The independent London newspaper

Raise a glass to entrepreneurial spirits

From virtual tastings to letterbox cocktails, the drinks trade is innovating for those of us missing the pub

26 November, 2020 — By Tom Moggach

Signature Brew’s Christmas Pub in a Box

FOR the drinks trade, the pandemic has unleashed a desperate flurry of innovation – from virtual tastings to letterbox cocktails.

With the pubs now firmly shut, you may be craving a frothy pint. To try something special, Honest Brew ( has curated a staggering range of craft beers from around the globe.

Over in Walthamstow, the Signature Brew brewery ( is packing a “Pub In A Box”, complete with snacks and a music quiz with accompanying playlist.

Virtual tastings have become increasingly popular using platforms such as Zoom. Instead of gathering in a wine or beer shop, customers order a selection of drinks in advance and then meet online for a communal sampling.

Believe it or not, these digital experiences can be incredibly good fun. For a start, you can sip in the comfort of your own home – perhaps with a spot of dinner. And it’s always fascinating to gawp into a stranger’s kitchen or living room. For beer tastings, search on Eventbrite (, where you’ll find a plethora of events hosted by independent breweries and beer buffs.
Theatre of Wine (, which has a shop in Tufnell Park, is a master of this format and is offering 15 per cent off orders of a dozen or more bottles for Christmas.

The Wine Society ( is even hosting a virtual Christmas party on Thursday, December 3.

The main drawback of virtual wine tastings can be the cost of the samples. If it’s just one or two of you, the cost of full bottles can quickly add up.

To counter this, wine club 67 Pall Mall ( decants the bottles in 75ml servings – membership to their virtual tastings could be an ideal festive gift.

Another innovation is the boom in letterbox cocktails. A clever example is Send A Negroni ( For just £10, inclusive of delivery, you can post a negroni to a loved one or yourself. All the packaging is recyclable, too.

NIO Cocktails ( take this service to the next level, offering 17 pre-mixed creations such as a Cosmopolitan, Daiquiri or their Garden of Russia, a riff on a vodka sour with an elderflower twist.

You build your own box, choosing 3, 6, or 9 cocktails. These are then posted through your letterbox for you to shake and pour over ice.

In Camden Town, local mixologist Will Borrell is well known for his subterranean cocktail bar Ladies and Gents (, located in a disused public toilet at the top of Kentish Town Road.

He’s now sending out pre-mixed cocktails with a 70s vibe, such as The Disco Cherry Sour and The Disco Pina Colada, available in 100ml and 500ml pouches.

For something offbeat, you could even explore the sparkling meads from the Northumberland Honey Company (, which include a rare rosé.

Let’s not pretend for a second that these innovations will save every pub, bar and drinks shop in these difficult times.

But it’s uplifting to see how hardship can inspire the entrepreneurial spirit.


Share this story

Post a comment