bartender scoops ice for cocktail

A day in the life of: a cocktail pro and spirits educator by Red Magazine

In which you can follow 24 hours in the life of Hannah Lanfear! Thank you to the brilliant Roanna Day for the feature, which you can find in full, here

For anyone geekily into cocktails Hannah Lanfear is an automatic hero. She’s cool, clever and has made it to the very top of an industry dominated by men. Plus, she makes a bloody good cocktail (ideal BFF material…). 

Hannah is co-founder of The Mixing Class, a company dedicated to offering spirits education. Through The Mixing Class Hannah hopes to educate bartenders to the benefit of the hospitality industry, offering recognised qualifications in an industry that has few relevant awards. The Mixing Class is additionally dedicated to enabling businesses to be more mindful of social responsibility and this year will be launching a program to bring young Londoners into the cocktail industry, giving them enough experience and a skill set to take their first steps in employment. 

When she’s not setting the drinks industry to rights Hannah can be found running pop up bars, crafting new cocktail recipes, rock climbing or fine-tuning her espresso making at home. 

We speak to the woman who’s stirred the finest cocktails at iconic establishments like Milk & Honey, Bungalow 8, and Boisdale and find out a a day in the life is like for a cocktail pro and drinks industry educator… 

What time do you get up?

I like to go to bed early so I can wake up without an alarm, somewhere just before 7am. Depending if a cat hasn’t already done the alarm part by walking over my face. Otherwise our cat Peg likes to appear with a toy mouse and shouts loudly for it to be thrown so she can fetch it, shout, fetch, shout, fetch, etc.

What’s the first thing you do when you get up?

Switch on the coffee machine! I completely love coffee so the ritual of grinding beans and pulling espresso is probably the best thing about a new morning. We have a La Pavoni Europiccola, an old Italian style manual lever espresso machine that you control using the force of the lever. You have to learn to use it as you need to understand the process to get it right. My nerdiness for spirits also extends to espresso! I think not making cocktails for a job anymore has drawn me to manual crafts that require exactitude. The latte art is a bit hit and miss but when it’s hit it’s very satisfying!

Do you have breakfast/workout/meditate in the morning?

Breakfast, definitely. Bran flakes, yogurt and blueberries or if I’ve made a loaf then something on top of a chunky slice or two of sourdough.

What do you wear to work?

I’m a scruffy person at heart. Being from a fishing village in Cornwall I’ve never really taken well to smart clothes, but if I’m lecturing then I’ll put something presentable like a top and a cardigan over jeans. 

What time do you leave for work and how do you get there? What do you do on the commute?
Depends on if I’m lecturing or not. If yes I might be carting a massive trunk of booze about by cab and I’ll do a crossword or use the time to read about articles about spirits. But if not I cycle everywhere. I love bicycles with my whole heart and could bore the pants off you about them GLADLY.

Talk us through your day at work…

Well every day is different. This past month I spent four days in Armagnac visiting distilleries, four days teaching at the WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust), two days teaching WSET courses through my own company, The Mixing Class, and four days giving seminars at The Spirit Show and The Telegraph Whisky Experience. The rest of the time I try to attend industry events, especially anything that offers the opportunity to learn about spirits, or I’m at home where I’ll work on filling my courses and getting through the admin of running them.

What’s your workspace like – is it a desk etc?

Either I’m stood at the front of a classroom educating about spirits, or I’m at home on the computer. Either is delightful, my job is the best! Starting my own company has been wonderful – I get to work with people I like and enjoy fairly stress free days. I have often been asked to present at spirits shows, and I am working on managing the pressure of public speaking better but with each occasion it gets a little easier, and I hope one day I’ll come to enjoy the butterflies. Although I recently learned that exactly three small whiskies does wonders for stage fright!

What does you day at work look like? Do you have meetings? 

Yes, I’ll cycle into central London to meet with people and talk to them about The Mixing Class and the benefits of education within hospitality. You see quite high turnover of staff in the industry, yet education is a good way of building loyalty in a team. My company is a combination of delivering spirits education to the hospitality industry, then the next phase is a program to encourage young Londoners into hospitality, which has been the most rewarding career for me. I started out without even A-levels, only some experience pulling pints in the village pub, and on moving to London just fell into a job in a wine bar, having no other skills to offer. Since then I’ve  worked in some of the best cocktail bars, managed teams, consulted on cocktail bars, lived in Holland, Denmark, and travelled the world over as an International Brand Ambassador for a gin distillery, so my goal is to share the opportunities that hospitality offers with people that are maybe being pushed out of London by gentrification. Hospitality will always welcome hard workers with enquiring minds so these are opportunities open to everyone. These days I’m a very happy homebody so I’ve cut down on the travel. I love gardening, cycling, climbing, coffee, cats and my wife and all of those things can be found very close to home, which is where my heart is.

Do you enjoy your work?

Oh my goodness I LOVE it.

What’s your favourite thing about your job? 

Well I get to manage my day and that’s a delight, after 18 years of fairly high pressure environments. If I’m not teaching then I run my day how I like. A bit of desk work, bake a loaf, go for a climb or a cycle in the afternoon. But teaching is excellent. I really love the dynamics of a classroom. The courses I teach are three days long and its fascinating to see the rapport build, and knowledge and confidence develop in the classroom. I will never tire of that aspect of it! And I always meet some awesome people. 

What do you have for lunch at work? Do you go out for lunch or work through?
I endeavour to make myself a sandwich but if not I love pho. That would be my ideal lunch. And if I can’t have that then the club wrap at Leon is the tops. Getting old I’ve begin to appreciate doing things for myself like baking. I think we all need to bring our consumption closer to home and take away the layers of commerciality that are the obstacles of doing and making things for ourselves. Hence the bread making, the gardening and the bicycle mechanicry. 

Talk us through your evening routing…

If I’m teaching I’m out the house by 7am, I’m done around 5pm, and I get home around 6pm.

What do you do in the evening? Stay in/ cook/ meet friends? Work late?

Wife and I will either go climbing at our local bouldering centre, or maybe gorge on Netflix. I am dying to get cracking on Blue Planet, I am an enthusiastic snorkeler and scuba diver so it’s my favourite thing on TV. I must say that 15 years as a cocktail bartender has given me my fill of late nights and boozing but the occasional cocktail with friends is of course delightful, and something I wish I did more of in fact, as I have to keep up with current trends in cocktail making.

What do you watch on TV? Any favourites?

Greys Anatomy is a very guilty pleasure. When I met my wife I made her start the entire thing from scratch. We only just made it up to date. The entire premise is ridiculous and I find myself shouting at the TV when one of the characters has to knowingly explain that it’s really excessive how many friends and relatives have died and how many disasters they’ve been in. I suppose you have to suspend your disbelief. Still annoying though. But I love it anyway.

How do you unwind before bed? 

I try to get some reading in. I’ve got stacks of books about spirits that I’m trying to get through. Just lately I’m reading the Spirit of Whisky by Dave Broom and it’s wonderful, so evocative, like travel writing but with deliciously dorky facts about whisky thrown in. And I am trying to get onto ‘Whiskey Women, the Untold Story of how Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch, and Irish Whiskey’. Women have been instrumental in distilling and they are so often passed over. I recently learned that between 50 – 80,000 women distillers were burned as witches back between 1500-1660s. Imagine. You just don’t hear about the role of women in shaping the history of distilled spirits and yet even the very design of the still can be credited to a woman, Maria the Jewess. I am all about celebrating Maria the Jewess!

What time do you go to bed?

9.30pm on the dot, without fail. Not feeling tired is my favourite thing I’ve learned as a grown up, I’d recommend it to anyone.

Fancy trying one of Hannah’s cocktails? Follow her recipe for an Old Occitan here.