John McAndrew was in his late thirties, working in insurance, when he called his parents in Ireland and said, “I’m leaving that office life, because I hate it, and I’m going to become a waiter”.

McAndrew has always been drawn to the world of hospitality. “Neurodivergent people are often risk-takers, we need something exciting,” he tells Broadsheet. “Whereas, I worked in an office for most of my life because that’s what I thought work was.”

After a day in the office, McAndrew would often head straight out to a local venue, where he’d spend the evening chatting and hanging out with the staff. “Everybody assumed I was a bartender way before I was. I think I was seeking the camaraderie or just a sense of belonging,” he recalls.

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When his friend offered him a casual role at The Moon, he took the leap and quit the nine-to-five for good. Now a co-owner of neighbourhood gin bar Frisk, McAndrew has the opportunity to step away from front-of-house – and it’s unleashed his creativity. We took five with McAndrew to learn about his inventive new cocktail menu and how his neurodivergence influences his running of the bar.

What is the idea behind your new cocktail menu?
It’s inspired by the style of [influential Dutch artist] Piet Mondrian’s art, using his focus on simple lines, shapes and primary colours. I liked the idea of taking something that people know and reducing it down to its most basic elements. So, I decided to make a cocktail based on each colour Mondrian used: black, white, blue, red and yellow.

How does this concept relate to synesthesia?
When I looked further into the idea, I discovered the phenomena of synesthesia, where people can taste colour or feel songs, things like that – but it was the taste part that struck me. I thought, how do I give that experience to customers? Like, “Here’s yellow, we wanted it to taste yellow”. Synesthesia isn’t something I have myself, but I was using the cocktails as a vehicle for more people to experience it.

What flavours did you use to make the cocktails taste like a particular colour?
Well, for the red one, it was about warmth. I used pomegranate as the main flavour, with strawberry, cherry and vermouth, so it’s got that warm spice, but not a chilli spice.

Have you had any other unique cocktail menus?
I’ve had a few before this one, two menus’ ago I wanted to break things down by taste. So, I had one cocktail for sweet, salty, sour, bitter and savoury. Following that one, I responded to the people who always ask me to do more food at Frisk – I made a food-themed cocktail menu called “Chateau de Frisque”, with starters, mains and desserts inspired by a French bistro.

How has your experience as a neurodivergent person influenced the way you run Frisk?
I’m putting myself into everything, because it’s a very personality-driven bar and I’m the creative lead on everything. I want people to get the same warm and welcoming feeling I got when I came to Frisk as a customer. We’re a neighbourhood bar for everybody and what I’m trying to do is extend an invitation to different types of people. So, events like our neurodiverse and disability speed dating are my attempt to make sure people who sometimes aren’t seen or heard have a space to come into.

Have you made any other considerations for people who are neurodivergent?
For people with sensory considerations, we have softer diffused lighting, always make sure the temperature is comfortable and use music to fill the background where appropriate.