We have enjoyed Matthew Dakers drinks for nearly 15 years now and so we were excited to see the launch of his new cocktail range and wanted to find out more....
For those that haven't met you please could you give us a quick background of what you were doing before launching Cocktail Canaries?
I started bartending in Scotland in a variety of different bars before going to Ibiza and then Barcelona where I got the opportunity to work at Dry Martini (featured in World's Best Bars every year) which really focussed me on a career of bartending.
I arrived in London in 2017 with £200 in my pocket and sleeping on a friends sofa. I started by applying to all the bars in the world's top 50 and was rejected by them all but was given an opportunity at The Hoxton Pony and then worked in a number of bars such as Trailer Happiness, Mahiki and the Worship Street Whistling Shop. Some of the best advice I received was from a mentor of mine Alex Turner to get a broad range of experience working in a number of different bars and not become associated with one particular way or style of working.
During this time I became the Chartreuse ambassador after winning the National Bacardi competition which used a touch of Chartreuse in the drink and then the big move for me with becoming European Ambassador for Stolichnaya for 3 years and then launched Jindea my own brand of tea-infused gin.
And what kick-started The Cocktail Canaries Brand?
This was launched as a direct result of lockdown. I was self-employed as a training and recruitment consultant for the London Cocktail Club group (nominated as Educator of the year for Imbibe 2019) but as lockdown approached I took myself and pregnant wife back home to Norfolk so we would have more green space and would feel safer.
Cocktail Canaries was launched in May 2020 and so far it has completely exceeded my expectations and I'm now the proud owner of a spirit and wine shop named Melville and Mayell which actually opened today.
What have been the big learnings for you in the cocktails at home business?
Keeping things simple, this extends from the recipes through to the supply chain and the execution. Try to make your life easier with every step. I've also learned to try and be objective about the business and separate my own personal preferences for the good of the company.
There is a big difference in customer from region to region and we sell a lot locally and so have made sure that we cater to those tastes.
As I understand you built the site yourself, developed the branding and produced the recipes. What have you most enjoyed and what has been the most challenging elements since launching?
The greatest enjoyment has been the experience of seeing people tag our products and share their moments with us. Recently a couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with our drinks and I was so touched they shared that moment with us.
Balancing the needs of my personal life and the business has been challenging particularly as the business began to escalate. My wife is also my business partner along with Danni Wilson who I worked with at LCC and lives locally and it can be difficult to keep the personal and business relationship separate.
Any advice you would give to someone looking to start their own cocktails at home business?
Before you start I would think about what you want to achieve. Originally for myself, it was almost a hobby and it was a lot of fun, now it is a business I look at it very differently and from my experience, if you want to go big I would think like this from the very start. Incorporating a limited company, getting VAT number, capitalising, getting the right price on ingredients etc. I think if we had this mindset from the beginning it would be less stressful further down the line.
What are the most popular cocktails on your site?
The Pornstar and Salted Caramel Espresso Martini are the two most popular cocktails, since launching we've noticed a strong correlation between the weather and seasons and the types of drink people are enjoying.
Is there another business you have taken inspiration from?
As we got more serious I have taken a lot of inspiration from Tails who are very established and NIO. I would definitely recommend the Three Sheets French 75 is insane and one of the best drinks I have ever tried and it's something of a tradition for me to enjoy at Christmas, my mum loves it!
And finally what are you working on for 2021?
I would like to do less but get more done, that is my aim for 2021. The shop opened today and my ambition is to make a success of what I have, no more projects or distractions, I am lucky to have a business that can operate in the current environment and I know that a lot of people from our industry are not in that position.
I really hope this year will be better and the hospitality industry will recover from where it is now.