Drinks with Bea Bradsell (Bar Ambassador for Drinkup London)
Swift, Old Compton Street
What we drank
Bea: Piccolina, amontillado sherry. white port, fig, angostura £10
Hebe: Kew Gardens, ford’s gin, cucumber, basil, lime, prosecco £10
Bea is a woman known to many in the drinks industry through her bar work and more recently with Drinkup London. There wasn’t enough space in this interview to write down everything we talked about, but I really recommend grabbing a drink with her to chat and listen to her stories.
Tell us a bit about yourself…
So me…who am I? I’m Bea, I work with Drinkup, I’m the bars ambassador. I grew up in the bar industry in London. I’ve always been around it. My Dad’s Dick Bradsell, one of the creators of the modern London bar scene. There’s been this long chain of hospitality for years. My great uncle used to run the In and Out club on Picadilly aka the Naval and Military club and my Dad started working there.
So how long exactly have you been working in hospitality?
I literally grew up going into bars. My mum worked (she ran her own store), so she wouldn’t be able to pick me up from school. Dad would pick me up from school and take me to work with him and my mum would come to pick me up from there. I would have staff meals with the team, I’d just be there hanging out. Usually, my Dad’s favourite thing was to terrify people. He’d make me Shirley Temples in martini glasses that looked like manhattans. I was five or six and people would look at me in horror.
It used to be my parent’s party trick that I could make cocktails, so I made my first cocktail when I was six.
What’s your favourite part of working in hospitality?
The community part of it and the passion. People are really passionate and care. I think there’s great knowledge among most people. We aren’t saving lives, but we are making people’s days better. Some of my best friends from when I was in New York (Bea worked at the Dead Rabbit) were regulars, but I still see them when they (or I) come and visit. I love meeting new people and creating new families. Bar teams are families. I think the vast majority of people are in for the right reason, they want to take care of people and I think that’s a great way to be.
What’s your least favourite part?
I think some people can be hypercritical of each other and I just don’t think that that is the way it should be. People who work at pub or chain bars are just as much a part of this industry as those that work in hotels. I think everyone should be positive with those differences. They’re giving variety to London’s social scene. We should appreciate all of it.
My other pet peeve is people not caring about the guests enough. The focus is getting put onto drinks and although, you know, great drinks are fantastic, the service isn’t always there. You can give the best service for a glass of water and people will come back. If you serve the best cocktail with shit service they will not come back. People want to be treated well.
Do you think being a woman has affected your career? Has it been positive, negative or a bit of both?
I think a mix of both. I’ve been very lucky to work in a lot of places where it wasn’t a factor. My Dad was a massive feminist. I’ve always been raised with this idea that we could do whatever we wanted to do.
The Dead Rabbit was the same thing. Apart from the owners, all the managers were women and the majority of the bar team were also women. I’ve worked at some super feminist places. I now work in a very female-heavy team. People think it’s all women, but there are men! Our designer is a man and Addie Chin, who we always work with, has been adopted into the team
It’s always been in my mind, but I don’t think I’ve ever been held back but I got lucky being able to start higher in the industry than some. I’ve always been very confident in my ability, so I’ve never worried, but I know friends who won’t wear makeup when working in a bar because they want to be seen as on the same level as the men or have had to put up with some pretty atrocious language. I have just been lucky enough to work on places where it’s not been an issue.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve had in this line of work?
Two things. My own self-confidence. I think it’s one of those industries where you really do have to push yourself forward. They say part of the wage gap is women not putting themselves forward and I’ve definitely done that. I could have fought more and gone for bigger things but prefered to stay where I was proficient.
I could have asked for more trips and things like that. That was partially held back by the fact that I was doing front of house. I think a lot of brands focus on the bartenders and less the front of house. Swift has a really fair system where the trips go in cycles considering the whole team.
What trends have you’ve been seeing, what do you think is next?
I’m currently doing Wine Week so…Wine is a big focus. Female wine producers are being championed and also family producers. Across the whole drinks industry, people want to know where products are coming from. They want to see more of the route from grower to the distributor. People are thinking about what they’re drinking and what is going into their bodies. It’s drinking smarter not harder.
Sustainability has obviously been a big buzzword for a while but there’s still a long way to go. Some councils have a lot to catch up with. I’ve been in bars where they still don’t take separate waste for recycling.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone wanting your job what would it be?
Don’t be negative about a brand because it seems cool at the time. People remember and you never know who you’re going to work with in the future. You will need people to do you a favour, always remember that.
Don’t make a name for yourself being wasted all the time. Think about who’s watching you, we’re an industry of many eyes and you represent not just yourself but the bar or brand you work for.
How can we support you?
London Cocktail Week. It’s our 10th year this year so we’re doing 10 days. It’s going to be big, it’s going to be fun, basically a big ole birthday party. Apart from London Cocktail Week, all of our festival passes this year are free (London Cocktail Week will still be free to trade).
What’s your favourite drink at the moment?
If you know a lady in the drinks industry that you would like to see interviewed, pop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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