Name: Matthew ‘Welly’ Jones
Job title: General (nuisance) Manager at Lab 22
How long have you worked at Lab 22: 4 years I think?
Favourite drink: Definitely our espresso Martini (local coffee makes my world go around!)
Any awards or accolades: Personally, I've won a few local competitions that saw some drinks go UK wide, which was very cool. Otherwise I'm everyone's favourite runner up to be honest! Placed highly a few times in world class and a few others. Very excited for the semi finals this year in fact! Bar wise, we've been lucky enough to receive 50 Best's inaugural Best Menu award, #1 on Top50's bar UK list 2022, & of course, #2 in 2023. Making our recent two years quite celebrated to say the least!
Key skills: Being the vibe/centre of chill, when it gets hairy behind the stick. There's not a lot I haven't seen now in the last 10 years. And if one person can be the calm in the storm it usually levels the rest of the team out too.
What got you into cocktail bars?
A random night out after dropping out of University. Had a Bramble, saw a busy cocktail bar on a Sunday night, fell in love! Older generations of my family been running pubs for years in the valleys so it was probably inevitable tbh.
How many years have you worked in the industry?
10 I think
What makes a great cocktail bar?
People. On both sides of the bar. It's all about that human connection. People will forget drinks, but not how you made them feel.
What do you enjoy most about the industry?
Being able to walk up to a table and find out everything about them over the course of an evening. Being a hub of information for Bartender resources (we as an industry, I feel, gatekeep too much information). And a good old knees up of course.
What’s your favourite ingredient right now?
Proper salted Welsh butter. It's making its way into all my drinks right now. Wether it's flavoured with other bits (FOCO's Olive butter, hello sailor) or just slapped in an Old Fashioned as a syrup. It even made its way into .y world class non-alc serve!
What does being a Top 50 Cocktail Bar mean to you?
Quite a lot in fact, for reasons already touched on. I think it's important to lead from the front, and a lot of bartender's from the younger generation are coming up in the industry, fresh out of the pandemic, and I don't think they're getting all the resources they may need? Being able to elevate and educate is a big deal for us here. See Satan's recent publications for example. That's the energy that we need right now.
What is the best cocktail bar you’ve ever visited?
Honestly, I'm gonna have to admit here that I don't go out as much as I'd like to! But my absolute favourite experience from the last two years has to be an evening at Couch, Stirchley. Neighborhood bar, really welcoming and vibing, then bam, gets slightly busy, everyone knows everyone, suddenly you're in the coolest house party in the street. Great night.
What do you enjoy most about working at Lab 22?
Every day is different, it could be a relaxed evening of great chat, custom drinks & nice Spotify beats. Or it (the bar) has the potential to absolutely pop off at any given moment, if the right crowd come in at the right time and the bangers go on. Absolute scenes.
Favourite drink on the current menu?
Transparency! It's a clarified Piña colada! And everyone loves piña coladas right? And if you don't I don't trust you. It's got range as well, have tweaked it and sent it out as a spritz to a guests before and it was absolutely amazing. Based after the study of fake news and clarity in modern news sources, Epistemology.
What does the future hold for Lab 22?
Lots! To be vague. We've set our sights internationally this year, as well as nationally. And we can't wait to bring Lab, and Wales, to the people.