“It’s not all bright lights, success and winning.”
Dressed head to toe in black and perching on a stool beneath a canopy of cut-out autumn leaves Simone Caporale kept his audiences’ attention with tales of late night creative sessions, scribbled ideas and boozy cocktails.
The world-famous bartender was in front of a filled room but there was no bar dividing them and instead of a shaker, his only tool was a microphone. We the audience weren’t here to drink either, rather to listen.
It’s not often in life when you get to sit at the feet of men and women who have pushed the limits of hospitality and lap up their life experiences, both inside and out of the bar.
And as Rebekkah Dooley rightly says “it’s not all bright lights, success and winning.”
It was back in the summer of 2015 when Rebekkah and Tomas Estes were catching up at Cafe Pacifico (we imagine over outrageously good tequila and tacos) when the idea for a story telling event was born. Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry, the duo behind The Dead Rabbit in New York, were due in London and Rebekkah was trying to avoid the obvious and over-hashed training session.
“I remember having a drink in New York with Sean and thinking I want to remember everything he was saying to me. Explaining this feeling to Tomas, we came up with the idea of a story telling event with different people.”
Seized with momentum Rebekkah got in touch with Gareth Evans (then the bars manager for Jason Atherton, now Global Ambassador for Absolut Elyx) and Simon Thompson (General Manager at Callooh Callay) to sound them out. Both not only said it was a great idea, they also wanted to get involved.
Just one more person needed to be sounded out – Sean Muldoon. In agreeing to the scheme he and Jillian Vose (bar manager at The Dead Rabbit in NYC) became the sessions’ first speakers. On July 6th they held an captive audience for nearly three hours.
Since then Julio Bermejo, Tomas Estes, Steve Schneider, Erik Lorincz, Jared Brown & Anistatia Miller, Simone Caporale and Peter Dorrelli have spoken in London. Taking The London Sessions global, Rebekkah got Ivy Mix and Gaz Regan to speak in New York. In February, Simon Ford will travel to London while our own Ryan Chetiyawardana will travel State-side to speak to New Yorkers, as will Dale DeGroff (minus the travel part).
The brilliant thing about all this? Barely a pound or US dollar exchanges hands. The speakers all rock up for free, some of them waving up to US$2000 fees which they normal charge for presentations. Rebekkah isn’t paid despite the work load stacking up, the venues give their bars up for free in the afternoon and chairs are pulled from any nook and cranny for the audience to sit on. Brands help with travel costs (Peter Dorrelli’s train ticket cost a whooping £10) and provide drinks and pizza. It doesn’t get more holistic than this.
“When we started I wrote a wish list of eight people. We’ve mostly ticked through that. We also originally wanted to do one a month but it’s not been rigid like that because we have to work within people’s schedules."
And so the stories have started to pour out. From Erik Lorincz’s surprising tale of turning up in London with no English and going into bars with some prepared words ‘I am bartender’ to the quick wits and research of Anistatia and Jared, to Sean’s childhood in Ireland. These are men and women who have been paid countless times to stand up in front of an audience and make a Martini. For the first time they’re being asked to tell their stories.
“It’s great to admit that it’s not all plain sailing. Success is a personal thing, these are all successful people and I wanted to know what they have in common. Interestingly they’ve all said the same thing though – when they go home and put their head on the pillow they want to be proud of what they’ve done. It’s not all about being the best in town.”
As with all labours of love – this can only exist while these fantastic people are prepared to give their time and efforts, so take the chance to get in while you can.
Check out the latest info on The London Sessions here.