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All things cocktails with Zoe Cunliffe from Mixology Group

Zoe Cunliffe and Myles Cunliffe of Mixology Group - credit Julia Claxton

Tell us about Mixology Group…

I set up Mixology Group with my husband and business partner, Myles, back in 2010. We supply cocktail bars for events, offer bar consultancy, content creation for drinks brands and run training for consumers and bartenders at our bespoke Mixology School in Hove or on-site with individual businesses.

How do you work with the bar trade locally?

We began the Brighton & Hove Bartenders Association around the same time as we started Mixology. The aim was to create a community of local bar professionals and a focal point for spirit brand reps to engage with the pub, restaurant and bar trade.

Our Facebook page now has 15,000 members. It is now managed by a great team of admins and has grown to have its own separate job page where hospitality can post their positions as long as they are offering Brighton living wage as a minimum.

As Mixology Group, we also offer a range of accredited and professional courses for people looking to get into the cocktail bartending industry or to expand their knowledge in spirits or mixology.

Putting your business-to-business activities to one side, what do you offer to consumers who are interested in the cocktail world?

During lockdown we had to think on our feet so we put together a virtual cocktail masterclass service. People can meet online with their friends or colleagues on Zoom and learn how to make three delicious cocktails, using the ingredients supplied in our branded cocktail box.

This has grown into gift boxes with QR codes linking to pre-recorded videos; it’s proved to be a very popular present.

Keeping in mind the growth of virtual over the past year, we have taken our own Introduction to Cocktails and Mixology Course online, which also comes with a box filled with goodies for the class.

We also now run the accredited Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) Level 1 & 2 courses online too. They come with up to 30 spirit samples to try alongside in-depth knowledge on how spirits are created.

We’re pleased to say that our Mixology School in Hove is open again with live courses running monthly.

Myles Cunliffe of Mixology School - credit Julia Claxton

What general drinking trends do you predict for the next 12 months?

Gin will continue to grow as we are still seeing plenty of new and emerging brands hitting the market. Hard Seltzers – carbonated alcoholic drink typically sold in cans – seem to be growing massively. And the no alcohol and low alcohol sectors are back on the up now we have decided that we’ve drunk too much during lockdown!

Sussex is renowned for brewing and wine production but over the past decade or so we’ve seen lots of small batch craft distillers set up. In your opinion are the new-wave Sussex distillers offering something different, and do they represent the county well?

Sussex is definitely staying at the forefront of the game with our gin selection. We have a fabulous array to choose from. From the iconic Brighton Gin, Madame Jennifer in Hove, Slake in Shoreham and Ditchling in – you’ve guess it – Ditchling to name but a few.

This isn’t all we have to offer though. Ditchling have created one of the most delicious toffee vodkas I’ve ever tried. Madame Jennifer have a delicious coffee liqueur to create espresso martinis with, and with the growth of the no and low sector more consumers are discovering vermouth.

Vermouth is an aromatised, fortified wine which is used with mixers such as tonic or soda water. Given the many vineyards we have in Sussex we now have a great fantastic selection of vermouths which should not to be ignored: Rathfinny has their Seven Sisters which is divine, Albourne Estate have their 40 English Vermouth and Bolney with their Rosso Vermouth. All are very definitely worth a try.

Where are your personal ‘go-tovenues in Sussex for quality cocktail?

When we do get the chance to leave our back garden / disco shed we like a cocktail or two at the Whiskey Rooms in Worthing, they have a great Bloody Mary selection.

My personal favourite is Gungho on Preston Street in Brighton, their attention to detail for using interesting, seasonal produce is second to none. And we like to round the evening off at Merkaba at My Brighton hotel in Jubilee Street as it adds an extra bit of fun to the evening.

You’re co-hosting the BITE ‘Sussex Surprisetrade cocktail competition to connect local bartender with local producers. How is that going?

We’re really excited by the number of entrants we’ve had for the competition and we’re looking forward to seeing how they use the local spirits they’ve been provided with. It really is great to see the bars open again and ready to compete and we hope to see their competition entries on their menus, along with local produce for a long time to come.


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