• Gin Sessions

Experience Speaks (Gin) Volumes

Creating the Gin Sessions, I knew I had to get some fantastic bartenders, with passion, experience and knowledge.  A team that care about every single drink they served and that want to share their enthusiasm. Staff that use the bar as their platform, their stage, an opportunity to share the love of gin.

During my gin career I have been fortunate to work with some really talented individuals. Dennis was one of those individuals, Den has recently set up his own business ‘By Ginvitation Only’. Den has worked with me on numerous events, he was an obvious choice to help out at ‘The Gin Sessions’.

Den’s gin experience is huge, having worked some of the largest Gin Events the UK has ever seen. Serving thousands of gins to many gin fans. I’ve seen him work behind the bar, he is a master at bar tending, I’m looking forward to seeing him work his magic at the Gin Sessions Events.

How did you get into the Gin Experience?

Credit to Liam Gallagher, a beardy scouser and a cucumber for introducing me to gin. Growing up in a household where mum and dads booze cupboard consisted of a sticky bottle of crème de menthe and a dusty bottle of Gordons – which was never opened –in spite of the many parties  in their absence.  Gin was something posh people on diets and nans drank. It wasn’t cool.

Then, in my early 20’s I recall hearing Liam Gallagher stating he was ‘feeling supersonic’ and for someone to ‘give him a gin n tonic’. Next thing, whilst sporting an Oasis do, I’m ordering a G&T at the local –much to the amusement of my mates. It was awful.

Role on a few years later I was having a birthday party. I was in the teaching game then and most of my friends were teachers and therefore, heavy drinkers. Que Mr Dan Walsh, armed with a cucumber…’aw mate you shouldn’t have’ I said, observing how sad it was that our friendship could be summed up by the most phallic of vegetables. However, he then pulled out a bottle of Hendricks Gin – it was a game changer.  I have never had so much fun with a cucumber. All was forgiven. I was hooked.

Tell me a bit about ‘By Ginvitation Only’?

Think AVON but GIN!  My aim was to provide an authentic mini gin festival experience to take to people’s homes or other intimate setting of choice. The concept works wonderfully in enhancing a special occasion such as a birthday celebration, dinner party gathering or sophisticated hen party.

We deliver a specially designed gin themed menu based on the clients’ requirements. Each guest receives 1 x gin fizz (sloe gin & prosecco), 3 x 25ml perfect serves featuring 3 different craft gins from our little black book of distillers, 2 x 50ml gin cocktails with all the trimmings (guests get to shake their own!).

All glassware (copa de balon glasses & champagne flutes) provided and all drinks introduced with a brief masterclass commentary on tasting notes, distillery info and served with premium mixers, fresh garnish, plenty of ice.

When experience, knowledge and passion, forged from years working at the gin face of one of the UKs largest touring gin themed festivals turns up at your door you know you are in safe hands!

When did you have the idea?

During my time supervising the bars for Gin Festival Ltd I must have interacted with around 300,000 customers or more. Many of those lovely people often invited to do a gin themed party for a birthday, wedding, hen, dinner party etc. I knew that many of my customers were inebriated but I could see that there was a demand for such a service.  

‘By Ginvitation Only’ pun aside, is a name I thought best represented the concept. I then approached my longstanding comrade and fellow Gin Festival Ltd Bar Supervisor Sean Loughlan and freelance designer Adam Greasley (who, btw, has a superb company call Merchstall) and both were instrumental in making this thing come alive.

It was only when Gin Festival Ltd folded I launched, mostly to make a point of highlighting that we are Just a few nice guys wanting something good to come out of all the negative stuff because that’s not what we represented.

Recently I have seen you with an old postman’s bike? What’s the story behind this?

Ha! My beloved Patsy! Since launching in July 2018, By Ginvitation Only now offers an events consultancy service, a bespoke brand ambassador service and I have just turned an ex Royal Mail posties bicycle into a fully licenced bar as you do!

Why? Well a few reasons…

Firstly, I have lots of experience with operational elements of large events. I decided I wanted to set myself a challenge and do something on the downscale i.e. if I can be pivotal in ensuring the bars are fully operation for a footfall of 7500 customers, surely I can serve a few bottles of gin from a bike?

Secondly, I remember reading that the Royal Mail had decommissioned the fleet of posties bikes due to health and safety reasons – i.e. too much traffic on the roads.  Gradually the postie bikes were phased out with a load going to Malawi in Africa to help build the infrastructure as these postie bikes are extremely robust (they are actually Pashley bicycles which are dead good). The bikes in Africa had to be sprayed green as the elephants didn’t like the pillar box red and would charge; hence these bicycles are now known as Elephant bikes. True story.

Thirdly, I managed to save a bike that served the same South Liverpool sorting office that, back in the day, would have been responsible for delivering letters to Paul McCartney’s and John Lennon’s house which I thought was cool.  She is called Patsy and it has been an absolute joy pimping her up (not out) to now be (probably) the UK’s first decommissioned Royal Mail bicycle to be a four optic pouring, fully working, fully licenced, fully self-contained bicycle bar with fairy lights. I love her.

Her working name is Gin Royal Bicycle Bar.  You can follow her journey from delivering mail to delivering gin via Instagram (@gin-royal-bicycle-bar).   Patsy is ideal as a pop up bar at events, she can help out at art galleries, restaurants, craft shops etc and  she looks great at weddings (post ceremony gin and tonics on the steps of the church!)

What do you love the most about the gin industry?

The people I get to work with; don’t get me wrong, the gin industry, like any other, teaching for example, has its fair share of charlatans, imposters, phonies and sociopaths. Thankfully, whether casual events staff, cocktail experts, distillers, customers – I have met some amazing people over the last few years from all over the UK and from all walks of life and these people are the antidotes to the few rotten apples.

I am lucky that the people I involve myself these days with are some of the most genuine, creative and decent people I have had the pleasure of knowing and consider them to be good friends.

The gin I get to drink; the renaissance of gin production over the last couple of years has meant that the market is saturated with all sorts of products; some good, some bad. I always keep in mind that it’s all relative and based on subjectivity; therefore, I don’t judge quality on taste alone. What I personally look for is provenance, a backstory, the processes involved, the people involved –what’s their story? Why those particular botanicals? How does that gin represent place and people?

Anyone can knock out a gin, put a fancy label on it and use words like ‘artisan’ or ‘craft’ to ‘shift units’ – and lots do – in their droves, but not everyone has a story – unless of course they make one up. But you can usually tell.

What was the last gin and tonic you had?

Dragon Tears Gin, I had the pleasure of tasting and being educated about it, an offering from Turncoat Distillery (a small independent based in Liverpool) in collaboration with Blackjack Brewery (Manchester) who produce a saison (pale ale) beer named Dragons Tears. I learnt that Dragons Tears are the top leaves of the jasmine green tea plant and these are distilled with a selection of other botanicals. I had a 25ml serving over ice with a dash of Fever Tree naturally light tonic. The gin is lovely on it’s own, and didn’t need a garnish. In my opinion: an exceptional gin.

Patsy and Den at the Gin Sessions Hayling Island 2018

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