Drinks with Nicole Sykes (Bartender)

Drinks with Nicole Sykes (Bartender)


Happiness Forgets

What we drank

Hebe forgot to write it down…

I’ve been receiving more and more recommendations for women I should interview and Nicole was one of them. It was so inspiring to meet another passionate female waitress/bartender who truly cares about her craft.

Let’s start with a bit about you and who you are…

My name is Nicole, I’m 24. I work at Lyaness, a cocktail bar on Southbank part of the Sea Containers Hotel. I moved there from an independent cocktail bar called Satan’s Whiskers where I learned the real understanding of ‘washlines’. Before London I was living in my favourite city, Edinburgh where I started bartending. I went from a hotel bar onto the Voodoo Rooms, a bar restaurant and function rooms, then onto The Voyage of Buck, an independent bar and restaurant. I was lucky enough to work with the right people in both cities who pushed me in the right way. 

What do you do at Lyaness?

I’m a senior waitress but I’m spread across the Bar and floor. Everyone does a bit of everything which is quite nice.

How long have you been in hospitality?

Coming up to four years now. Seriously three. The first year was a bit like I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing here, but yeah coming up to four years now.

And what got you into this career?

It was totally an accident. I moved from a real small town to Edinburgh in Scotland. I wanted to move to a city and it was between Glasgow and Edinburgh, my friends were living in Edinburgh, so I moved there. One of my friends was working in a hotel bar and she was like ‘come, just move, you’re young. Let’s do it, I’ll get you a job here’ and she did. So I started working in the hotel bar. It was a really good hotel bar in Edinburgh, it was part of the George hotel. Bang smack in the middle of Edinburgh.

I did not know what I was doing. I was not confident, I’d never pulled a pint, I’d never made a mixed drink. The only thing I’d done was combined two spirits and a mixer. My plan was to stay there and find a job with the council in human resources because that’s what I’d been doing.

The first thing I got used to was the variety of shifts. Day shifts. Night shifts. I was like, this is quite cool, I don’t need to always be working the same shifts week in week out. I was still very young so it suited me. I kind of just never left. I found I could never compare two days because they were so different and that excited me. And I just took it from there. I started working with the right people and getting interested in it. I had good mentors.

When did you move down to London?

January last year. So I’ve been here about a year and a half now.

What’s your typical working day like?

It depends because the bar I’m working in now is part of a hotel. No two days can be the same because no two guests will be the same. We get regulars in the bar which is great, so midweek is regulars, regular hotel guests, industry, friends. It’s relaxed, any prep for the weekend, prep for events, menu developments get done then. On the weekends we do an afternoon tea offering. Thursday, Friday and Saturdays, we open at 12 pm and close at 2 am, so you get different groups of people throughout that day. That varies from a couple celebrating an anniversary to groups of women on a hen do. So many different people. 

What’s your favourite part of being in the industry?

I think I have two. The first is definitely what we have access to in terms of spirits, wines, champagnes. For example, I’ve had a £500 dram of Whisky for free because someone brought it into the bar and said ‘do you want to try this’.
It’s also the people that you get to meet as well. Not just other industry people, I mean that’s quite cool, but also general guests. Just people you meet in the bar. I’ve made so many connections all over the world. 

What’s your least favourite part?

You can go so many ways in this industry, so when you start you can do anything with it and no one really warns you off the wrong path you could take. You’re exposed to alcohol 24/7. It’s a really easy way for people who have a problem, to have a really bigproblem. There’s no awareness about that before you start in this industry. There are no guidelines. 

Do you think being a woman has affected your career?

I think so. I think it definitely has. The first couple of years of my career no one really drew attention to it. I’ve been very fortunate where I’ve never experienced any negative situations. But especially in London, I feel like we have this support for other women if we do anything. I don’t even know some of these women and they’re like ‘Yeah, get it girl’. We push each other and drive each other. 

What are the biggest challenges you’ve found in your career so far?

I think the biggest one for me was the move from Edinburgh to London. It seems like a really glamorous move coming from Scotland to London, but it’s really hard. A lot of my friends have been fortunate enough to know people down here, but that doesn’t get you a job. Here there are hundreds of people wanting the same job and you’ve just arrived here. Trying to find an identity and a venue/ environment that I was myself in I found really hard. I’m also certain time moves faster in London. 

What trend do you think is coming up next?

I mean it’s already been a trend but I think it’s non-alcoholic drinks. I’ve never been asked for so many non-alcoholic cocktails, I work in a hotel now so it makes complete sense. 
I think this is a trend down here and that’s coffee being used in drinks. People want to see it in drinks, not shaken in espresso martinis. When they go to a coffee shop, they want good coffee. They know what they’re paying for now and they understand it.


If someone wanted your job (without taking it of course), what’s the one piece of advice you’d give them?

Remember to be as humble as you can. Don’t be a dick. I sometimes find myself saying stuff and I’m like whoa. Why are you saying that? Without meaning to sound that way, I just know I’m right. But the average guest doesn’t know that. As soon as you know about something you instantly have the upper hand and 9 times out of 10 you come across an arrogant arsehole. Just remember, we make drinks. We don’t save the world. We are here to be good hosts and your guest is the most important part of your day.


What can we do to support you?

Follow me on Instagram? @nicolesykesxo and come to the bar. See the team.

What’s your favourite drink at the moment?

I’ve had the same favourite drink for about 4 years actually. A Paloma. It’s just Tequila, lime, grapefruit and soda. It’s so simple and delicious at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

If you know a lady in the drinks industry that you would like to see interviewed, pop an email to drinkswithhebe@mail.com. 
If you are a lady in the drinks industry, join our Facebook group, Ladies of Liquor to connect with the rest of us!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *