Cast your mind back to the Spring of 2020. The sun was shining as we experienced a rare Scottish heatwave which under any other circumstances would have seen us clamouring to find space at our favourite beer gardens.

Except, of course, these were very unusual circumstances.

Not only did lockdown deprive us of the simple pleasure of a professionally prepared cocktail, more worryingly it threatened to put the future of some of the city's most beloved bars at risk.

That’s what gave Fraser McIlwraith, who has worked at the heart of the Glasgow bar scene for 20 years, the inspiration to start the online cocktail delivery service The Glasgow Cocktail Collective.

Glasgow Times: Pictured: Fraser McIlwraith and his team founded the Glasgow Cocktail Collective during covid lockdownsPictured: Fraser McIlwraith and his team founded the Glasgow Cocktail Collective during covid lockdowns

He said: “It is a bit of a covid story actually.

“I’ve been in bars and restaurants all my life and just before lockdown hit, I was running a liquor buying company called Dark Art Drinks.

“Then when the lockdowns happened it all went to zero, there was no form of income at all because all the bars had been forced to shut.

“I had a small team that worked for me who had all been self-employed before then so we were scratching our heads and wondering how to make ends meet.”

If anyone was in the position to come up with a plan, it was Fraser who has some serious experience of working in the hospitality industry.

As well as being a co-founder of the Glasgow Bartenders Club which has evolved into one of the city’s biggest online communities offering support, employment opportunities and a much-needed sense of companionship to hospitality workers, he has also worked with heavyweights like G1 and Buzzworks through his consultancy business.

However, it was his connections to West End institution Vodka Wodka which would prove to be a key catalyst for launching the Glasgow Cocktail Collective.

He said: “We were in a very fortunate situation because Vodka Wodka is a family business and my company had been doing a bit of consultancy for my dad who owned it at the time.

“It was lying empty so we asked him if he would let us make and deliver cocktails from the bar.

Read More: Inside Glasgow's newly opened 'New York inspired' cocktail bar

“It turned out to be really successful. That first Easter weekend we sold something like 800 Jolly ranchers in bottles that we had sourced from Deliveroo.

“After that, we got our heads together and started to ask ourselves how we could turn this into something that would benefit everyone in the Glasgow bar scene.”

Popular bars like Phillies of Shawlands and the Kelvingrove Café were some of the first to partner with the collective, providing a sense small of normality for lockdown weary Glaswegians who were missing nights spent in their local with friends.

Fraser said: “A lot of people were at home, on furlough and not really allowed to do anything.

“We acted as almost a second party provider by taking a popular cocktail recipe from a bar, then buying all the ingredients to make it and delivering it all over Glasgow in a nicely branded bottle.

“It was a lovely initiative to give back to the bar community and the people who were struggling to keep their brand alive.

“In the height of summer last year I think we had around eight drivers out doing two-hour drops on the road and then coming back to do it again.

“We would deliver to over 100 households a day.

“Every member of the team was turning up to work almost every single day. It’s strange because it was almost like the opposite of what the rest of the country was doing at the time.”

We’ve all been guilty of trying to recreate our favourite mixed drinks at home, especially during lockdowns. Sadly, no matter how many shiny shakers or fancy glasses you order from Amazon, it’s just not quite the same.

Fraser agrees that when it comes to cocktails, it’s a job best left to the professionals.

He said: “To have a great hand-crafted cocktail made by a skilled bartender is something that’s really hard to reproduce.

“If you were doing a cocktail masterclass in somebody’s house, it’s still unlikely that you would be able to create the kind of environment where you could produce a top-quality drink.

“Even now that bars have re-opened the things that have been most popular are cocktails and craft beers, they’re the two things you really couldn’t get during lockdown.

“It was obviously under very unique circumstances, but it was great to know that people were able to enjoy a cocktail in their back garden at a time when they weren’t allowed out.”

Interestingly, signature cocktails can be found all over Glasgow's bar scene whether it’s Phillies’ Blood orange Margarita or Vodka Wodka’s Jolly Rancher.

Far from causing rivalry, Fraser said that the opportunity to work together and deliver these drinks to loyal customers was one of the main reasons for starting the collective and a huge part of their overall success.

He said: “There’s quite a strong sense of brand identity from a drink in Glasgow. You can’t really take a cocktail recipe and patent it.

"But then take the Jolly Rancher from Vodka Wodka as an example.

“They’ve been selling that as their signature for years and everyone else is really respectful of that.

“The thing about the bar scene is that it’s all about that sense of collaboration. I learned that from a very young age because I had been working on Ashton Lane.

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“People didn’t go there to visit just one bar; it was more about enjoying the whole lane as a destination.

“So many of my long-term friends are in the hospitality industry now and Glasgow has such a good network of bar workers who get on well, cheer each other on and want to see everyone succeed.

“It’s all about the camaraderie and collaboration.”

Moving on from their lockdown success the Cocktail Collective have achieved their goal of supporting local businesses by donating a large percentage of their profits from drink sales to The Drinks Trust, a charity which offered support to bartenders who found themselves out of work due to the pandemic.

Now, Fraser and his colleagues have once again put their combined wealth of experience to the test by evolving into a thriving wholesale business with some iconic Glasgow drink brands.

Running their production unit as Dark Art Drinks in the city’s Southside, the future looks bright for the team who have recently worked to supply drinks for The Playground Festival and even started to produce their own vegan-friendly Liqueur, Liquid oats.

Glasgow Times: Pictured: Fraser with his newest venture 'Liquid Oats'Pictured: Fraser with his newest venture 'Liquid Oats'

Speaking further of what the future holds for the Cocktail Collective Fraser said: “Now that bars have opened back up, we’ve had to pivot again because the demand for home deliveries has dried up quite quickly.

“We still offer Glasgow next day delivery drinks for a fiver, but we now do a lot more UK wide deliveries now sending brands like Panther Milk out to people who can’t pick up a bottle locally.

READ MORE: How Spanish 'Panther Milk' became Glasgow's favourite cocktail

“We’ve also come out with a range of convenience store cocktails which uses the same process as the ones we were having delivered but is sold as a grab and go option.

“It’s a really difficult landscape to be working in at the moment because of shortages or supply chain issues but the team we have are great.

“It’s all made up of people who have been working in bars for years and have these amazing individual skillsets.

“It’s been a real whirlwind going from starting as a consultancy company for liquor buying to making and producing drinks, but everyone is really creative and ready to work around any obstacles we come across.

“It’s turned out to be really good fun.”

For more information on the Glasgow Cocktail Collective, click here.