Influencers in the Scottish Licensed Trade: Fraser McIlwraith


Dark Arts Drinks

Fraser McIlwraith has been working in the trade for 20 years and through his company, Dark Arts Drinks. His main influence these days is influencing his customer’s purchasing decisions in order that their revenues increase, while introducing new brands and drinks trends to customers

What motivates you to do what you do?

Working in Glasgow’s Vodka Wodka from 2002, I was motivated by getting customers excited and seeing the efforts that I made reflected in the face of the customer. It was around this time that I started getting excited by drinks trends and different ways to excite them. I went to The Bottle Shop on London’s Old Compton Street and in those days when the Internet was less prevalent, I picked up quirky products like Scorpion vodka and Cannabis vodka. I also made it my business to go to bar shows to bring the ideas back to the Scottish market. This still motivates me.

Who is your biggest influence?

I was Company Bar Manager for Buzzworks from 2009 for about six years and as one of the most senior members of the team and I’d have to say that MD Kenny Blair because of his determination, drive and organisational skills. He also gave the freedom to go out and discover the latest trends. Like allowing me to work in London private members’ club The Gaucho in Soho. Not many bosses would do that.

Have you noticed any trends in hospitality/the Scottish licensed trade?

I’d say shared experience through drink, like cocktail in a box, when all the cocktail ingredients arrive in a box for the customer to make. It’s fun for the customer and cost efficient for the licensee.

How do you stay ahead of the curve?

You’re attacking that one drink from 5 or 6 different angles, by making it profitable by adding value to their business. At a basic level this means that the drink is made well, that the components have been purchased
properly and that it’s all presented in a glass and looks appetising to the customer. I’m still learning and I like giving back because of all the people that invested in me.




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