We invited the Director of the world’s biggest cocktail festival to catch up with our International Brand Ambassador and it turns out they have a lot more in common than just their love of whisky. Max Warner talks to Siobhan Payne of London Cocktail Week about her mission to bring people together in the name of well-crafted cocktails.
MW: So tell us a bit about yourself: where you’re from, what you do, and what gets you up in the morning?
SP: I’m a Londoner born and bred, and while I had brief spells living outside of London, I’ve always come back to this city as I can’t imagine settling down anywhere else. I’ve worked on London Cocktail Week for 7 years, joining after the inaugural festival in 2010. I have been the Director of the festival since we launched DrinkUp.London in 2015, which is an online guide for the best drinks, bars and events in the capital. I love what I do because I love the industry I work in. I love the people, their passion, how fun-loving they are, and how hard everyone works. We’re united by our love of good drinks and hospitality.
MW: It’s clear that you’re very passionate about the potential of this industry. Tell us a bit about your purpose and what you’d like to achieve with London Cocktail Week.
SP: I am championing cocktails for everyone! I’m working with the bar community to make the drinking scene as accessible year-round as it is during London Cocktail Week. I believe the drinks industry can promote more inclusivity and make what we do relevant to more people. Anyone deserves a place at the bar, whether they know everything, or nothing about cocktails. This is what London Cocktail Week is all about. For a week, this wonderful scene we’re lucky to live in is opened up to tens of thousands of people, giving them a chance to go to places they’ve not heard of and try drinks they’ve not tried. Hopefully, we would’ve nurtured another batch of mindful cocktail drinkers in the capital.
London Cocktail Week has gone from strength to strength, expanding every year.
MW: We all love cocktails, otherwise we wouldn’t be sitting here. But why is it so important that you share your passion for cocktails with others?
SP: This is so important to me, because drinking good drinks is such a joy. It’s about the quality, craft and complexity of that drink, and the occasion for drinking it. I think it’s our responsibility to turn more people into cocktail aficionados by encouraging them to order more mindfully and to appreciate the drink itself.
MW: What does “community” mean to you? Do you think there are lots of people who share your mission or help to support you?
SP: Living in London, community isn’t necessarily something that relates to locality. I feel like I’m part of several communities, each important to me in different ways. I’ve not lived in West London for long, but I felt part of the community long before I moved here, as the drinks industry people in West London have given me a sense of place. Looking further to the London bar community as a whole, we work with 300 bars for London Cocktail Week to ensure that it’s only doing them good – and that sort of positive relationship is great for fostering a real sense of community. Then there is my tight community: my team at DrinkUp.London who have been a massive inspiration and support.
Siobhan and her team at DrinkUp London
MW: So you’re all about empowering and enriching your community…
SP: Exactly! Beyond the work we’ve done at London Cocktail week, we are really trying to look at ways the cocktail scene can give back to the wider community in London. In the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, we launched Community Spirit, a fundraising event where some of London’s best bars rallied together and so generously donated their time and product, with 100% of proceeds going to charity. Working on Community Spirit for Grenfell Tower was probably the closest I’ve ever felt to my local community away from the bar scene. The convergence of brands, bars and individuals was incredibly moving, and I think we can do more to harness that immense but dormant power for the greater good!
MW: We’re impressed with your efforts to make cocktails more inclusive and serve up a greater good. How can we stay up to date with your initiatives?
SP: Instagram is my go-to social media platform. I’m @LondonSiobhan.
MW: Last but most definitely not least, what is your favourite whisky-based cocktail and why?
SP: My favourite whisky cocktail is actually one of my favourite cocktails of all time: the Whisky Sour. It was the first drink I learned to make at home when my interest in cocktails first started. And for a while, it was my go-to drink for all occasions – I would invite my friends over for Whisky Sour parties, or I would make myself a Whisky Sour for a night in on the sofa. So for that reason, it’s always held a very special pace in my heart. Simple cocktails are so often the best.
London Cocktail Week returned for its 8th edition this year from October 2nd to 8th. Find out how to make your own Chivas 18 Sour, or enjoy our other cocktail recipes here.