Meet the Team introduces you to the writers and experts behind Gin Magazine and gin-mag.com, as they talk about their lives both in and outside the gin world. This week, we meet Emma Stokes a.k.a Gin Monkey. As the woman in charge of World Gin Day, Emma is an integral part of the global gin scene – and that’s without mentioning the numerous cocktail and gin-themed books she’s authored, her gin and cocktails blog, her work as an international gin judge, and her drinks artistry on Instagram. You can follow Emma @ginmonkeyuk on Instagram and Twitter and @ginmonkey on Facebook.
Gin Magazine (GM): How did you end up in the gin world and what do you like most about working in it?
Emma Stokes (ES): I started working in bars whilst I was studying to bring in a little more cash, but soon fell in love with it. Since then I’ve always ended up pulling a few shifts here and there, juggling bartending with a day job! Whilst others were geeking out about rum or whisky, I developed a fondness for gin, though we’re talking mid-2000 so there were only a handful on the market!
When I moved to London I wanted to help people discover great cocktail bars, not just great bars – those with the best cocktails specifically – so I set up Gin Monkey to be an impartial and independent place to do so, naming it after my love of gin and my long clumsy arms! Over time there was more and more opportunities to be involved in the gin world, from learning about gins and visiting distilleries to brilliant events being hosted in London. With the cocktail boom firmly in the hands of the masses and other sites recognising the importance of a good cocktail it was time to evolve!
I love the diversity in the gin space, whilst still being a category that’s easy to understand for consumers. A neutral spirit flavoured with botanicals means that your focus can be getting to know the botanical flavours and it’s easier to pick out flavours from say cardamom in a gin, than the influence of a type of grain on a whisky. I also love the community, and how it’s (largely) supportive, helping people where they need it, championing the work of brilliant people in the gin space and sharing knowledge.
GM: What did you do in your pre-gin life?
EM: I still kind of have my pre-gin life to be honest; I juggle all things Gin Monkey and World Gin Day with my day job in science communication. I’ve worked as a science explainer at a science museum, a science communicator at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, a policy officer and much more in the science world. The one common feature whilst doing all of this, though, has been working as a bartender, crafting cocktails and championing gin!
GM: What’s the best piece of career or life advice you’ve been given?
ES: Don’t worry about the path that you ‘should’ be taking, focus on what you love, what interests you and what gets you out of bed in the morning and see where it takes you.
GM: What moments or occasions have you reaching for a gin?
ES: Moments of celebration, catching up with friends (though that seems like an age ago now), or over the past year, every time I watch the news! I’ve loved having to get a bit more creative with my content since Covid-19 though, as when you don’t have beautiful bars to go and visit you’ve got to think outside the box!
GM: What would be your ideal holiday destination and activities?
ES: Somewhere with great restaurants and bars to visit, interesting architecture to explore and ideally at some point in the holiday access to a swimming pool! I’m such a water baby, I love to swim, and it’s the ultimate relaxation. The combination can be a little tricky to find, though, especially when restaurants and bars usually means city break, whilst a good pool is often a bit further out, but the need to think outside the box in researching places is definitely part of the excitement for me!
GM: If you were a gin or a gin cocktail, what would you be?
ES: This was such a tricky one, so I put it out to social media for some help! I had some brilliant responses from a tweet I sent out. Martini was a very popular choice alongside a Gimlet (sour but not too sweet), a Bee’s Knees (sweet, fun and easy to hang with) and even a Pegu Club (classy and fun – thanks Sian!).
My partner in crime Stu came up my favourite reason for why I’d be a Martini: “Juniper forward with a little bite, you always get the party started and everyone is happy to see you. Can be dry but never too dry. Delicious no matter what the occasion and so versatile while being consistent.” I will absolutely take that!