Every Cocktail Counts

9 Oct. 2020
London Cocktail Week in its most important year

The bad news is coming in so thick and fast that good ones are hard to believe. And yet, the 11th edition of London Cocktail Week really did kick off on October 1st. Better still, this year’s most expected week will actually run for… a month. Throughout 2020, we’ve been left without the Lisbon Bar Show, Berlin Bar Convent or Tales of the Cocktail but Hannah Sharman-Cox and Siobhan Payne, the masterminds behind LCW, were adamant their event would not be another casualty, they told us.

While bar shows are mainly based on a trade-to-trade model, where the pros speak with the pros, Cocktail Weeks are all about putting drinks into the hands of the general public. So events such as Bar Convent Berlin can try and go online — losing the exhibition part and, most importantly, networking opportunities, in the process — but that’s just not an option for cocktail weeks. « When all of this kicked off in March, we were asking ourselves ‘do we go ahead?’, » says Siobhan. The answer came quickly, adds Hannah: « It was never an option for us to not to do it, because of the ripple effect ». A cancelled event is not only a lot of money lost for the organizers, it’s also an issue for everyone who’s working in and around the event. 

And, ultimately, for bars. « We felt that because we have got this platform bridging the gap between customers and trade in London, we have that responsibility to use that platform to help bars in the toughest year of their lives, » Siobhan explains. « Even if we can help just a few bars to remain open and save a few jobs, it’s fine, we’ve done something… » London Cocktail Week has always been about making bar culture and cocktails more accessible — to create a connection between pros and consumers. Bars have obviously always been very important partners of LCW, but their role is even more central this year. « Ordinarily, we build a hub in Central London — we call it the cocktail village —and this is not happening this year. But we’re bringing elements of the cocktail village to London, so what we said to the brands is that if they want to do a brand activation, they have to do them within the bars, » says Siobhan. A lot of the money invested in pop-up spaces or the village is thus being channeled into bars.

This change was decided well before the British government mandated all bars be closed at 10 pm, a curfew that could see a drop in revenue of up to 70% in many cocktail venues, and this even though the government’s very own numbers show that hospitality is responsible for less than 5% of transmissions. « This has a huge impact, and we asked ourselves if we should postpone, » Siobhan explains. « All of the bars we called said we should go ahead as planned ». « It’s made us feel that London Cocktail Week is more important than ever. We need to get people in the bars before 10 pm, » adds Hannah. 

Given this dramatic context, the motto for this year’s event makes total sense: « Every cocktail counts ». And it does: when you run an independent venue and have to pay rent, staff and other costs under social distancing rules, a 6 quid LCW cocktail may be the difference between breaking even and making a loss. An event may save a business. But there’s also another dimension to this: having such an important going ahead sends a message of optimism when everyone’s outlook is so very bleak. As Hannah puts it — in what may be the understatement of the year —, « It’s nice to have something to look forward to ». At last.


If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in London this month, check out the full program here:

We’re obviously partial to the events put together by Havana Club, with the Cornershop Cocktail Masterclasses — make drinks with the stuff you find at your local off-license — a favourite for consumers. There will also be brunch sessions built around the Pro Edition series at Swift, a week-long take over at Callooh Callay’s Jub Jub and a trade-only Dark Discovery masterclass at Trailer Happiness.