Interview – The Cocktail Queen

Alison Smith

Over the last decade, there has been a big increase in companies that provide cocktail waiters, mobile bar hire and cocktail bartenders for occasions such as house parties, hen weekends, birthday celebrations and even corporate events. People have got used to drinking premium quality cocktails when out and now want to experience them in other environments, often to add to an occasion.Demand for cocktail waiters and people to come in and organise cocktail parties in your home is steadily on the move and one company that caters for this is the fantastically titled The Cocktail Queen.

The brains behind The Cocktail Queen is Alison Smith who started the company in January 2010 in Livingston, just outside Edinburgh, at the suggestion of her friends, who had all fallen in love with her cocktails. After a bumpy start, the business is now a success and Alison has 2 other staff who help her create events mainly for people’s homes, fund raisers, ladies nights and hen parties.

I caught up with Alison to ask her a few questions:

What is the concept of the The Cocktail Queen?

Our concept is reasonably priced cocktails to everyone and having fun at the same time.

We offer a drinks quiz, and party games as part of our experience, as well as offering the usual cocktail making classes depending on what the customers are looking for. Our concept is mainly built on a party plan idea that also suits men (not all our cocktails are pink and fluffy!) We also keep cocktail menus on record so if you have a set of cocktails at one party, we’ll always try to offer you completely new one’s at your next party, this means our stock changes and evolves into people trying a lot of drink they wouldn’t normally have ordered from a bar previously. We can theme cocktails around an event too, making it more fun for the customers, they love an Hawaiian or Hollywood event!!

What is your main selling point?

Our main selling point is that we’re fun at home, taking the hassle out of serving friends and family with something more than a wine or two so that people can concentrate on being with their friends instead of worrying who needs a top-up. As our concept is different and our prices are structured in a set menu, this also means people get to try new things they normally wouldn’t on a ‘normal’ bar menu. The amount of times we’ve heard “I don’t like…” and then we’ve made them something they’ve never tried with the ingredient in, 99% of the time they’ve been amazed. We can also let individuals try something first before committing to the whole cocktail, most bars won’t do this, and we can change someone’s drink for them if they don’t like something, again unique from any bar, as a lot of bars have the “tough luck” policy, losing them customers.

Cocktail Queen logo

 

How did you learning your mixing skills?

I learned how to make cocktails mainly in the home over the years making cocktails for friends but nowadays I learn more on-line. I also joined another company that give me lots of history and continued training with Gin, Whisky, Rum and Tequila events – I have had some great training from some of the best bar people in the UK. To be a party host you really need the right attitude, be able to have banter with your customers, be personable, and have a decent sense of humour and “gift of the gab”, we don’t have a bar as a barrier between us and the customers so you need a decent personality.

How do you train your staff?

All our training is in-house and I make sure all my staff look at websites on how to make cocktails, including Social and Cocktail! Only the people with the right personalities are picked by me, I only want the best queens (and kings!)

What is your typical audience?

Our typical audience is women, however we do get lots of men attending the parties – I think the ladies like to “own” the cocktail parties though. The ladies like to book us for before they go out for dinner, before they go out on the town or sometimes for an afternoon party. Garden cocktail parties are also great fun and if there are any spillages there’s no problem.

WooWoo Cocktail

Why do you think Cocktails are becoming more popular at home?

People like the sense of luxury in their home and when having friends or family around for a birthday or even just the “ladies day” we take the hassle out of of having to buy in a lot of the ingredients, specialist liqueurs, garnishes, mixers, one off bits and pieces and glassware required for a one off event.

What cocktails do you offer?

We offer any cocktails in a “set menu” and also take requests for cocktails before the events themselves but we make anything from a classic Cosmopolitan to our own newly invented mixes.

What are the most popular cocktails (what ones do you get most requests for?)

Our most popular cocktails are the classics and one’s based on the classics, our Toffee Appletini has a twist and the Raspberry Mojito is a firm favourite at our parties and gets asked for time & time again, my own favourite is a Caipirinha though, I’m a huge fan of Cachaca!

Melontini

Do you believe more and more guys will come across to Cocktail Culture or will it remain mainly a “girly thing”?

As people become more “Metro” I foresee a lot more men enjoying a cocktail or two. We already have a lot of male followers and as we cater to them just as much as women there’s no reason why they shouldn’t. Our concept is for men and women alike.

 

What is the future for The Cocktail Queen?

The future of The Cocktail Queen is great, I have a few exciting things up my sleeve and I’m in the middle of rolling out some new ideas on the back of what we already do. I have a great team of cocktail waiters behind me and very good friends and family so let’s see…

Visit The Cocktail Queen  or follow her on Twitter @cocktailsqueen

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  • Dee K

    Go Cocktail Queen, GO!!!!!

  • kerry clark

    This has got to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life the atmosphere is so relaxed so amazing infact that I have had a number of patrkes and attended more also. I can not wait until my next.

  • Sharon France

    Well done Allison xxx

  • Sarah

    Have been to a few off Alison’s party’s and have another one booked, I cannot recommend the cocktail queen enough. It’s a fantastic service we would have people a lot to the house and this service takes care off everything you do not even have any glasses yo wash up haha. Alison is such a lovely person and really does brighten up the room. Also I find it so cost effective as we all drink different spirits so its always a big expense keeping the drinks cabinet stocked where as the cocktail queen caters for everyone. My only regret is that we let the men join us one night now they are the ones that want the cocktail queen again so us woman can’t escape .

  • Melissa

    Well done Alison you have done fantastically well with your business. I’m very proud of you.
    Your personality shines through your business and vice versa.
    I’m sure your success will keep growing. Xxxxx

  • Colin Barr

    I’m puzzled by this.

    I know people who work in the trade as I do myself, I think we all share the same opinion that these things are better handles by actual professional bartenders, not self tought amateurs.

    I doubt her success will last as the people and companies that do this professionally will shine through.

    • Alison Smith

      Hiya Colin,

      I’ve been doing this for 3 years now, full time, not exactly a beginner and also have been fully trained by some of the top high end mixologists. Social and Cocktail asked me how I was originally trained. I ALSO work for an English based drinks company who offer history, tastings, and fun to events. So I’m clearly not even “just a bar person”.

      Just because someone works in a bar doesn’t mean they’re good all the time surely?

      Same goes from this end, I agree some business’s like mine could make a hash of things, I just here to say that WE don’t. At the end of the day, we want to be good, otherwise we get no future custom.

      We’re also interacting more with the customers and able to have the longer chats and banter, which our customers love. (as per a couple of reviews!)

  • sharon

    This lady is professional quality and unlike Mr Barr a lovely decent person who nows customer service skills unlike some uppity snotty over priced bar and barstaff ! I know whom i would employ and with that attitude …… and that is coming from someone involved in the drinks and entertainment industry since 16 years old ! and as a women who actually is likley to be a service user ! I think that places us in a better position to judge this excellent service and wonderful provider!

  • Tracey Paterson

    Alison your Cocktail nights have always been fantastic. My friends & I enjoyed the drinks, the entertainment, the way to inter acted with us all.
    There is no where than can train you to have that type of professionalism whilst having the personal approach. Look forward to seeing you at a few Cocktail Nights in 2013.
    Well done :)

  • Claire Gillies

    I myself have booked a couple if cocktail parties with the Cocktail Queen, she is fabulous and I have never had the same cocktail twice, she is so welcoming and warm hearted makes everything so relaxing for you in the comfort of your own home . I love cocktails and the cocktail queen makes the best ever and at an affordable price ! well done Alison , I will be booking you again soon !
    PS ignore the negative feedback you know your going to go far and beyond in this business x

  • Kirsteen Muir

    I cannot disagree more with Colin. I have attended a cocktail queen party for the first time recently. Alison is very professional and has great customer service attributes. Her cocktail making skills are exceptional and of a very high standard. I would even say they are far better quality that what I have ever had from ‘actual professional bar tenders’ who may I add tend to follow instructions when making cocktails as their experience is limited!
    Alison’s company is going to continue to grow and will definitely become more popular due to the fact that this is great value for money all in the comfort of your own home.
    I highly recommend The Cocktail Queen and look forward to my next party.

  • Diane Lee

    Alison really knows her onions! A real flair with people and passion for the industry. A pleasure to work with!