Leeds Loves Cocktails

Cities putting on a celebration of all things cocktails is not restricted to London, New York, Sydney and New Orleans. Leeds has it’s very own week of festivities and local legend Sam Fish is here to tell you all about it.

I’ve bartended in Leeds my entire career and, as much as one day it would be great to travel the world slinging drinks in every dive bar from New York to Sydney, I don’t think it would ever feel as natural as it does in my hometown!

Leeds really do love cocktails.. they love parties, late nights, drinking (responsibly), dancing and everything that going out for a drink entails. We don’t do it by halves, we go the whole stretch and we have proudly broken many out of town reps, journalists and fellow bartenders (we can attest to this – Ed). 

That’s why, last year, Nick Fox – long-time Leeds bartender and general bad-ass – decided to stop talking about a cocktail week, and actually dragged all of us other Leeds based under achievers out of bed to start making shit happen!

For those who haven’t heard of Leeds Loves Cocktails, it’s advertised as “A Festival of Great Drinks”, the premise is simple: you buy a wristband (this year they’re priced at the measly sum of £4.50 a pop) and that entitles you to discounted cocktails in the venues involved, as well as giving you free entry to any of the vast array of tastings, trainings and parties going on that week. We love a bargain in Yorkshire you know!

It would be safe to say that our first attempt back in 2013 went well. With 22 bars involved and many great brands sponsoring the event, the venues sold over 1,000 wristbands and created a real buzz in the first really blisteringly hot week of 2013.

All the hard work really did come from one man though! I think it’s fair to say that Nick nearly killed himself putting that week together and ay by gum I’m glad he did.. at least I think I am, it’s fairly hazy!

Leeds has always had a fabulous community when it comes to our wonderful industry, with a saturation of incredible bars all squashed into a relatively small city centre it’s kind of imperative that we all get on, and that we always have. We’ve produced superstar bartenders past and present and also invented some banging drinks in our time. It’s only right to celebrate all that with a week-long piss up… yeah!?!

2nd -8th June 2014 sees a larger and now established Leeds Loves Cocktails coming back for another go. With more bars joining the festivities and 32 awesome brands such as Ocho Tequila, Blackwells Rum and Four Roses Bourbon each sponsoring a chosen bar, the itinerary has grown and spread even further afield. Leeds Loves Food have even given up a space on their main stage to allow new northern quarter bar The Pit, and long running cocktail bar MOJO to give a punch demonstration alongside their sponsored brands Old Forrester Bourbon and El Dorado Rum.

One particular event that was a huge success in 2013 is back – the Jekyll and Hyde cocktail competition, a competition where the rules are simple, do whatever you like… just don’t kill anybody! Challenge accepted screamed bartenders last year, we had “drinks” presented like fry-ups (we are in the north after all) and spiced up ghost chilli liquor – it is a comp where inventiveness is key. This is one event to definitely keep an eye out for this year!

What else do we have is store I hear you ask? Well, we have bands teaming up with Beefeater in decade long running jazz bar Sela, Tomas Estes is going to be around to tantalise you with tequila at Sandinista, the Bacardi Training Team will be kicking out their knowledge and much, much, much more….

I can’t tell you how proud I am of my fair city, super hard working bartenders who really know their stuff working even harder to showcase our community, not individuals… EVERYBODY working together! That’s what our industry is about, going that extra mile to give us all a good time, and I’ve never had a better time than when I’m at home in LEEDS!

For more information on this cracking event check out their fancy website here