Top 50 Cocktail Bars

Get to know: Max Hayward

Lab 22's edible garnish king tells us what he loves about the industry and what got him into it in the first place

Charli Tomney | 29/04/2024

Name: Max Hayward

Nicknames: Prep Goblin

Pronouns: He/Him

Job title: Bar Manager / Prep Goblin

How long have you worked at Lab 22: 6 years

Favourite drink: Guinness. If you want a cocktail, Früli.

Any awards or accolades: World’s Best Menu 2022 at World’s 50 Best Bars, Hacha Britain’s Best Mezcal Competition 2023

Key skills: Baking, edible garnishes, being loud and Northern.

What got you into cocktail bars?

I’ve always loved cooking and experimenting with flavours. My dad taught me how to cook, and I used to make dinner for the family from age 12. I’ve also always loved people and the service industry – my first job age 16 was in a chippy, and I really enjoyed the people-facing side of it (and the chips). Once I discovered cocktails, I fell in love with the whole scene. Experimenting with flavours, creating delicious drinks, and being around people.

How many years have you worked in the industry?

If you include the chippy, 12 years.

What do you enjoy most about the industry?

The people you meet! There are so many awesome people working all around this industry, from eccentric bartenders and servers to super interesting science-nerd distillers. And I want to chat to all of them and hear their stories. Also, Guiness.

What makes a great cocktail bar?

When it makes you feel at home. Personable service goes so far. Even if I have a drink I don’t like, I’ll stay for the vibes.

Best drink on the current menu?

Wax Lyrical from our new Monday night menu, Moonshine Mondays. It’s a turbo Bee’s Knees. The gin sits in a beeswax-washed bottle for a month, then mixed with honey and bee pollen from our amazing Cardiff apiary, and a splash of lemon juice. It’s got bags of texture and flavour, and honey lovers will be in heaven!

Old Fashioned or Espresso Martini?

Espresso Martini every time!

What does being a Top 50 Cocktail Bar mean to you?

It’s really great being recognised by our peers for what we do day to day. The fact that people have come to Lab 22, seen what we’re about, and rate it enough to put us on this list means the world to us.

What is the best cocktail bar you’ve ever visited?

Café la Trova in Miami. It’s right in the heart of Little Havana, the Cuban district of the city, and it’s such good fun. Theres always a Cuban band playing, the food is awesome, and I had the best banana daiquiri of my life in there. Also, every couple of hours the bartenders pull out musical instruments and jam. The barback put down the glasses he was cleaning, pulled out a trombone and cracked out a solo. What a place.

What do you enjoy most about working at Lab 22?

The team. We’re always really close, and we’ve always got each other’s backs, and it’s amazing to be a part of I’ve never been around a group of people so full of positive energy, good vibes, and who are all as weird as me. In fact, weirder.

Favourite ingredient to work with?

Wine! I know that’s broad, but I love putting any kind of wine in drinks. A dry rosé with a strawberry drink? Yes please. A cheeky Savvy B with passionfruit? Sign me up. Any kind of bubbly? Get in my face.

What does the future hold for Lab 22?

We’ve got some exciting stuff in the pipeline for this year which I really want to talk about but I’ve got to keep my lips sealed for now. In the meantime, we’re going to keep doing what we always do – making sure everyone who comes in the doors has a great time!