Imbibe Live spirits ambassador, Stuart McCluskey, is from Scotland's capital city, Edinburgh, where he has opened and continues to run numerous bars, restaurants, cafes, and booze shops .
He has had a passion for food and drink his whole life. Stuart studied Applied Chemistry at university, but quickly decided that a life in the hospitality industry was far more exciting than a life spent in a white coat in a chemistry lab!
Stuart started working in restaurants and bars very much at a grass roots level, learning the foundations before moving up the ranks. Making a conscious effort to gain as varied and diverse an experience in the industry as possible, Stuart worked everywhere from start-up independent bars and restaurants such as David Ramsden's 'Rogue' (now of The Dogs), Dragonfly and Circus Cafe in Edinburgh, through to 200 cover restaurants with the likes of Browns.
Stuart added strings to his bow working in Australia's hospitality industry, spending two and a half years working in Sydney and Melbourne. Returning back to the UK to work as a brand ambassador with Martin Miller's gin to gain experience in the world of brand development and sales.
Steadily, Stuart has built up over 16 years' experience working in all aspects of the hospitality industry, developing his passion and interest behind the bar and also in the kitchen, and in 2008 he decided the time was right to do his own thing. Stuart opened his first venture, 'The Bon Vivant', in Edinburgh's city centre.
Now an award winning bar and restaurant, The Bon Vivant has become well-established and respected in Edinburgh and beyond, providing excellent drinks and food, in a relaxed and convivial environment. The Bon V, as it is affectionately known, was a real labour of love for Stuart. He considered every detail and wanted the cocktails, wine, food and service to be of the highest standard, whilst still providing value for customers. The wine list is extensive and has achieved nominations for 'Wine List of the Year'. The Bon Vivant has been lucky enough to receive recognition over the past seven years, receiving a Scottish Style Award for Most Stylish Bar in 2011, the 2013 Food & Travel Magazine Bar of the Year, and it has appeared in the Michelin Guide in 2013, 2014 and 2015. A personal highlight for Stuart came last year when The Bon Vivant won The Best International Restaurant Bar at Tales of the Cocktail 2014 Spirited Awards - Stuart is extremely proud that it was the first Scottish establishment to win an award from Tales. The Bon V has provided Stuart with a platform to grow, and his first baby produced an adjoining off-licence, 'The Bon Vivant's Companion' in 2011. Stuart's aim for The Companion was for it to stock a wide variety of wines, spirits and beers - to be a bartenders' off-licence. The basement space below is regularly used for private events and also for internal training sessions. The Companion also has a small wholesale arm and supplies bar equipment.
The Bon V's sister, unoriginally named 'The Bon Vivant Stockbridge', opened in one of Edinburgh's most well-loved communities, Stockbridge, in 2012. A coffee shop in the city centre, Pep & Fodder, quickly followed suit, where the aim is to provide great lunch sarnies and caffeine fixes for locals.
Stuart then opened 'The Devil's Advocate' in an old pump station in an historic close in Edinburgh's Old Town in 2013. The Devil's Advocate is a completely different brand to The Bon V, with whisky being the focus (there are over 300 whiskies to choose from), but Stuart has ensured it offers the same high quality of drinks, cocktails and food.
Having spent time in Mexico, Stuart developed a love for all things tequila and mezcal, so when the opportunity came to open a taco and tequila bar in 2014, he grabbed it and opened 'El Cartel’, a no-fuss, authentic, Mexican restaurant laced with golden era hip hop! Stuart has operated pop-up bars in London with great success, and has also assisted in various private events. He is keen to assist the new generation with their learning and development, having held many training sessions and judged various cocktail competitions.
He is regularly asked to speak at events, most recently at Imbibe Live,The Shoot and The Scottish Malt Whisky Society. Stuart has recently been inducted as a Keeper of the Quaich.