A COCKTAIL-MAKING service that started in an Oxfordshire garage and has gone on to host parties for Rihanna, Gigi Hadid, Google and Facebook is toasting 10 years at the bar.

The Cocktail Service has served drinks to the masses and the elite since it was founded, almost by accident, by three bartenders at an Oxford venue.

Tom Bronock, Nick Ford and Casey Small were all working at Sahara Bar (now The House) in Oxford’s Wheatsheaf Yard when they began catering for outside events.

The business now employs 15 people in its office on the Nuffield Trading Estate in Littlemore, as well as hundreds of casual event staff.

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It provides premium bar and cocktail services for private and corporate events, delivering more than 600 events per year. Its clients include Adidas, Facebook, Google and Harrods.

The Cocktail Service offers a full service including mobile bars, themed cocktail bars, seasonal cocktail menus, glassware and bartenders, plus consultancy services to venues and brands.

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The trio also founded a sister company, Bar Nation, which complements The Cocktail Service, delivering full retail bar solutions for festivals and public events. It also provides infrastructure, stock, staffing, finance, consultancy and project-delivery services.

Bar Nation currently holds 16 contracts across the UK including the Badminton Horse Trails.

Now a decade on, the businessmen have secured external funding and aim to scale up their operations and deliver events and expertise across the UK and Europe.

Mr Bronock, from Woodstock, said: “We all met working behind the bar and got on well.

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"One of the regulars came in one day and asked if we would serve drinks at his birthday party and it went from there.

“There was no plan at first but we got a gig serving drinks at Henley Regatta and that was a big opening for us.

“It started off in my parents’ garage and the three of us initially put in £4,000 each, which doesn’t go very far when you have to pay for insurance and set up a website among a host of other elements.

“For the first four or five years we reinvested everything back into the business and worked other jobs alongside it.

“But now we’ve had a few big opportunities and we employ 15 people full-time.

“The sector we operate in has huge scope. By our rudimentary calculations the event cocktail industry is worth about £75m, and there are hundreds of companies out there, but we feel there is no true market leader.

“We’ve brought in a business coach and appointed two non-executive directors with experience in the sector and we have a very specific growth plan.

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“So far we’ve focused all our marketing efforts on the south of the UK, but we want to keep building until we’ve got a machine that we can replicate in other parts of the country or abroad.”

When asked about current trends in the market, director Casey Small said: “Lately we’ve noticed that sustainability is very important, and this year we launched a sustainable cocktail menu and several green initiatives including a pledge to remove all single-use plastic from our operations and supply chain by 2021.

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“We’ve delivered events for Google, Facebook and other global corporates and they have specifically asked about it and have been very pleased with our sustainability credentials.

“Drinks-wise, gin has obviously been big, but we’ve also noticed a big trend towards bitters like Aperol and Campari.

“Zero-alcohol cocktails are also very popular, and I think that’s only going to grow.

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“Every season our head mixologist creates a new menu using seasonal products and the latest trends.

“Our cocktails focus on flavour and appearance, much like food does in a restaurant. We try to translate the quality of drinks in top cocktail bars into the events arena.”

Since 2009, The Cocktail Service has delivered more than 5,000 events, from private parties and weddings to corporate functions and celebrity bashes.

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“We’ve done events for some of the world’s biggest rockstars, but also small private events,” said Mr Bronock.

“We want to keep a happy medium between the two and make our premium service as accessible as possible.”

Asked what has been key to success, fellow director Mr Ford said: “Offering truly bespoke solutions, extraordinary drinks and an exceptional service, along with hiring the best talent in the industry. With each client we create a bespoke event, curate a menu and as a team, we thrive on delivering amazing events.”