Since the start of his career, Simon Ford has been privy to just about every side of the drinks business. After working in wine retail in the U.K., he went on to open the much-lauded Koba cocktail bar in Brighton before making the jump to spirits marketing—holding titles as brand ambassador for both Pernod Ricard and Plymouth gin.
His latest career path, however—Ford is co-founder of spirits maker, The 86 Co.—has attracted perhaps the most attention. Launched in 2012 in collaboration with Employees Only founders Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric, The 86 Co. set out to develop spirits with bartenders, and drink-making, in mind. Today, they make some of the drink world’s most popular bottles, among them, Caña Brava rum, Tequila Cabeza, Aylesbury Duck Vodka and Ford’s own namesake gin.
Ask Ford his go-to drink order and it’s what you might expect: a classic gin Martini. But his choice at a dive is more surprising. Here, Ford tackles our Lookbook Questionnaire to share the best and worst things he’s ever drank, the weirdest cocktail experiment he ever attempted and the one thing he wishes would disappear from the bar forever.
I am the co-founder of The 86 Co.
What do want to be when you grow up?
The inventor of a chocolate bar that can cure cancer, or Sir David Attenborough’s replacement on the TV show Planet Earth.
Best thing you ever drank:
A vertical tasting of Grands Échezeaux, which was life-changing. One bottle we tasted was a bottle of La Tâche—this was before the days of absurd wine prices. It had this coffee bean aroma and a floral raspberry fruit that I can still taste when I think about it today.
Worst thing you ever drank:
Airag. It’s a drink often found in Mongolia made from fermented yak’s or mare’s milk. I have been told it’s an acquired taste.
First time you ever got drunk:
I was 19, and it was the first time I ever drank ten pints of beer in one evening. The goal was to visit ten pubs and have a pint in each one before heading to the nightclub. I never made it to the nightclub, and I threw up.
If you had to listen to one album on loop, for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Pearl Jam, Ten. I was 19 when it was released, and I had just returned from Romania where I had been volunteering at an orphanage and living for almost six months. I had been detached from what had been going on in the world, and on my return to London, I stumble upon a live performance of Pearl Jam at a festival in Finsbury Park. It became the soundtrack to some of the best years of my life.
What’s the weirdest hobby you currently have or have had?
Collecting music on vinyl.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
I wish I’d known what the price of agave would be today.
Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted:
While somewhat inebriated, I decided to make a ‘Margherita Margarita’ with some pizzas we had just ordered. I muddled a slice of pizza in a mixing glass and shook it with tequila, lime, triple sec and ice. I then fine-strained it into a classic Margarita coupe glass.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not eating, drinking or drink-making?
Weirdest drink requests you’ve ever gotten:
A Frappuccino Martini.
Your favorite bar:
Andrés Carne de Res is one of the best nights out in the world. It’s situated in a small town called Chia, which is about one hour drive from Bogota, Colombia. There are dance areas, dining areas (11), drinking areas, relaxing areas and they even have a nursery where you can leave drunk friends and pick them up later so they don’t ruin your night.
Best meal you’ve ever had:
It was at Alinea in Chicago on May 18th, 2013. I remember the night really well not only because it was the best meal I have had at my favorite restaurant but also because I got engaged that evening. For the record, I would like the two classic Alinea dishes, “Hot Potato, Cold Potato” and “Black Truffle Explosion,” served to me with Krug Champagne as my last dying wish.
What’s your go-to drink in a cocktail bar?
A Classic (Fords Gin) Martini, 3:1 ratio of gin to dry vermouth, a dash of orange bitters, stirred, with a lemon twist garnish.
Pinot noir or sparkling rosé Champagne.
Guinness and any Irish whiskey from the Middleton distillery.
Your preferred hangover recovery regime:
Hiding from the world, watching silly movies such as Zoolander and drinking juice.
The one thing you wish would disappear from drink lists forever:
Most of the flavored vodkas and aged vodkas should quietly disappear.
The last text message you sent:
I just texted my friend Ben Scorah to tell him I can’t join him at the Sigur Rós concert or Coachella. It was a very painful text to have to send.