Dame Hall of Fame® is a celebration of leaders who have made unique and lasting contributions to accessibility and intersectionality within the global hospitality industry. Established in 2012, it serves to acknowledge and encourage mentorship throughout the beverage and hospitality industries. Past Dames’ groundbreaking accomplishments have shaped the beverage landscape and provide visible models of achievement for tomorrow’s leaders.
Sandrae Lawrence, Publisher/Editor – The Cocktail Lovers and the 2021 Dame Hall of Fame International Inductee presented by Woodford Reserve answered a few questions about her accomplishments, her role as a mentor within the industry, and the importance of passion.
Q: How have you influenced accessibility and intersectionality in your community?
A: I have always tried to be inclusive in my coverage of the industry, not just in terms of representing females, people of color and LGBTQ+ communities, but looking beyond London and the UK, writing stories, supporting the causes and shining a light on people doing wonderful things in their bars and for their communities, everywhere from Spain to Singapore, Africa to America, Italy to India and all the places in between.
We have dedicated entire issues of the magazine to females and people of color working in the industry (long before #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter, or it was considered ‘fashionable’ to do so), these subjects have been and always will be important to me because I live them.
Six years ago I worked with Cointreau to stage a photographic exhibition highlighting our UK Women In Drinks project which we were intending to do on a global scale but needed additional sponsorship to do so. It’s still in the pipeline so watch this space!
Q: Do you make any specific efforts to be a mentor and leader to those around you? What are they and why?
A: To be honest, I never used to but as a black female in an industry predominantly fronted by white males, I have become increasingly aware of how I can use my position and visibility to encourage people who wouldn’t necessarily think of working in the drinks industry to consider it as a viable and rewarding option.
I have a successful business, am regularly invited to judge global cocktail competitions, and sit on panels both home and abroad. Now my mantra is, if I can do it, anyone can.
Pre-Covid, I was looking into being a mentor in secondary schools in underrepresented areas, something I intend to pursue in the new school term.
Q: What does this award mean to you?
A: I would be extremely honored to be recognized for doing something I love in an industry I am truly passionate about. So much so that I quit my full-time job to pursue writing The Cocktail Lovers – then as a blog which later evolved into a digital and print publication. My husband and I had no idea how we would make money from it but we believed in our business and the people, places, and products we were writing about.
Winning this award would prove that we were right. It would also make my late mum very proud and who doesn’t want that?
Q: Is there one moment, from your long and impressive career, that stands out as the most impactful and/or that you are most proud of?
A: Can I be greedy and have two? Please? The first was winning the Spirited Award Best Spirit & Cocktail Publication at Tales of the Cocktail in 2016. It stands out for a number of reasons. One, because the magazine that my husband and I created from scratch, from home, with our savings had been recognized by our peers; two: it gave my late mother, father, and mother-in-law something to boast about and lastly, it was wonderful to share the accolade with my husband and fellow cocktail lover, Gary Sharpen.
The second was the Leading Ladies of Drinks exhibition that we staged in London. I was incredibly proud to showcase the incredible female talent in London’s drinks industry, from bartenders to brand ambassadors, writers, PRs, and brand owners, and invite the wider drinks community to honor them and join in the celebration.
Q: What advice would you offer to other industry individuals who look up to you and aspire to be where you are today?
A: Work hard, be nice to people and let passion be your guide.
Q: What is your definition of COMMUNITY and why do you think it was an important theme for #TOTC2021?
A: I’ve worked in a number of industries, from fashion and beauty to music and travel and none of them embodies community spirit quite like the world of drinks. Of course, drinks bring people together but it’s more than that – this community looks after and supports each other. Not just in the good times but during bad times as well.
Coming together to help Jad Ballout when his bar was devastated during the bombings in Beirut is a case in point. Everyone was going through their own personal problems but they dug deep to send whatever they could to support someone who was suffering and in more desperate need than themselves. More recently Sly Augustin’s Trailer Happiness in London was flooded, and once again, the community rallied around to help him out.
Those are just two examples of the many amazing things I’ve seen and have been part of in the past few months. Community and togetherness epitomize this industry that I’m incredibly proud and humbled to be part of.
The 2022 Dame Hall of Fame nomination period is open for U.S. and International inductees until March 30, 2022! Know an individual who you feel has made unique and lasting contributions to accessibility and intersectionality within the global hospitality industry?