Student Drinks Don: Jamie Sparks

Cocktails & Dreams: Students set up drinks company

Starting a business whilst a student is something many think about, but few do. Jamie Sparks, co-founder of cocktail company Sparks & Ashton, is one of those few.

He has been running his drinks business since mid-2011, and has been so successful he’s already looking into a second business venture in the field of search engine optimisation.

Friends and business partners
Photo: Sparks & Ashton

Jamie founded the business with his partner Pete Ashton. Their approach was simple: to provide ‘great cocktails and great service’. They themed the whole venture on Prohibition-era America, with barmen and waiters all dressed in suitable 1930’s style gear.

Success quickly followed. Since its inception, the business has catered for corporate events, private parties and even weddings – some with up to 250 guests.

Advertising their brand has been a learning curve, (for instance a £250 ad of theirs got buried in the back of GQ) but Jamie seemed confident that with the advances in social media he would be able to market his company cheaply and effectively.

Prepping the night’s drinks
Photo: Sparks & Ashton

The model is a simple one – all their staff are recruited either through friends or Gumtree – and this must be part of how Jamie balances his academic and business career so well.

However, it is essential to ‘have a game plan’. ‘Goals are crucial’ Sparks stressed, and it is this rigour which enables him and his partner to stay on top of both their academic work (Sparks recently received the Burt Neysmith prize for Anthropology) and company commitments. Still, it must take some organisation.

Cocktail nous is useful for pre-drinks too. Here are Jamie’s two suggestions for the pre-game:

1)   Vodka Sour: Vodka, Lemon Juice and Sugar Syrup (bought or made; dissolve sugar in boiled water until it reaches saturation point).

2)   Cosmopolitan: Cranberry Juice, Vodka, Cointreau and a dash of Lime.

One of their skilled mixologists
Photo: Sparks & Ashton

As Jamie pointed out, ‘the beauty of cocktails’ is that they mask the flavour of the alcohol, and as such ‘you can definitely go all in for Basics’ if you feel like it.

So there you have it – cheap ways of drinking well, from Bristol’s premier student entrepreneur.

If you fancy having Jamie doing one of your parties, or want to find a bit of work as a waitress/barman drop him an email at:  [email protected], or have a look at their website: