In it to win it

Laura Foster

Laura Foster

18 October 2016

So another awards ceremony is over, a couple of balloons are blowing around deflated on the floor of 100 Wardour Street, and a fair few people are nursing sore heads today.

As you’ll see, the results of Imbibe’s inaugural Drinks List of the Year awards in association with MIXXIT were revealed last night. Well done to all the worthy winners, you were the pick of an incredibly high calibre of entries, and should sport your lovely trophies with pride.

But as with all these things, the debate around how London-centric the results are has once again kicked off. There are probably many reasons why this is the case, but I’d like to focus on one area where you can do something about it. Help us to help you, if you like.

Stuart McCluskey of the Bon Vivant and Devil’s Advocate in Edinburgh posted on Facebook today asking how we can redress the balance, and Mojo’s Sam Fish responded that bars across the country needed to make more noise. And this is a great attitude, because in order to be in with a chance of winning a Drinks List of the Year award, you have to enter the competition.

Yes, we got entries from Fraserburgh, Darlington, Knutsford and Solihull, (and Liverpool’s The Smuggler’s Cove took home one of the eight trophies) but the number of entries that came from London dwarfed the others, with 71% of entries coming from the capital. I’m not saying that the proportion of winners from London or not-London should be representative of the proportion of entries from each, but as a starter it really does help if we have more not-London entries coming in.

And it’s the same with Personality of the Year: you have to nominate your peers for the awards.

There’s no fee for entering either, by the way…

Movers and shakers

We do try to encourage UK-wide participation as much as possible, and I’d like to share a little story about one of our most recent attempts. Every July, we hold Imbibe Live at Kensington Olympia in London, and while we already have a huge number of people from across the country travelling to it, we always want to encourage a few more, especially those who might not have the financial means to cover costs of travel.

So we came up with the idea of a fun competition called Shakes & the City, where cities from across the UK could field teams to prove who was the best cocktail city in the land by competing in the wonderfully reductive challenge of creating a drink to epitomise their home town. Any teams competing would have their train tickets paid for by Imbibe.

We put it up on our website, pushed it through social media, and I even contacted a few key movers and shakers across the country to ask them to pass the information to their teams. And do you know how many cities got involved with entering? One. And that city was Leicester, who completely blew the Imbibe team away with their efforts, gathering local bartenders from the city and forming three teams, who all created their entries on this website.

To make up numbers, I ended up contacting people direct and specifically asking them to field teams. Even then, the team from Glasgow dropped out with a few days to go.

Despite the challenges, we ended up with a fun competition on the main stage, closing Imbibe Live, with great local support for the different teams. It was brilliant, and resulted in a news story on the Imbibe website, which was picked up by a website in Birmingham.

What’s more, the captain of the winning team, James Bowker of The Edgbaston hotel, is our World According To… interviewee in the next issue of Imbibe, while Charlotte Wood of 33 Cank Street in Leicester has provided some quotes for an upcoming web feature.

I’m not saying that coverage in Imbibe is the be-all and end-all to the success of your careers, but any publicity is good publicity, and the people participating in this competition showed their dedication to the industry as a whole when they went above and beyond to get involved, which makes them more memorable to everyone.

Imbibe needs you!

So we’ve been having yet another think about how we can redress the London-weighted balance, and cooked up another scheme in time for the opening of nominations for Imbibe’s Personality of the Year awards 2017.

We want to create a UK-wide board of ambassadors who we can work with to help drum up participation in all corners of the country. People that we can contact when such things as Drinks List of the Year, Personality of the Year or Shakes & the City roll around, who we can ask to both nominate their peers in their region or neighbourhood, and also encourage these people to enter.

By teaming up and working together, hopefully we’ll see an amplification of noise coming from different regions. Just look at what Scotland has started to achieve since the launch of The 100, with Tales on Tour coming to Edinburgh next year.

So if you’re interested in working with Imbibe to do this, drop me an email ( with the subject header ‘Imbibe Ambassador’ and we’ll add you to our database, and be in touch imminently. (It’s press week this week and we’re rather swamped.)

If you have any other ideas or thoughts on the matter, please do give us a shout – we’re all ears.

And finally, entries for next year’s Drinks List of the Year awards are already open – enter now.

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