Pippa O’Connor’s new cocktail venture


Pippa O’Connor Ormond on being a tastemaker, her business mantra and her move into the drinks industry with istil 38

They say if you want something done, ask a busy person, and that is very much true of serial entrepreneur and mum-of-three Pippa O’Connor Ormond. The founder of Poco and Up Cosmetics is now taking up the title of Creative Director of istil38, a premium vodka made here in Ireland.

Pippa is also an investor in the brand, teaming up with drinks industry veterans Shane Davey, Niall O’Dwyer and John Reynolds. The liquid is copper pot stilled and uses natural spring water from the Boyne Valley, and willl be available in three flavours — classic, vanilla and pink berries.

We say down with Pippa for an espresso martini and a chat about her new venture.

So Pippa, when it’s time for a drink, do you prefer a night in or a night out?

It depends, but I think since Covid it has to be a night out. Having good cocktails made for you is ideal. I like a nice moody bar, a great DJ playing a few old school tunes. The cocktails I tend to go for are pornstar martinis, espresso martinis and a cosmopolitan. 

Why do you think Irish customers will be keen to try a locally-made vodka?

People ask me is vodka a big seller, and it’s actually the number one selling spirit in Ireland. People assume it is gin but it’s vodka. It’s because we all love our cocktails, I know when I’m out with the girls, the first thing you want is a pornstar martini. People’s lives are hectic and busy and when they get to go out they want to have something that tastes good and doesn’t cost the earth. So it’s just about getting that across to the consumer and I think I am good at speaking to our audience, which is women our age. It’s lovely that people will be able to get a lovely premium Irish vodka in their cocktail.

Why did you want to get involved with istil 38?

It’s not like I thought, ‘I want to get into the vodka business’. The guys came to me with this business idea, told me everything they had done to date and what the plan was for the future, and to be honest it was them that I was so impressed with and taken by to begin with. I just thought that it sounded so amazing and I loved their energy. They’re so passionate and experienced in the industry. I knew that with the team that they had that this was going to be really huge. Then I tried the product and I remember saying to Brian that this is going to be really good. I just loved everything they had done with it, that it is Irish, that it is pot stilled. At 38% it is a little bit lighter as well. I was genuinely impressed with the whole package. 

How important is it to you that this is an Irish-made drink?

The fact that this can be made locally is just brilliant. With our other businesses I would love it if we could do everything in Ireland but it is just not possible with lots of things. To be able to have this distilled locally is really lovely.

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What does your role as Creative Director involve?

As it is a strong male team, I wanted to bring a female eye to it. My attention to detail I think is quite good. Coming from a fashion and cosmetics background is quite different to their expertise, and they probably wouldn’t look at things the way that I do, I think all of that combined is going to be really strong. They are completely open to everything I have to say and offer which is great. 

You’ve really embraced being an entrepreneur. What business mantra do you live by?

Always go with your gut. If something doesn’t feel right don’t go near it. Don’t be afraid to speak up, I think that goes with going with your gut. Don’t think as well when you’re starting a business that you can’t do it all. You can. Maybe you individually physically can’t do everything, but with the right team around you you can. It’s time too, you mightn’t be able to conquer everything in one day or one week, or one year. You can do it, but it’s just about how you get there. 

When it comes to fashion, how would you describe your style?

I definitely go for classic. In terms of fashion I love things that are clean and sharp and then when it comes to makeup I like it to look easy and undone. I’m a little bit of everything sometimes. I’m drawn to classic, relaxed looks, I definitely don’t go for whacky. I know what I like and I know what suits me. I’ve nailed dressing for my shape.

What’s your best piece of style advice?

It’ll always stick out for all the wrong reasons if you’re trying to be stylish or to copy someone else’s style. My advice would be not following a trend just because you’ve seen someone else wearing it. I can appreciate baggy trousers or a cap looking good on someone else like Hailey Bieber and she looks amazing but I know it’s not me. Go with what you like and what works for you.