It's been a long journey from a pop-up in Selfridges to taking over entire streets and several-thousand capacity markets, but we've done it as a team and we've only managed it because Londoners keep coming back for another round. Thanks for all the support - and see you in October for year seven!
Our inaugural event kicked off in 2010 and welcomed 5,000 cocktail lovers to our very first pop-up hub in Selfridges department store. Our Cocktail Tours consisted of just 50 bars – most of which were owned by our friends who graciously agreed to get involved as a favour. The wristbands were limited to 5000 because we thought this sounded like a huge number of people for a first go, but unbelievably these sold out in just a few days. We stuck to our guns and turned thousands of people away (sorry if it was you) to make sure we were getting things right from the off.
Following the success of Year One and continuing the same direction – London Cocktail Week returned to Gordon’s Bar on the second floor of Selfridges in 2011. With wristbands uncapped for Year Two, we saw an unprecedented 240% increase in festival attendees – all keen to get involved in cocktail-related escapades. Classic custom Routemaster buses ferried our guests around the capital – dropping people off in the places that were harder to reach like the King’s Road and deepest darkest Shoreditch (remember this was long before anywhere East of Bethnal Green Road had a single decent bar!).
In 2012, the home of London Cocktail Week moved to Seven Dials – an historic part of Covent Garden, and in doing so – created our first stand-alone hub for the festival. This hub was created in partnership with Ketel One and was a very exciting time for us! With pop-up bars popping up all around Seven Dials and huge overhead street banners, Londoner’s really couldn’t miss which week it was. Our Cocktail Tours list grew to more than 100 venues as more and more bars became keen to sign up and show our wristband wearers a really great time.
Our second year in Seven Dials saw yet another partnership with Ketel One for our pop-up hub and excitingly – the front cover of Time Out. Ooh we felt proud seeing everyone on the tube reading a magazine with our festival on the front. The Routemaster buses were replaced with Beefeater black Hackney cabs (an easier fit for the roads of Seven Dials) and these ferried people free of charge from the hub to some of our key venues around the capital.
We also trialled our first Shoreditch hub in partnership with Translate Bar which welcomed 5,000 people through the door – which was all the proof we needed that we were welcomed in East London.
Our fifth festival and our third year returning to Seven Dials – with an unbelievable 11 pop-up bars created within the seven streets. The Cocktail Tours also accelerated somewhat and this year we welcomed 250 bars to the list, each serving a £4 cocktail.
While our Ketel One hub returned we also expanded to host a Tanqueray hub within HIX City in Devonshire Square and a Cointreau hub on the terrace of Conran’s Bluebird on the King’s Road. Shoreditch saw a further seven pop-up bars created exclusively for London Cocktail Week and all together – half a million pounds was injected into the London hospitality scene just from £4 cocktails. Kapow!
Talk about upping the ante... London Cocktail Week truly smashed its sixth year in business and drove the festival to heights previously unthought of. 2015 was the year of change as the festival finally outgrew its previous home in Seven Dials, instead London Cocktail Week took to the streets of Soho and launched the World Class House on Poland Street, with queues out the door each night of the week.
Over in east London the festival took over the entire space of Old Spitalfields Market and launched a week-long cocktail village of bespoke pop-up bars, trucks, vans and even bicycles, all serving up specially-created cocktails, street food and music. London Cocktail Week welcomed over 275 bars on the Cocktail Tours, each serving a signature cocktail, and more than 20,000 people joined us in celebrating this incredible bar scene and city.
One of the main highlights was the Saturday night party which featured bar teams from around the world - New York, Paris, Singapore and London - all battling it out to be crowded the winner of the 24 Hour Bar Build. On home turf, supported by their friends and families, London won.