This past summer, Jim Wrigley moved to the Cayman Islands sight unseen.
The previous beverage manager of Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, John Stanton, had received a promotion and transferred to another Kimpton property in the United States. Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants Director of Bars Mike Ryan knew Wrigley, an award-winning English bartender who made a name for himself working at high-profile restaurants and bars in London, and talked to him about the beverage manager job opening here on Grand Cayman. Soon afterwards, Wrigley was on a plane to a place he'd never been.
Wrigley was bringing with him a wealth of knowledge about spirits, including one he learned about in his time working in Edinburgh.
"I specialised in whisky when I was in Scotland," he says. "I worked in the No. 1 whisky bar in the world, called Albanach."
Although whisky has its fans here on Grand Cayman, some of whom are visitors and others who are part of a relatively small but dedicated group of whisky drinkers who live here, it lags behind in popularity compared to other spirits like tequila and rum.
However, Wrigley is much more than a one-trick pony when it comes to spirits. He served as brand ambassador for the family-owned Venezuelan rum producer, Santa Teresa, for five years. He also worked at some of London's best bars, and was the bar operations manager for the Bourne & Hollingsworth Group that operates several bars, restaurants and high-end experiential events in Central London.
Although Wrigley didn't know Grand Cayman when he came here, he's not a stranger to the region; he's travelled in the Eastern Caribbean, in places like Barbados and more recently in Trinidad as part of being a judge in the Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge. He's also travelled to Mexico, where he "got to know tequilas very well."
When he started his role as beverage manager of Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, he was therefore well-familiar with the rum and tequila spirits that play centre stage in the cocktails served at the beach-side Coccoloba Bar and Grill and at regular Seafire events like Taco y Tequila and the Island Fest at The Beach Deck.
Making his mark
Since joining Kimpton Seafire, Wrigley has helped launch a new cocktail menu at the Ave restaurant bar that draws not only on his extensive spirits knowledge, but also his passion for storytelling.
Even the names of the new cocktails tell stories. For instance, the cocktail "Escape (if you like piña coladas)" is named after the famous 1979 Rupert Holmes song.
"Everyone thinks it's called 'The Piña Colada Song' but it's actually called 'Escape,'" says Wrigley, adding that the cocktail itself is "the Lamborghini of piña coladas" that features pineapple- and coconut-infused white rum, fresh-pressed lime and pineapple, Coco Lopez cream of coconut and Prosecco. It is then served in a Champagne flute garnished with coconut sand on the side of the glass.
Other new cocktails are inspired by other stories; the low-alcohol, Spritz-style cocktail "Bella Venezia" is named after an Italian fairy tale similar to Snow White; the name of the cocktail "When Life Gives you Lemons, Oranges and Grapefruits ..." plays on a well-known proverbial phrase and the gin-sour inspired drink incorporates a limoncello with a long history; and the "Unfathomable" cocktail, which incorporates Cayman-made Seven Fathoms rum and Blue Mountain Jamaican coffee, is a Caribbean twist on the famous "Old Fashioned" cocktail.
The new menu is segmented into three sections of six cocktails, one section that is Caribbean-inspired, one that is Mexico-inspired and one that is Mediterranean-inspired.
"A lot of the cocktails are classically inspired," says Wrigley.
Not all the creations made by the Kimpton bartenders contain alcohol.
"We also have launched a mocktail menu," he says.
However, the cocktails on this menu aren't the sweet and uninspired no-alcohol options typically served in bars and restaurants; they're well-crafted beverages that use quality ingredients, much like the regular cocktails.
"Mocktails are one of my background things," he says, adding that in the past he's worked with dietitians and nutritionists to develop healthy options. One mocktail, called "Kombango," features mango, lemon and Saucha kombucha and green tea.
Over the Christmas holidays, the Kimpton Seafire gingerbread bar served the "Island Holiday" mocktail, which contained five different ingredients and was garnished with a mint sprig and powdered icing sugar. "It looks like a cocktail, so no one knows you aren't drinking," Wrigley says.
In addition to no-alcohol mocktails, Wrigley has introduced some low-alcohol, low-sugar cocktails. "These are all things I have been working on," he says. "It's all about giving people what they want."
This article originally appeared in the January 2020 print edition of Camana Bay Times with the headline “Giving people the cocktails they want.”