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Meet The Maker: Andrew Scutts, Cocktails In The City

Bar manager then brand representative, Andrew Scutts found his true talent lay in orchestrating drinks events, of which he has held at least 83. His inaugural Cocktails In The City weekend drew just 300 guests, a figure which subsequently grew ten times. He speaks to Douglas Blyde about how his guests delight in meeting the makers behind drinks, “Newstalgia”, and the process of trialling the brand in the US.

How did Cocktails In The City gestate?

As a former brand rep and bar manager, and organiser of an industry trade event entitled the Boutique Bar Show, I realised we were missing out on the consumer who actually bought the drinks. I also found in my role as a brand ambassador that a common conversation I would have with my customers would be how can we help and promote each other, and that was the stimulus for Cocktails In The City.

When was the first one?

In 2011 in Manchester Town Hall. I flipped the space the day after the Boutique Bar Show. Many of the Manchester bars that attended the Boutique Bar Show became my exhibitors the next night. I remember Jamie Stephenson, once described as “the best cocktail maker in the universe” by Observer Food Monthly. attempting a world record for the most cocktails made in an hour. He would have succeeded had someone not absolutely smashed the existing record just a few weeks before. And I remember there was a lot of fire breathing in a place of great historical importance! It was a great first event; many lessons were learned. I then rolled onto Edinburgh before launching in London in 2013.

How has the concept been enhanced?

The fundamental concept of bars and brands popping up in partnership to give consumers a fun, informative, and often interactive drinks experience remains constant. As the event grew year after year, the stands became more elaborate. We’ve included more workshops and added live entertainment. We’ve always used cocktails, recipes and photographs as the medium to talk about our exhibitors, and over the years we’ve welcomed a number of great international venues. The biggest change in recent times is that we now focus on a single event for the Summer Series at Bedford Square Gardens. As a result, we managed to improve every edition, investing in infrastructure and marketing, though we would like to return to some indoor events in the near future.

What will define the Summer Series in July, August, and September?

Coinciding with the onset of a great sporting summer, we are naming the July event the ‘Games Edition’. In August, we will celebrate ‘Carnival’, and September will be coined ‘Newstalgia’, bringing together the best of the old and the new.

What is the ratio of home-produced brands to imported ones?

50/50. I want to showcase some new to market challenger brands – that’s my Boutique Bar Show background talking – and in July we have a collection of “Kindred Spirits”, being a Whats App group of independent producers in the UK working together with “Thin White Duke” bar, Soho, on a really interesting David Bowie-inspired drinks menu. Our guests get a lot from meeting the producers, particularly the new-to-market brands. Nc’Nean Whisky was a great example of that – and they are back this summer for the third time. We also have a Tasting Rooms experience, having intimate tasting sessions with brand owners such as Dima Deneiga’s Dima’s vodka and Tim Simmons’ Sipello.

Are there any plans to expand Cocktails In The City?

We enjoyed a Cocktails In The City in Los Angeles in 2017 after a bar owner from LA attended our Edinburgh event. His feedback was that organising a bar show full of bartenders was like herding cats; it was the hardest money he’d ever earned. The winning stand in LA came to London the following summer and we sent the London winner back to LA, I would love to host a series of events in key cities across the world and connect them like we did then.

Has it become more important over time to include a non-alcoholic component?

Since we partnered with Paul Matthew’s Everleaf to ensure guests can enjoy great non-alc cocktails at every stand, we saw our sales increase tenfold.

What do you look for in prospective drinks brands wishing to showcase?

In keeping with Cocktails In The City’s setting in a private garden in a Georgian Square in Bloomsbury, we focus on great London bars that care deeply about what they serve. As a result, the event naturally attracts well-made brands with a story to tell. In 2024, I’m excited about our B-Corp Bar in partnership with Dover Yard at One Hotels.

Finally, are dogs and children welcome at the event?

Dogs aren’t allowed by order of The Bedford Estate, though children are very much welcome, particularly for the Saturday afternoon session. I’ve even enjoyed competing with my girls on the crazy golf a couple of times now…

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