How did you achieve that?

I'm a bit of a chancer and a very instinctive person; if I see an opportunity I take it. I got West End jobs with training programmes and I developed myself into a trainer. I began to see bar-tending as a career. Then I went to California. In the UK bar-tending is seen as a go-between job, in America it's a profession.

Do you consider yourself successful?

Yes I do. If my family's happy and I'm supporting them, then I'm happy.

What are your interview tips?

Be passionate about the opportunity you're going for, don't just go for the sake of getting a job. Show you're knowledgeable; that you don't mind the hours and that you can connect with people.

How do I get to be where you are?

There are many courses now. I run one called Mixxit for Maxxium ( You could work for a group with internal courses, or do a course with The UK Bartenders Guild. If you want to work somewhere like the Dorchester they like you to do a guild course.

Who are your heroes?

Frank Sinatra, a great singer and a great drinker.

Who's your most memorable client?

I created a personal cocktail for Bill Clinton, the Arkansas Breeze. It was gin- based because he's quite partial to gin. Four years ago at the Baftas a guy came up and in a quiet American accent asked for a cocktail. I looked up and it was Martin Scorsese.