Interview – The Cocktail Queen
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.
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.
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!
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…