From the archives: Imbibe writers share their favourite articles



17 December 2020

With thousands of articles over 13 years to our name, picking our favourites would be a far too arduous task for this time of year. So we asked Imbibe editorial staff, past and present, to choose the one they enjoyed writing the most. And in no particular order...

Julie Sheppard (managing editor, 2004-2017): Game changers: 15 people who influenced how we drink 

'I loved researching and writing this article because it fitted the work we were doing at Imbibe into a much broader context; not just the UK on-trade but the whole history of how and why people drink. It brought together two of my passions – booze, obviously; but before I became a drinks journalist I was a history teacher, so perfect synergy there. 

Content-wise this article is a perfect example of Imbibe's style: practical and factual, but fun. There can't be many other drinks mags that manage to fit God, Jerry Thomas, Louis Pasteur, Dom Pérignon and 80s pop hit Ice Ice Baby into one feature. And it also has a kick-ass illustration by Matt Herring – who doesn't want a flip-top head Maggie Thatcher?'

Lucy Britner (staff writer/sub-editor, 2014-2015/2019-2020): Hard enough: Will hard seltzers last this side of the pond?

'I'd have to be a business journalist nerd and say the hard seltzers one. I have spent years writing about hard seltzers and their meteoric rise in the US and I really enjoyed exploring their potential in the UK. I find wider consumer trends and their influence on what we eat and drink fascinating – and hard seltzers are definitely at the centre of a convenience/health & wellness/lower abv Venn diagram. 

'On the flipside, I always really enjoyed The World According To because it was a great way to find out weird and wonderful things about our industry experts, beyond drinks.'

Clinton Cawood (news & online editor, 2008-2017): Ready to rumble: Rum vs tequila

'I remember the editorial meeting that spawned this surreal feature. Amongst the various ideas flying around that morning, I ended up with the job of pitting two spirit categories against each other in an imagined luchador ring. Only when I sat down to write the thing a few weeks later did I realise just how spurious this was.

'But it was also inherently fun, tangentially educational, and perhaps most importantly an excuse to commission that fantastic illustration. And reading through it again I can definitely spot a few characteristic gags added by [then] editor Chris Losh. For me, the sum total of all of that is undeniably Imbibe.' 

Jacopo Mazzeo (news editor, 2018-2020): Will cask ale be our lipstick of choice in the post-Covid-19 recession?

'There are so many pieces I’m very fond of, but I’ve chosen this one as it’s still very relevant today. It speculates on the post-pandemic future of our pubs and cask beer industry and, despite being nearly eight months old, with most of Britain still in Tier 2 or 3 the future of cask beer is still very much on the line.

'The more I go back to this piece though, the more I feel it reveals, unintentionally, further layers of meaning. Metaphorically, it ended up telling a more personal story of uncertainty, struggle and resilience. I can’t wait to read this piece again, Covid-immune, in a pub, while drinking a freshly poured pint.'

Millie Milliken (deputy editor, 2019-2020): Inclusion this way: Making hospitality spaces trans-friendly

'Writing this piece was not only important for our industry, and a timely investigation, it was also the most educational piece I have written in my near decade of being a journalist. I had conversations with people about topics I've never explored in depth before; discovered resources I now use on a regular basis to remind/educate/understand; and got to give a voice to people who might otherwise remain unheard.

'Most importantly though, I got the chance to talk to some truly admirable people in (and outside) our industry. We've come a long way in hospitality to make it a safe space for everyone – but there's still plenty more for us to learn.'

Chris Losh (editor, 2006-2019): Au revoir Gerard Basset: Hundreds turn out in tribute

'Having done everything from tub-thumping op-eds to stupid shit, and food-matches to ‘I went here and it was lovely’ articles, I think my favourite was a couple of pieces I wrote about Gerard Basset.

Being able to write his obit 18 months ago was desperately sad, but also an honour. How often do you get to say how much someone meant to you and know that people will actually read it? It flowed really easily – probably because it was sincere – and even if it could, probably, have been better; and even if it could never fully do justice to Gerard, you know that he wouldn’t have cared, provided it was from the heart. And it was.'

Kate Malczewski (reporter, 2018-2019): Fight the power: Women speak out about career obstacles in the on-trade

'For this feature, I investigated the challenges women face when building careers in the on-trade. I interviewed so many amazing bartenders and sommeliers about their experiences as women in the hospitality industry, and we covered some big issues: How can the industry foster a culture with zero tolerance for harassment? Why aren't there more women in leadership and ownership roles, and what can be done to change that? The questions and answers weren't always easy to process – for all of our progress, hospitality still has a ways to go when it comes to equality.

'But I was – getting sentimental here – really moved by the honesty of these conversations, and the energy that the interviewees put into them. I'm grateful that Imbibe gave me a chance to write this one, and I hope that other publications in drinks media will continue to put issues like these front and centre.' 

Robyn Black (editor, 2019-2020): How we plan to make Imbibe more inclusive 

'I’d go as far as saying this isn’t just my favourite thing I’ve written at Imbibe but my favourite thing I’ve ever written. Don’t get me wrong it’s not the best piece of writing I’ve ever done. It’s not the most informative, or witty, or cleverly structured or even insightful, but it was important.

'Being a journalist gives you a certain level of influence but I’d never really expected to be able to use that in any meaningful way – I am, after all, a drinks journalist not Marie Colvin. This leader column in our Community edition, however, was about committing to making a positive change. To making a difference, to change the conversation, to ensure others could fulfil their potential and to help improve an industry. And it was long overdue.

'While it will always be a source of regret to me that, due to the closure of Imbibe magazine and, we will not be able to fulfil those commitments (in particular creating a mentorship scheme for aspiring drinks writers from underrepresented groups, which I think would have made a real difference) I am nevertheless proud to have written them because I truly meant every single word.'

Laura Foster (deputy editor, 2011-2019): Guardians of the north: The renaissance of the northern bar scene

'Having spent eight years on the editorial team at Imbibe before going freelance last year, trying to pick a favourite article is incredibly difficult. When I cast my mind back to the things we've done, some of the most memorable are the articles with art treatments enacted by our long-suffering art director, Meg Georgeson. 

'We've always had a penchant for photoshopping key figures' heads in weird and wonderful ways, be it turning Ronan Sayburn MS into the moon for an article on biodynamic and natural wine, or cider god Tom Oliver into a wise wizard. Oh, how we laughed at our puerile ways, but it was always meant with affection. 

'As for my own writing, one article comes to mind in particular – the Guardians of the north cover article that we ran last year. It was a celebration of the northern cities' bar scenes, a love letter to everyone up there who makes it what it is, and poignantly hints at potential troubles to come. Little did we know what this year had in store for us.  

Being located in London, it can be tough shining a light on what is going on across the whole of the country, but we really tried to be as inclusive as we could be. My heart aches for the industry right now, and the demise of Imbibe. Hopefully this article will serve as a reminder of the strength that the UK on-trade possesses.

Isabella Sullivan (reporter, 2016-2017): V is for victory: Why 'I'm vegan' shouldn't make your eyes roll

'I loved writing and researching this piece, as at the time, there was nothing worse than the 'v' word when it came to drinks. I, however, was a secret green warrior and health freak on the verge of going vegan (a secret I had to keep from the Imbibe team).

'This showed sceptical bartenders (you know who you are), you can make a vegan Sour or Flip and that a vegan Irish Coffee isn't actually the most ridiculous thing you've ever heard. It ended up being an incredibly useful guide that's still helpful today.'

Susanna Forbes (beer & cider news editor, 2014-2019): Fish 'n' sips: Pairing beer and cider with pub grub

'Why do I like this? Four experts, 10 different beer and cider styles, five classic pub dishes.

'As always, some surprising results, a few revelations, and – we hope – some principles of use to those championing food matching among the readership.

'Oh – and decidedly full bellies!'


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