Alastair Burgess is the owner of renowned London cocktail bars Happiness Forgets and Original Sin. He has worked in the business for nearly 20 years and is considered one of the first people to open a New York style cocktail bar in Europe. He has become a voice for his industry, regularly judging cocktail competitions and presenting at bar shows around the world.
His career began as a glass collector in Bar Coast, a local bar near where he grew up in Guilford. He had left school unsure of what to do and soon fell in love with the service industry. It was a party bar with bright colours and DJs on the weekends. He was soon promoted to the bar, and within two years was working there as Assistant Bar Manager.
He left to work as a Deputy Manager at a larger venue nearby: Bar Med. For three years he ran this 500 capacity bar, managing its 22 members of staff. It was a style bar with heavy weekend trade that catered to the masses. There was still not a cocktail in sight…
At 24, he moved to London and took a job as General Manager of a small, 120 capacity bar in Notting Hill called Mook. It was here that he first began learning about cocktails.
He ran this site for four years, with a yearly growth in sales of about 11% from year to year by changing the offering from beer and wine, to a more cocktail heavy focus.
In 2006 Alastair moved to New York City and landed a job at Pegu Club working for Audrey Saunders. Audrey is still considered one of a handful of people who were instrumental in the resurgence of cocktail culture globally and for what it has become today. She acted as his mentor throughout 2007. It was the same year that Pegu Club won World’s Best Bar at Tales of The Cocktail; the most prestigious accolade achievable for a bar.
It was working at Pegu Club that he developed his cocktail knowledge and began to hone his craft. Most importantly however, it made him realise the kind of bar he wanted to open himself one day: an intimate destination cocktail bar.
He returned to London in 2008 where he worked as the Assistant Bar Manager and oversaw the launch of members club Quo Vadis. The opening was big news at the time, and before long he was approached to head up the food and beverage programme at a 5 star hotel in London.
Despite being offered free reign at the hotel, he missed the intimate establishments he had fallen in love with in New York - bars like Pegu club or Little Branch.
He took a job at legendary London speakeasy, Milk & Honey, whilst he was planning a move back to New York. It was at this time, that his now business partner Andy Bird, stumbled across a little basement in Hoxton Square which would become Happiness Forgets. He never looked back.
He was able to do exactly what he wanted to do, to hand pick his own team, and offer his style of bar. It was a bar that didn’t focus on crazy molecular drinks or disco drinks, but interesting and classically styled ones at a time when most of London was still drinking Mojitos. More than anything, he concentrated on it being a place for grownups, the kind of bar that he himself wanted to drink in.
Four years after the opening, Happiness Forgets has gone from strength to strength gaining global recognition and producing some of the most promising bartenders in the industry.
Alastair opened his second bar, Original Sin, in Stoke Newington in December 2014. It received high acclaim from the industry and the media alike.