Faces of 2015

Drinks: Drinks
Other: People

With stellar views, great booze and an A-list of who’s who, the on-trade once more gathered in London to toast its own at the 2015 Personality of the Year Awards. Andrew Catchpole reports back from the celebration of this year’s winning industry stars

The location alone of this year’s Awards bash, the stunning Rumpus Room at the Mondrian, would have been enough to ensure a great evening. A steady flow of terrific champagne, superb cocktails and the beautiful view of the glittering London skyline also helped.

As ever, though, it was the calibre of guests, including our delighted winners, hot nominees and great judges that ensured that the fifth annual Imbibe Personality of the Year Awards was our most enjoyable event yet.

Put the great of the drinks world in a room and you’d expect no less than a buzzing atmosphere. Add into the blend the excitement of discovering who made the cut this year and it’s little surprise that the mood soon swung to infectious celebration as the Awards were revealed.

But there is a serious side to this competition, identifying as it does those who have done the most to innovate, inspire and generally raise the bar in the world we all love to work in.

Once again we had asked our readers to nominate those that they felt most worthy to be put forward for consideration in categories including restaurant, bar, pub and hotel, plus cross-category awards for overall innovator, educator, industry legend and up-and-coming hot stuff. Our panels of independent judges then cast their final votes, to be revealed on the night. In the final tally, the list of winners and hopeful nominees read like a little black book of the best of the drinks world.

Here then, are the winners of Imbibe’s Personality of the Year Awards 2015…

Imbibe would like to thanks Rumpus Room at Mondrian London at Sea Containers for hosting the Personality of the Year Awards 2015 night.

Perfect Serves
Thanks to our sponsors for providing a fantastic range of quality drinks to toast our winners and lubricate our awards ceremony: Burleigh’s London Dry Gin –  Giffard – Gosset Champagne  – Haig Club – Lamb’s Navy Rum – New Amsterdam Vodka – Rekorderlig – Saint  – Victory Global’s Limestone Branch Distillery

Restaurant Personality of the Year
Luke Wilson, 10 Greek Street and 8 Hoxton Square, London 

First rising to prominence with much-missed The Ambassador in Clerkenwell, which burst onto the scene offering an enticing blend of great brasserie food and eminently affordable wines, Luke Wilson went on, via a stint at Liberty Wines, to open 10 Greek Street and 8 Hoxton Square in 2011. These two fantastic restaurants have gone from strength to strength, mopping up almost as many awards as they have generated popular acclaim.

‘Luke’s two local restaurants are great concepts with possibly the most user-, wallet- and palate-friendly wine lists around. He adds something of himself to everything that he and his team serve up’ Ruth Spivey, Street Vin and Wine Car Boot

Wilson’s passion for making eating out as accessible and as relaxed as possible, while showcasing an ever-changing selection of great wines and drinks at remarkably reasonable prices, is clearly a winning formula. His regular customers include many peers in the restaurant and drinks trades, which, we think, speaks for itself in terms of the quality, atmosphere and bang for your buck that his restaurants continually deliver.

Congratulations also to the other nominees: Will Beckett & Huw Gott, Hawksmoor, London; George Bergier, The Famous Sam’s Chop House, Manchester; Michael Bremner, 64 Degrees, Brighton and Londonl; Roger Jones, The Harrow at Little Bedwyn, Wiltshire; Jan Konetzki, Gordon Ramsay Group, London; Andrew Laurillard, Giggling Squid, south east; Laure Patry, The Social Company, Londonl José Pizarro, José Tapas Bar and Pizarro, London; Simon Rogan, Fera at Claridge’s, London; The French and Mr Cooper’s House & Garden, Manchester; L’Enclume, Pig & Whistle and Rogan & Company, Cumbria

Bar Personality of the Year
Lyndon Higginson, The Liars Club, The Liars Lounge, Cane & Grain and Crazy Pedro’s, Manchester

A popular choice in our hard-fought Bar Personality of the Year category, ex-mechanic Lyndon Higginson came to the bar world relatively late in life, immersing himself in Keko Moku’s tiki everything at the grand old age of 30. From there his career snowballed, driven by a mix of energy and passion, which saw him opening the acclaimed The Liars Club, with Cane & Grain and Crazy Pedro’s following in suitably partyish fashion.

‘Lyndon is the consummate personality; his energy and passion seem to know no bounds. He inspires by opening fantastic venue after fantastic venue’
Stuart McCluskey, The Bon Vivant, The Devil’s Advocate and El Cartel

Higginson has not only re-shaped the late-night Manchester drinking scene but, as importantly, has helped inspire and raise the bar for a new generation of bartenders with his influence rippling out way beyond Manchester’s dynamic Northern Quarter. He is a truly influential figure with a remarkable knack for mixing up unstinting professionalism with unbridled fun.

Congratulations also to the other nominees: Mike Aikman & Jason Scott, Bramble, Lucky Liquor Co and The Last Word, Edinburgh; Alastair Burgess, Happiness Forgets and Original Sin, London
Martin Duffy, 56 North, Edinburgh; Gareth Evans, The Social Company, London; James Shearer, Zuma, Roka, Shochu Lounge and Oblix, London

Pub Personality of the Year
Durham Atkinson, The Hops & Glory, London 

Australian-born Durham Atkinson honed his craft in several top Sydney bars before moving to the UK, landing at Mahiki then leaving his mark on Hakkasan, Milk & Honey, Happiness Forgets and Hawksmoor. He then opened his own pub in Islington, The Hops & Glory, which Atkinson has transformed into one of the finest craft beer oases in the UK. He now also brews in the cellar here, supplying beers to other venues.

‘Craft beer, quality and dynamic enthusiasm for the pub industry – Durham is a true entrepreneur and ambassador, and he deserves recognition for providing inspiration to others’ Jamie Hawksworth, Pivovar

More recently, Atkinson’s cocktail bar and craft beer hybrid High Water London, owned with Bobby Hiddleston and Maria Johansson, opened to further acclaim. He also started his own beer consultancy business in 2014, helping cocktail bars create craft beer lists, and now has plans to open a second Hops & Glory pub in 2016, focusing on the best available, seasonal American beers. Few have championed the burgeoning craft beer movement in such an inspirational way.

Congratulations also to the other nominees: Philip Cutter, The Murderers/The Gardeners Arms, Norwich; Nick Gibson, The Drapers Arms, London; Martin Hayes, The Craft Beer Co, London and Brighton; Marc-Andréa Levy, Cubitt House and Open House groups, London; Charlie McVeigh, The Draft House, London; Oisin Rogers, The Ship, London; Matthew Slocombe, The Crown Inn at Woolhope, Herefordshire; Roger Ward, The Victorian Chop House Company, Manchester and Leeds; James Watt & Martin Dickie, Brewdog, nationwide

Hotel Personality of the Year
Andrew McKenzie, The Vineyard at Stockcross, Berkshire

Described by one judge as ‘a stalwart of the industry, the embodiment of professionalism, an innovator and a teacher’, Andrew McKenzie’s assured tenure as managing director at The Vineyard crowns an impressive CV that has seen him rise a long way from his first part-time job at the age of 13 as a hall porter at The Royal Hotel in Bridge of Allan.

‘An impressive career, spanning general manager by 26, winning an unprecedented seven Cateys for The Vineyard Group and his chairmanship of the BHA – all being testament to a hotelier who was born to the role’ Jonathan Slater, The Chester Grosvenor

Used to the ups and downs of being a lifelong Glasgow Rangers fan, McKenzie’s professional path however has taken a smooth upward trajectory, gaining his first GM post at the age of 26. Since 1998 he has been the guiding force behind The Vineyard’s ongoing success, pulling in award after award, while still finding the time to immerse himself in significant local community and charity roles. He is also chair of the BHA, and partial to a spot of shooting and fishing.

Congratulations also to the other nominees: Nina Basset, TerraVina, Hampshire; Richard Kwiecien, Eclectic Hotels Collection, Manchester; Jamie Moss, Malmaison, Birmingham; Sam & Georgina Pearman, The Lucky Onion Group, nationwide; Lance Perkins, The London Edition, London; Luis Simoes, Chiltern Firehouse, London; Paul Thompson, Lords of the Manor, Gloucestershire

Educator of the Year
Ben McFarland & Tom Sandham, Thinking Drinkers

Building on careers as booze journalists, and with distinguished early acting stints at the ages of 10 and nine respectively, Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham took the next logical step of going into comedy theatre. Debuting The Thinking Drinker’s Guide to Alcohol in 2011 at the Edinburgh Fringe – a show that combined audience drinking participation with a double act on alcohol in history – the duo went on to conquer London’s West End, Cheltenham Literature Festival and even Madrid.

‘These guys are seriously funny and write well too. It’s very rare to find educators that can make the public laugh – let alone seasoned booze peddlers’ Brett Woonton, Vinoteca

Their maverick and witty approach to booze education clearly appeals as new shows, books and a plethora of columns in magazines and national press soon followed. Still prolific writers, communicators and proud winners of ‘one of the five worst jokes’ at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe, the Thinking Drinkers have now brought their irreverent and commercially successful gospel of ‘drink less, drink better’ to more than 15,000 paying punters.

Congratulations also to the other nominees: Dave Broom, spirits educator; Ian Burrell, global rum ambassador; James Franklin, Oxford Brookes University Wine School; Paul McFadyen, Instil Drinks & Trailer Happiness; Kumiko Ohta, Saké Sommelier Association; Jane Peyton BS, School of Booze; Angus Winchester, Alconomics

Innovator of the Year
Jack Adair-Bevan, The Ethicurean, Bristol

Self-proclaimed writer, hunter and mixologist Jack Adair-Bevan started young, working in his first restaurant at 15. By his final year at university he was setting up The Ethicurean, with the notion of bringing natural, seasonal, home-grown and foraged ingredients, plus homemade tinctures and infusions to the fore.

‘The Ethicurean is a great business that delivers an amazing experience in a very simple, wholesome way – grow it, cook it, eat it; grow it, distill it, drink it – and have a whole lot of fun at the same time’ Karen Kevelighan, Abbey Hotel

Creative, different and certainly a little eccentric, The Ethicurean nonetheless soon developed a loyal following, coming to prominence with a series of awards and accolades, including being dubbed Best Ethical Restaurant in the UK by The Observer back in 2011.

The sustainable ethos remains as strong as ever, with Adair-Bevan also now gaining a reputation for his drinks writing in various national newspapers, where his passion for all he does invariably shines through. With a vermouth successfully launched and a likely bar opening in Bristol soon, The Ethicurean and Adair-Bevan’s inimitable approach to food and drink looks set to continue to roll.

Congratulations also to the other nominees: Nate Brown & Lewis Hayes, Merchant House, London; Tony Conigliaro, Drink Factory, London; JJ Goodman, LCC and Craft Cocktail Co, London; James Knappett, Bubbledogs, London; Michael & Charlotte Sager-Wilde, Sager + Wilde and Mission, London; Nick Strangeway, Strange Hill; Matt Whiley, Peg + Patriot, London

Hot Stuff
A dead-heat in the voting meant that two awards were given this year

Jo Radford, Timberyard, Edinburgh
Born into a family of successful Edinburgh restaurateurs, Jo Radford was serving bread at the opening of his parents’ place Atrium when he was just five years old. On and off he continued to work in the family business, also bagging a degree in psychology from Glasgow University, before heading off to Australia to help friends establish a couple of successful restaurants in Byron Bay.

‘Jo has pressed on in a city outside of London and shown grit and determination to explore his passion. He cares for what he does and always strives to learn more’ Ryan Chetiyawardana, White Lyan and Dandelyan

Returning to the UK, he set up Timberyard with his family in 2012, championing the small, the unusual and the rare of the drinks world, also with food and ingredients sourced from local artisanal breeders, growers, producers and foragers.

Described by one judge as ‘everything that is exciting about the combination of youth and passion’, Radford stands out as someone who refuses to follow the crowd, instead forging his and Timberyard’s own identity with an eye for detail that is second to none.

Adam Pawlowski MS, Northcote, Lancashire
With his infectious energy and in-depth knowledge, Adam Pawlowski’s star has been steadily rising, culminating in the passing of the coveted Master Sommelier qualification late last year. An exemplary professional, yet down to earth and generous with his time, Pawlowski’s reputation has grown far and wide beyond Northcote where, as part of Craig Bancroft’s team, he has played an integral part in constantly evolving and innovating the drinks offer at both the Manor and its roster of quality pubs.

‘Adam has achieved great things, passing the Master Sommelier this year and his story shows someone on the up with a lot more to come’ Corin Ireland, Simpsons

A regular face on the wine scene, Pawlowski is an inspiration for the next generation of both up-and-coming sommeliers and others in the wine business, showing what can be achieved by a combination of hard work, dedication and passion. Still young, his ambition continues to drive him on, with an eye on the UK Sommelier of the Year competition which he admits he would love to win.

Congratulations also to the other nominees: Zack Charilaou, M Restaurants, London; Dee Davies, Hyde & Co, Bristol; Myles Donneky, Aqua Shard, London; Gus Gluck, Vinoteca, London; Emily Harman, VinaLupa; Ally Martin, Peg + Patriot, London; Adam Pawlowski MS, Northcote, Lancashire; Mauro Pirovano, The Savoy Grill, London

Chairman’s Award
Tomas Estes, Cafe Pacifico, La Perla, El Nivel, global 

When Tomas Estes opened his first Mexican-inspired restaurant and bar in Amsterdam in 1975, he had little idea of the journey he had embarked upon. Today, having overseen the opening of 18 Mexican restaurants and bars in cities as diverse as Milan, Sydney, Paris and Norwich, he can rightly be described as a veteran of the business. His latest, El Nivel in London, is dedicated to rare agave spirits. 

‘Tom Estes has carved an impressive niche both with his great bars and his global march to educate the trade on tequila in all its glorious forms’ Matt Scriven, Bitters ‘n’ Twisted Venues

It is Estes’ passion for tequila that has really served both as his inspiration and an inspiration to others. This grew, he says, as he realised just how important Mexico’s national drink was to his growing businesses. The payback has been nothing short of incredible, with Estes going on to become one of the world’s most respected ambassadors for the drink, with a host of books, consultancies and educational roles growing out of his interest and knowledge. To date he has personally spread the message of the variety and versatility of quality tequila among the bar communities in over 20 countries, continuing to win converts and friends alike.

Industry Legend
Salvatore Calabrese, Salvatore’s Bar at the Playboy Club, London

Dubbed The Maestro, Salvatore Calabrese is truly a global giant on the bartending scene, being at once a sought-after judge, a consultant for innumerable brands and the author of several bestselling books, with a nice sideline in barware products as well. He draws on over 40 years of experience since he mixed his first cocktail aged just 12.

‘Salvatore is a legend in his own right – from the Amalfi coast to world domination; and you cannot deny the sheer genius of the man who wrote How To Cure a Hangove: Hair of the Dog!’ Louise Gordon, Lime Wood Hotel

By 21 he was the youngest maître d’ on the Amalfi Coast, soon moving to the UK where he landed at Duke’s Hotel, coming up with his now legendary recipe for the ‘Ultimate’ Dry Martini – the first of many famous cocktails he has created. A move to the Lanesborough Hotel followed, and he then ran his own bar for many years at the Fifty St James club, before being tempted by the creation of Salvatore’s Bar at the Playboy Club.

More recently The Maestro directed the opening of Bound by Salvatore at The Cromwell Hotel in Las Vegas and, while he’s stepped down from his long role as president of the UK Bartenders’ Guild, he shows no sign of ever slowing down.

Congratulations also to the other nominees: Tim Bacon, Living Ventures Group, Manchester; Alain Desenclos, ex-Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Oxfordshire; Tomas Estes, Cafe Pacifico, La Perla, El Nivel, global; Nick Jones, Soho House Group, global; Tim Martin, JD Wetherspoon, nationwide; Alessandro Palazzi, Dukes Hotel, London; Peter Prescott, Prescott & Conran, London

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