This month we shine the light on a Surrey hospitality business that has gone to new levels during lockdown.
Born from the belief that a bar should be much more than simply a place to get a drink, The Drunken Jockeys launched in 2018 by three best friends, Zack Goodall, Will Burchill and Will Isaacs. Prior to the pandemic their mobile cocktail business was thriving but, when lockdown hit, cancelling weddings and events (their core market), the three business partners were forced to think outside the box. Creative director, Zack Goodall, explains more.
Who are The Drunken Jockeys?
We create mobile bars that transport guests to a world of fun with a great drink in hand.
We provide a full bar for weddings, public events, corporate events and private parties and we make impeccable cocktails for guests to enjoy. My background is in set design and heritage management, Will Burchill is our mixologist extraordinaire and also a great photographer and Will Isaacs basically lives and breathes the business and is a great people person and manager.
How did the company start?
We felt that at every wedding or pop-up event we attended, the bar was basically just a trestle table with bottles on it – there was no imagination there. No one spent time at the bar, it was just a place to grab a drink. So, we built our first bar, Arabella, by converting a dusty old horsebox (hence our name) with the idea being that we’d take it around to different events and cause a bit of a stir. We based ourselves down at Shred & Butta in Cobham, which builds and converts vehicles into creative spaces, and we’re still there. We’ve since converted an old American ambulance and an old American postal van into a self-service pulling station. We build our bar ranges around finds from antiques fairs, such as Ardingly and Kempton. Sticking true to our original concept, our custom designed modular system allows us to create solid looking pieces, that are both flatpack and extendable. It’s pretty exciting stuff, keep your eyes peeled for more bar releases in the near future.
How did the business evolve during lockdown?
Well, we had a full year of weddings and events planned but, of course, we couldn’t do any of those, so we were fully expecting that our business might collapse overnight. We felt so bad for our wedding clients, many of which not only lost out on their big day but were also left out of pocket by suppliers that went bust because of the pandemic. So, we sent them some cocktails in jam jars to cheer them up, realising that, with pubs and bars shut, it was actually a really good business idea. Soon we were making and delivering 300 cocktails each weekend. We began to collaborate with local businesses and, before long, big brands were interested, which opened the doors to the corporate market. We now deliver our menu of cocktails and mocktails nationwide and even as far as Malta, Germany and Denmark and host virtual and masterclasses too.
What are your top tips for anyone booking a bar for an event or wedding?
- Invest in a look. It doesn’t have to be for the whole party (there’s a certain luxury in subtlety) but for elements, such as the food and drink or décor.
- Invest in suppliers and trust them.
- Keep the menu small and high quality.
- Glassware is key – there’s a big difference between cut glass and other forms of glassware. It can really change everything.
- Give yourself plenty of time to organise and find the right supplier
So, what’s next for The Drunken Jockeys?
We are so thankful that we have become one of lockdown’s success stories and, because we are all best mates, it really doesn’t feel like we’re going to work (although we do work incredibly hard). Weddings and events are now back on so we are busier than ever with those, but the cocktail delivery service will remain, as will our virtual masterclasses. We’re looking forward to more collaborations and we’re also working on a new project but at the moment it’s top secret, so you’ll have to keep an eye on our social channels to find out more!