From medicine to mixology, surgeon Matthew Duval’s found his passion Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

Despite the mildly humid yet windy weather Sunday last, members of the bartending and hospitality communities gathered to showcase their chops at the inaugural Jamaica Bartender Week (March 6-12), a product of the Jamaica Union of Bartenders and Mixologists (JUBAM) Expo in partnership with Campari and the J Wray & Nephew Limited.

The Louise Bennett Garden Theatre at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre, was where the mixology mastery unfurled.

There was libation aplenty on and off the main stage. There was, after all a bartender mix-off and beverage sampling from a full suite of local liquor producers, distributors, and the people who utilise it the most: bartenders and mixologists.

(L-R) First place winner for the inaugural JABUM Expo and Bartending competition Ryan Mitto shared a photo-op with second place winner Dr Matthew Duval; third place winner Raldeno Forbes; The Academy of Bartending, Spirits & Wines instructor Omega Findlay; Maurice Chung, president of JUBAM Limited Bartender Council, and JUBAM President, Dr Debbian Spence-Minott. (Photos: Kesi Gardner)

For many of them, this was the first time they’d all gathered in a space to celebrate the craft and for the organisers, the first event of its kind.

To say, the expo had the full support of the local beverage industry is an understatement. But expo aside, Loop News was intrigued to learn about the ‘mixing medicine man’ Matthew Duval, who strikes a balance between the professions of mixology and medicine.

When he’s not pouring his time and energy into his surgery, he’s pouring his heart into cocktails for his friends and loved ones – he’ll be the first to tell you he’s most passionate about his June Plum Margarita.

We interviewed the second-place finisher of the bartending competition, who after six gruelling rounds of cocktail-making, finished in second place.

Duval is a cocktail enthusiast, a resident surgeon at Mandeville Regional Hospital, who found his passion for mixology during the pandemic.

Loop Lifestyle (LL): How did you go from medicine to mixology?

Matthew Duval (MD): Everybody has their hobbies and vices. Since the pandemic, my friends and I have come together to drink to relieve stress, but I wouldn’t say I like bad-tasting cocktails. So I decided to learn how to make better cocktails for my friends and me… I’m self-taught, I learned how to make cocktails by researching, watching videos and experimenting.

LL: What are your top three favourite drinks to make?

MD: It changes a lot. Now I’ve perfected an amaretto sour. I do a rapid-infusion technique with the amaretto with cinnamon and coffee, so the amaretto gets a pleasant coffee taste. It is the most requested drink by my friends. I also make a wicked Earl Grey Long Island Iced Tea. My most heartfelt creation is a June Plum margarita — not to mention my Otaheite Mojitos. I make an oleo-saccharum (Latin for oil sugar), then I skin the fruit, put it in sugar and let it sit for 24 hours or longer, the sugar pulls out the oils, so you get a concentrated syrup that I use to sweeten the cocktails.

LL: What do you think about Jamaica having its first bartending expo?

MD: It’s a fantastic and amazing idea that should have been done long ago. Bartending isn’t taken seriously in Jamaica. We do a lot of sweet and strong drinks, but we don’t do complex drinks and things by the book. There is no standard, and it’s sad.

LL: Do you think of yourself as a chemist?

MD: A lot of people call me that. Yes, I’m having fun with it, so I’d like to consider myself one.

LL: What aspect of medicine have you transferred into mixology?

MD: Being accurate with my measurements. Also, the amount of research that goes into it. In medicine, you must keep reading; information changes constantly, and bartending isn’t different. There are ways they’ve done cocktails that have changed now — new complex techniques and showcasing the latest trends are nice. I’m not a flair bartender. I’m a classic bartender. I want to be good but not flashy. My place is being accurate.

LL: If there is one thing you would change about the bartending industry, what would it be?

MD: Cocktails aren’t seen as an art. It’s just seen as a vehicle to get drunk, which is underrating it. The most common thing is to add a white rum to a cocktail. I want bartending to be complex. There is a tiki bar in Ocho Rios and The Alchemy Ja restaurant doing interesting things. For bartending in Jamaica, I want to see something high-class and exclusive. My biggest dream is to create that kind of space in Jamaica, particularly in Mandeville. That’s what I want to be the culture moving forward for drinking in Jamaica.