CAIRBRY HILL (Managing Director)
Cairbry’s career began back in the mid 1990s with his days spent studying Microbiology and Biochemistry at University College London and nights spent working behind the bar in Dicks Bar at the recently opened Atllantic Bar and Grill.
Over the next few years Cairbry was fortunate to be involved in a number of major bar openings including The Flamingo Club, Cobden Club, Met Bar, Che, Colmillo (Mexico City) and Black Bird (NYC).
In 2000 Cairbry co-founded and ran Alchemist Management Services, an operations and consultancy company. Projects included bar management contracts with Hilton and Thistle hotel groups; operating its own joint-venture club in Bristol (Nocturne in partnership with Bristol band Massive Attack) and negotiating and running the agency for sales and marketing of Patron Tequila in the UK.
Prior to establishing Strange Hill Ltd in 2009 Cairbry held the position of Global Brand and Event Manager for Stolichnaya Vodka working as part of the Pernod Ricard group of companies.
NICK STRANGEWAY (Creative Director – Drinks)
Nick began bartending in the early 1990’s (whilst studying at The Courtauld Institute of Art) under the tutelage of Dick Bradsell at Fred’s Club in Soho. Nick went on to work alongside Dick in numerous seminal establishments including The Flamingo, Detroit and Atlantic Bar & Grill. In 1998 Nick became bar manager of new St James bar and restaurant Che. During his time there, Nick won numerous awards including the inaugural Evening Standard ‘Bar of the Year’.
In 2003, he moved into the world of drinks consultancy working on venues such as Floridita, Boisdale, Harvey Nichols and The Hospital and with global brands Beefeater, Havana Club, Stolichnaya and Absolut Vodka.
In 2006 Nick opened The Hawksmoor steakhouse, which quickly became the recipient of many awards for both food and drink, including Best Restaurant Bar in 2006. Nick has become known the world over for both his innovation and his deep understanding of the history of mixed drinks.
In 2008, he was awarded the prestigious title of International Mixologist of the Year at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans.Nick has established a long term working relationship with a number of high profile chefs, most notably Giorgio Locatelli and Mark Hix.
HENRY BESANT (Director)
Sadly, Henry Besant, our great friend and partner passed away in March 2013. His knowledge, skill and passion lives on with us at Strange Hill.
Working in the service industry from the age of 16, Henry’s first big break was in 1993 when he opened the legendary Mas Café, which he when on to run for 4 years. In 1997, the group expanded, with Henry becoming director and general manager of 57 Jermyn Street, an exclusive Mayfair members club.
Three years later, Henry went on to become the operations manager of the St Martins Lane & Sanderson Hotels for the Ian Schrager Group. After establishing these award- winning venues, he went on to take control of food and beverage at Hilton’s Trafalgar Hotel, presiding over the Rockwell Bar and Restaurant which was given the title 2002 Time Our Bar of the Year.
Over the next few years, both Henry and his new venture The Lonsdale Bar were recipients of numerous prestigious awards. Whilst working at Lonsdale Henry formed the drinks consultancy Worldwide Cocktail Club (WCC) with fellow bartender Dre Masso. Specialising in bartender training and education as well as on-trade strategies for various beverage brands. WCC were responsible bar projects such as Ronnie Scott’s and Bungalow 8 and worked on strategies for Don Julio, Wyborowa, Beefeater and Ocean Spray Cranberry.
One of Henry’s recent key initiatives has been the creation of Olmeca Altos – a new premium tequila which has won multiple awards including gold and silver medals at the 2012 San Francisco world spirit competition, 2011 Ultimate Cocktail Challenge (Winner), 2012 Drinks International Long Drink (Gold Medal) and 2012 Drinks International Supreme Champion (Best Overall Drink).
CRAIG LANCASTER (Creative Director)
Craig has been an Art Director and Designer on some of the UK’s leading magazine titles including, Ministy, Esquire, Q, Tatler, Harpers Bizarre, Candy and Quarterly for over 25 years.
Moving on from the world of magazine publishing, Craig went on to work for Show Media where he re-branded Stolichnaya vodka and Six Senses spa resorts meeting and workign with Cairbry Hill.
Having worked with Cairbry on these projects, Craig was invited to join Strange Hill in 2011 in order to set up and lead the creative and design department of the business.
STUART BALE (Account Manager)
Stuart began bartending at the age of 16, working with Glasgow’s T1 group, before moving to legendary cocktail bar Alchemy, winning Scotland’s Best Drink Selection. Stuart then moved to Edinburgh where he bartended at Tonic and 99 Hanover Street which also set up in Aberdeen.
Stuart’s next move was South to take up a position at London’s top whiskey bar Albannach, where he remained as head bartender for two years. His background in chemistry and dentistry meant that he wanted to develop a deeper understanding of the science of flavour, leading him to work with Tony Conigliaro at seminal bar 69 Colebrooke Row. Winning Class (2009) and Time Out (2009) and the Observer (2010) Best New Bar gongs.
Stuart is also an experienced event bartender, having worked with clients as diverse as Louis Vuitton and MTV.
ALISTAIR KELSEY (Distillate Research)
Ally began bartending in 2002 whilst studying Aquatic bioscience at the University of Glasgow. He worked at various bars across Glasgow until he finally settled at the award winning Booly Mardys in 2006, where he worked with and learned from some of the best bartenders in Scotland. Ally worked at Booly Mardys for over 6 years, first as bartender before working his way up to become General Manager.
Ally has also helped organise and run many events, festival bars and training programmes with various event companies and brands across Scotland as well as helping to set up and run the Glasgow bartenders club.
At Strange Hill, Ally is the resident whisky expert and carries out research into new distillates.
CHRIS COLLICOTT (Designer)
Chris graduated from Chelsea College of Art & Design in 2007 before cutting his teeth at small agency in the centre of London’s design scene. During his time there, Chris worked on a variety of projects in the world of interiors including some of the UK’s biggest and best designers and retailers. Chris also carved out a niche within the company working with arts and events based clients and heading up work for Zandra Rhodes’ Fashion & Textile Museum and Getty Images’ London gallery.
After 4 years, Chris moved into publishing, working at Forward Worldwide, producing magazines and brand work for high profile clients within the food & drink, business and retail sectors.
As part of design team at Strange Hill, Chris looks after the creative work under Craig Lancaster.
SAM SURL (Research)
Sam’s experience in the drinks industry spans nearly 25 years beginning with bartending for the Maxwells Group in the late 1980’s and being part of the team who converted 2 under-performing pubs into ground breaking venues – The Market Bar and Beach Blanket Babylon. In the 90’s Sam was closely involved with the team developing The Met Bar alongside Cairbry Hill.
In 1997 Sam was part of the opening team at the soon-to-be iconic Alphabet Bar in Soho – a bar that can be truly credited with the ‘democratisation’ of cocktail culture in London. In 2004, after the sale of Alphabet, Sam joined the Rising Star Group, owners of The Underdog Bars and The Establishment where he remains to this day.
Sam is an experienced qualitative market researcher developing his skills as a researcher before setting up as an independent researcher and consultant, specialising in with world of spirits and bars.