About Time You Met: Ciarán Smith, Co-Founder of The Bottle Cocktail ShopBy Angelica Malin
The Bottle Cocktail Shop is the newest project from Top 50 Cocktail Bars UK award-winner and Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards nominee, Ciarán Smith. Based in Islington, The Bottle Cocktail Shop offers everyone the opportunity to ‘bring the bar home’, with a range of ten expertly made bottled cocktails that don’t need mixing or stirring. We chatted to Ciarán about the launch of his new bottled Cazcabel Margarita, what people can expect from The Bottle Cocktail Shop and his exciting expansion plans:
Tell us about your career background?
I started off working in Irish country pubs learning the ropes whilst in college studying hospitality. From there my career took me to Ireland’s leading 5-star hotels like The Shelbourne Dublin, before departing to America to join the prestigious Waldorf Astoria New York as Rooms Division Manager and the Conferencing and Banqueting Manager and later moving to London to take up the position of Banqueting Manager at The Dorchester Hotel.
In 2018, I opened my first cocktail bar which I operated for 4.5 years and saw it nominated for numerous national and international accolades, along with being shortlisted for Bar Owner of the Year by Imbibe in 2019, awarded No.11 in the Top 50 Cocktail Bars UK, and No.130 in the Top 500 Bars in the world. In 2023 – No.29 for the Top 50 Cocktail Bars UK amongst others.
What inspired you to set up The Bottle Cocktail Shop?
The inspiration for The Bottle Cocktail Shop came from lockdown and the fact that bars had to close down and bottle shops were seen as essential businesses. This made me explore the business model of a bottle shop, which I found needed a new injection of life and for someone to approach it with a fresh set of eyes to create a bottle shop for the modern, experienced generation. I asked myself one question “if a bottle shop didn’t exist today what would it need to be successful?”
The first thing that was evident to me was that we needed a USP, something to set ourselves apart from traditional bottle shops and that for me is our own range of bottled cocktails, the second is that we needed a curated selection of beers, wines and spirits which eliminates choice fatigue, same day delivery and finally a cocktail bar in store which allows us to express our creativity and reinforces our knowledge of spirits and flavours that you would find in store.
What does The Bottle Cocktail Shop offer?
The Bottle Cocktail Shop offers guests the opportunity to bring the bar home with a range of eleven expertly crafted bottled cocktails that don’t need mixing or stirring – simply pour over ice and enjoy. Less time spent shaking means more time for sipping and with a broad range including our Session Negroni, East 8 Hold Up and Cazcabel Margarita there’s a cocktail made to suit everyone’s palate, for every mood, movement or moment. Additionally, we have curated a selection of beers, wines and spirits in store should cocktails not be to everyone’s desires.
Who is the shop aimed at?
The Bottle Cocktail Shop offers everyone the opportunity to bring the bar home and is a new innovative approach to the traditional bottle shop built for the experience generation. Our bottled cocktail offering is inclusive for everyone and the bar is of course great for people who love socialising with their friends, or looking for a quiet drink.
What is something unique and surprising about the shop that not many people know? –
One of the more surprising elements guests find when they visit The Bottle Cocktail Shop is that BCS is a hybrid between a bottle shop and a cocktail bar. Our guests can sit in or on our terrace and enjoy our cocktail menu where we utilise many different techniques from fermentation to carbonation to name a few. We also rotate our cocktail menu every four weeks highlighting different spirit brands and flavours to keep it fun and fresh for our guests. Additionally, we have a compendium of over 200 classic cocktails that all our bartenders need to learn, so if you don’t see something that takes your fancy from the menu you can always ask for a classic.
As we are a hybrid of a bottle shop and cocktail bar, we have designed a great shopping experience for our guests. When it comes to our spirit and wine selection we wanted to take choice fatigue away from our guests, so in order to do that we have taken a WSET systematic tasting approach to all our products and for every subcategory of category, we have a very good and an outstanding choice, if we take Gin for an example Gin has so many sub-categories of the category London Dry, Old Tom, Sloe etc instead of having over 100 different types of London Dry, Old Tom etc like traditional bottle shops we only have two, highlighting what we believe is a very good and outstanding example of that subcategory.
Choosing alcohol can seem quite daunting when you walk into a bottle shop and you don’t want to look “silly” asking the wrong question, so we have created a colour key menu that helps you navigate the store products, for example, if you walk up to a spirit bottle and see a green stamp on the necktie the key indicates the flavour profile, such as orchard fruits, spices like cinnamon etc. This eliminates the age-old task of staring at the shelves judging a bottle by the label whilst making it more approachable and comfortable for our guests to ask us questions.
What’s new in the shop?
Our Cazcabel Margarita is the newest addition to our bottled cocktails. It draws inspiration from the iconic Smokey and piquant Cascabel pepper, a staple ingredient in Mexican cuisine, and it has been flying off the shelves!
What are the most popular cocktails in the shop?
Our most popular cocktail in regards to our bottled cocktail is 100% our Cazcabel Margarita with Cazcabel Blanco 100% Agave Tequila, Chilie Poblano Liqueur, Citrus and Agave. In terms of our cocktail menu, it has to be the Mangolorain, a riff on the age-old classic Daiquiri – Carta Blanco Rum, Jalapeno Shrub, Mango Puree and Citrus created by one of the BCS team, Tait Kirk.
What are your future plans for the business?
The goal for The Bottle Cocktail Shop is to grow the concept to multiple venues across London giving everyone the opportunity to bring the bar home whilst giving people a destination bar for cutting-edge cocktails.
Whilst growing the brand of The Bottle Cocktail Shop, we are also aiming to introduce The Bottle Cocktail Shop’s little sibling Little BCS. Little BCS will be a smaller offering from The Bottle Cocktail Shop focusing on highlighting our bottled cocktails and cocktail bar in more intimate sites across London.
16 Upper St, London N1 1QP
For further information on The Bottle Cocktail Shop, see here.