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 an industry) - making it happen because Londoners keep coming back for another round. Thanks for all the support - and see you in October for London Cocktail Week 2024!
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 5,000 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. 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.
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.
London Cocktail Week 2016 was another stand-out year, with more Londoners joining in than ever before. In fact we had just shy of 25,000 people and over 45,000 visits to the Cocktail Village.
With 130 events, 40 village pop-ups and our entire World Class House in Piccadilly this was our biggest LCW yet. It turns out London isn't known as the capital of cocktail culture for nothing. So whether you partied in Piccadilly, sipped cocktails at Old Spitalfields Market, whizzed around the 267 participating venues or improved your booze knowledge at one of the events, we can’t say thank you enough for helping celebrate our incredible cocktail scene.
Another year and more growth! This time - we went big and finally made the switch from wristbands to our brand new app.
No more misplacing the book, no more inaccurate maps - we made it into the modern age! The Cocktail Village returned for the final time to Old Spitalfeilds Market and welcomed tens of thousands of cocktail lovers into the iconic covered market. We also launched our very own newspaper - The Cocktail Times - which was given out to thirsty Londoner's on their morning commute throughout the festival.
2018 welcomed a new venue for The Cocktail Village as we crossed over Commercial Street and took up residence at The Old Truman Brewery. Spreading out across three distinct spaces within the estate, we took over the Back Yard Market, The Boiler House and Brick Lane Yard and packed them full of cement mixers, jungles, motorcycles, living walls, boats, bikes and much much more. With 25,000 guests joining us across the week - this was our most international attendance to date - seems everyone wanted to fly into London to celebrate - and with our new partnership with Virgin Airlines who created specially hosted Cocktail Flights into London Heathrow, from the minute you stepped on board - you knew where you were headed. 300 plus bars were chosen to take part in the fun and the most popular cocktail of 2018? The mighty Espresso Martini of course!
Our tenth year celebration! And we stretched our beloved festival to ten days to mark the occasion. We came back to Brick Lane and took over the Back Yard Market and Brick Lane Yard to make our biggest Cocktail Village yet. We had a full schedule of live entertainment, with the gorgeous team from Sink The Pink plus Ultimate Power, Hip Hop Brunch and a roster of top class DJs keeping the party going. We partnered with our friends at Street Feast to make sure all our guests were well fed and the calibre of pop-ups in The Cocktail Village are still talked about today... We crowned the best cocktail of LCW to the chaps at Cocktail Trading Company for their tenth birthday cake inspired creation. We had over 340 bars taking part in the £6 Cocktail Tours with even more of an emphasis on No & Low - to give our guests as many options as possible when planning their night. We also built a London Cocktail Week Shop in the heart of Covent Garden as a throw-back to our early days when we worked in Seven Dials. We hosted bars from all around the world every night of the festival with take overs from teams in Australia, America, Greece, France and beyond... And we made our very own anniversary gin. Because - why not!? On October 10th we hosted our official tenth birthday party and invited our nearest and dearest to celebrate with us. We humoured ourselves and made long speeches thanking everyone for their support over our first decade, then we got on vintage Routemaster Buses, as another throwback, and made the journey (with cocktails of course) to The Cocktail Village where the celebrations went on late into the night. We absolutely loved it. If you joined us - thank you. It meant the world!
The year that followed our monumental tenth anniversary came with a fresh set of unforseen challenges thanks to the global pandemic. The hospitality industry needed a reason to come together and celebrate more than ever - with bars struggling and events being cancelled left, right and centre we weren't sure there would be a 2020 London Cocktail Week! Luckily for us the stars aligned, the timings were just right for an ease in restrictions and we were allowed to go ahead. We were in fact the only global event that took place that year and as such we decided to make the whole festival a month long celebration instead of just a week. Even with social distancing, those 'beloved' masks and isolation, 55,000 £6 cocktails were sold in 242 hand-selected bars across London and 2,610 cocktails enjoyed in your homes - another of our brilliant ideas to make the festival as inclusive as possible. For every bar that could recoup even a small amount of money lost, bartenders who got to warm up stiff elbows with some shaking and our lovely customers who could once again enjoy professionally made cocktails, it was absolutely worth it. Every cocktail well and truly counted!
With restrictions finally lifting and the world edging back towards normality - we felt for the 2021 festival we all deserved a little something extra. So we came up with the London Cocktail Week Warm Up. Essentially a mini week long festival, held in July ahead of the main event in October. We chose 30 venues that had suffered the most from a summer reopening - those who had no outside space, weren't a hotel or restaurant and didn't have an activity to entice you in. These are the bars on our list that are the most clandestine, those that are well below ground, the dark and gloriously dingy haunts that epitomise London's cocktail culture - and are maybe not necessarily everyone's choice on a balmy summer night. Under the roadmap of reopening - these guys had been closed the longest and so we thought we'd show them some love.
Then in October we said hello to the month long festival again (because we all still needed as long as possible to celebrate our great cocktail culture). Takeovers and events were back to normal - with 233 dinners, masterclasses and even parties with large groups of people (hooray!) held across the city during the month. 2021 was a big year for all!
When it came to London Cocktail Week 2022, we thought instead of one cocktail hub, why not introduce multiple Little Cocktail Villages spread out around the city! A collection of immersive pop-ups all serving delicious cocktails for just £7. These alongside the 337 bars that took part in the Cocktail Tours serving £7 cocktails to anyone with a wristband - for a slightly paired back 11 days this time. For two weekends and a week and a bit, if you want to be exact - you came, you drank and as always we were so grateful you did!
2023 saw a number of changes to London Cocktail Week. Heading into our 14th year, it was important for us to forge ahead as ‘best-in-class’ as a global example of a cocktail festival - and this year we made an official pledge to reinvest funds into the hospitality industry, a commitment which will continue to grow in years to come.Part of this was introducing the option for bars to directly sell wristbands to consumers, retaining all revenue and amplifying their earnings.
We unveiled a series of new initiatives in 2023. The Connoisseur’s Collection - a programme of luxury experiences, showcasing some of the very best bars in the world - was aimed at ensuring that the festival was a genuine celebration of the “cocktail capital of the world” by bringing some of the higher-end bars we’ve been unable to work with previously. The Bartender Knowledge Exchange and The Seat At The Bar programme presented an unparalleled educational prospect for both local and international bartenders within the global cocktail community.
Every decision for the festival was made with our bar partners in mind and one of these decisions was not to move forward with the Cocktail Village in 2023, as something that takes footfall and investment away from the bars.
Whilst true change takes time and it may take a few years to really see the impact of the readjustments - the atmosphere around the festival this year was incredible. We are confident that everything implemented truly benefits the London bar community, and this will remain our objective for future London Cocktail Weeks.