AS PUBLISHED BY TOAST.LIFE ON THE 4TH JULY 2018
WRITTEN BY SOPHIE FARRAH
2018 is all about going bespoke, so why stop at cocktails? Toast.Life chats to Richard Maxted, founder of bespoke cocktail events company Mix & Muddle, to hear more about creating custom cocktails, tasty trends and what it takes to deliver the perfect cocktail, aside from the ingredients…
Remember when Piña Coladas were cool? No, neither do I. Much like everything that we consume, cocktails are susceptible to trends too – just look at what Sex and the City did for Cosmopolitans, and of course Martinis – definitely shaken, not stirred – will be eternally cool thanks to a certain suave British spy.
‘Negronis are at boiling point right now, and rightly so. They are THE perfect example of balance - a fundamental cocktail ideology’ explains Richard Maxted, founder of bespoke cocktail events company Mix & Muddle.
‘Of course another current trend influence is - let’s use the word of the moment for marketeers – ‘millennials’!” Richard laughs.
“They drink less and care more about what they drink when they do. It’s experiential-driven drinking as opposed to ‘get anything in my face right now’ drinking. For example, I haven’t made a single Mojito since starting Mix & Muddle - people aren’t as hungry for familiarity as they used to. They want something new. They want to be seen to be on the trend curve”
When Richard mentions ‘fundamental cocktail ideology’ – he really means it. His company Mix & Muddle are known throughout the cocktail-consuming land for mixing and muddling, shaking and stirring some of the hottest cocktails in town, and they are most definitely on, if not ahead of, the trend curve. And the best thing? There is no menu; what Richard and his talented team offer is the ultimate in bespoke.
"We curate an entire cocktail menu for each specific event and each specific client, from scratch, every time. I reckon we’ve racked up about 200-300 custom cocktails now" Richard beams.
But the secret to Mix & Muddle’s success does not lie solely in their tasty tipples, oh no…
"Custom cocktail creation gets us a fair amount of buzz, but it’s also equally about the folks who are making them. I put a lot of effort into picking the right freelance cocktail barmen to bring on our event and I don’t want any arrogance” Richard emphasises.
“Charisma is different - it’s attractive. Arrogance is a turn off. All our bartenders love what they do, and have been doing it for 5 years or more. For most, it’s their career, so no students on my watch – not that I have anything against students!"
So as you can tell – mixing up an outstanding tipple is far more involved than first meets the eye (or mouth), and thank the cocktail gods for people like Richard who take it seriously because there is nothing worse, as we all know, than a bad cocktail. But Richard’s booze-based brilliance was not necessarily written in the stars from the start - from a young age he may have nurtured his inner Tom Cruise, but not in a reference to the classic 80’s film Cocktail kind-of-way.
"Ever since I was 12 I wanted to be a professional actor. I really wanted it. After I realised I was crap at sport and not particularly a favourite of females, I found performing made me likeable to people" he explains.
"This is a common trait for aspiring actors - not to be famous, just to be recognised. That then developed into wanting to just work, consistently, telling stories and exploring human behaviour. The communicative element really appealed to me”
In Richard’s words – ‘the acting industry turned out to suck’ – so after five years he decided it was time to find his own project and create a new path for himself, and having worked in hospitality and in the events industry in between acting jobs Richard already knew the lay of that particular land well.
"I started as an event waiter, then an event barman, and THEN I discovered event cocktails’ he smiles. "I caught the bug. I realised I wanted to start a cocktail events company pretty much overnight, however I’d never worked in a cocktail bar, so an awesome staffing agency called Twist London got me into the Artesian, which at the time was the best bar in the world. After that, I was hooked. The absolute integrity and passion behind each and every drink was spell-binding to me."
Richard quickly noticed that in comparison to what one might be served in your average bar, what was on offer when it came to cocktails at events was ‘pretty pants’ and so after his stint behind the bar at chic Marylebone hotspot Artesian, he embarked on a mission to take that same quality cocktail and make it available at events.
"I got a small loan from Virgin Start Up, and some mentorship. I can’t rave about those guys enough. One of the best things I’ve ever done. Seriously - if you want to start a business, go to them" he enthuses.
Today, Mix & Muddle is an industry leader when it comes to delivering the very best, entirely bespoke cocktails at events – cocktails that don’t just taste good, but that look good and are mixed and muddled in both über professional and amiable style. From 10 to 1000 guests can be catered for, both with exactly the same attention to detail.
"We’re in an industry based almost purely on trust, and personal connection. It’s a luxury service and when clients find us, and like us, they don’t shop around. I guess I hope that we’re seen as doers and ‘yes people’’ explains Richard.
"Our three guiding principles are; one - love and kindness to ALL, two - excellent cocktails WILL change your life and three - support the local."
In addition to their fantastic ethos, there are of course the cocktails themselves to consider. Impressive cocktails are always the talking point at any event; they create a buzz that spreads and influences every element of the evening. Thanks to their brilliantly bespoke approach, Mix & Muddlecan add a unique identity to your event that really suits and reflects you, as well as stylish Swedish wooden bars, unique glassware and fresh ingredients. They specialise in creating delicious cocktails with genuine personality, because as Richard says - 'life's too short for ordinary cocktails'.
"We have a lot of fun curating a unique collection of personal cocktails. We’re also a small company, so we can assign a lot of effort to one job, instead of a cut and paste affair" he explains.
"My personal favourite at the moment is a cocktail we designed for a private client who was mad about Vietnam – it’s called ‘Vietnamese Artichoke Tea’ – it’s made with an artichoke liqueur called Cynar, artichoke tea, lemon, maple syrup and topped with English sparkling wine. That was a deep and heady cocktail of love!"
From private events of all sizes in people’s homes, to brand launches, influencer events, spirit brand activations, and corporate parties, Richard and his team have worked their magic behind many a bar. Their clients include British Airways, Harrods Estates, Sony Music and Airbnb to name just a few, as well as a plethora of festival VIP areas.
"I seem to travel all over this wacky country making cocktails that make people smile, and we're always willing to travel further afield too..." he smiles.
"We did a festival in the Sahara Desert once, which was pretty mad! A logistical nightmare, and we knew we’d never make any money doing it, but the content we get is insanely good. We also did one in the middle of Swedish Archipelago Islands, same concept, where people kayak for 5 hours to a remote island, then dance and drink cocktails all weekend”
Um, where do we sign up? But despite this array of glamorous locations, big name brands and VIP events, providing tantalising tipples to people at home still comes out on top for Richard.
“I really love private events in people’s houses - the reaction you get is always amazing, cause you’re basically building a high-end cocktail bar in someone’s front room. There’s a real buzz, and everyone’s so appreciative” he explains.
“Having said that, my dream project would be if Prince William and Harry requested me and 10 of my best guys to charter a super yacht off Monaco harbor for five amazing parties for charities that help mental health patients. It won’t happen, but it might…it just might!”