Where did the idea for Jukes Cordialities come from?
I started working on Jukes Cordialities several years ago when I noticed more business professionals giving up alcohol during the week. In late 2016, I met up with my friend Jack Hollihan at Bluebird on the King’s Road. We both ended up telling each other virtually the same story. Earlier in the year, I’d been in New York and found myself sitting next to Vogue’s creative digital director at a dinner. As a wine journalist, I wanted to know what her favourite champagne house was, but she said she rarely drank during the week, preferring to enjoy a decent bottle of wine at the weekend with her other half. When Jack told me his own story about his busy friend who also shunned booze during the week to stay at the top of her game, it turned out both women were forced to drink Perrier and lime on their booze-free nights. It was clear there was huge demand for an elite, non-alcoholic drink.
With so much knowledge about wine, why go into non-alcoholic beverages?
As an experienced wine taster, I’m fortunate to taste wine often, but I actually don’t drink as much as one might think. My problem was what to choose to drink, particularly with nice food, when I didn’t feel like drinking wine. This was the start of my odyssey to create a sophisticated, non-alcoholic, adult, low-calorie, delicious and dry series of drinks.
How did you come up with the initial recipe?
After searching the internet for ideas, I came across the term Haymaker’s Punch or Switchel – which was drunk by farmers in the 1800s to quench their thirst after a hard day’s work. Made from apple cider vinegar, water, assorted fruit and a touch of honey, it was refreshing, tart and keen on the palate – and pretty good for you, too. Having bought the basic ingredients, within an hour I’d made my first batch of what would soon become hundreds. It tasted remarkably good, so I phoned Jack to tell him I had the very beginnings of what could be a mind-blowing idea.
And what about the branding and design?
We used Jay Osgerby and Ed Barber, two design legends who I’ve known and worked with for years. The 2012 Olympic Flame was one of their many creations. Our friendship guaranteed me a meeting, but it was the taste of the Jukes 6 which sealed our professional relationship. One eureka moment which greatly influenced our packaging design happened when Jack was taking some small samples of Jukes 6 to show his son who was working in Madrid. When he poured them into a glass full of ice and water, in one of the chicest bars in Spain, several people came up to him to ask what it was. We immediately realised small bottles, with the accompanying theatre and personalised pouring ritual, was the way forward. That way, each person who drinks Jukes Cordialities can make the drink their own – from the glassware, to the addition of ice and the intensity of the flavour.
What are the main differences between Jukes 1 and Jukes 6?
Jukes 1 is a ‘white’ style while Jukes 6 is a ‘red’ drink – both are designed to be diluted with still or sparkling water. With the similar complexity of aroma and flavour, these drinks are designed to keep you fit and healthy while still spoiling your palate. Blending complex fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices and flowers hits a vital nerve in our customers’ minds, but the organic apple cider, which brings it all together, certainly helps too.
What was the development process?
It took a year to make what is now known as Jukes 6. I knew I wanted to pursue something which was organic and vegan, and to make sure the sugar and calories were as low as possible. But while health, vitality and wellbeing were key, I also wanted to ensure the drinks were satiating, dry and sophisticated. Within a few weeks, I had refined my method of production and employed the services of a drinks specialist to make every single fruit, veg, herb and spice into a single note cordial. We were trying to make a non-alcoholic drink with the same satisfying aftertaste as wine. It was Jack who decided the creation had to be called Jukes. It was single syllable, unusual and catchy – and the etymology actually means an informal get-together at a roundhouse or bar. We described the drink as the ‘the height of cordiality’, so immediately adopted that word to accompany a series of numbers I was already using to remember the different categories and themes I’d dreamt up.
How have you managed to scale the business?
It wasn’t until September 2019 that we really started making this dream a reality and scaling up from a micro-batch operation into a more ambitious business proposition. Now, we’ve converted an old railway arch in Battersea into a bespoke kitchen complete with fabricated, stainless steel macerating equipment, which is key to the silky texture and mellow, long-lasting flavours in our drinks. We have a small team of highly dedicated and skilled staff who help make the Cordialities, as well as bottling, double-labelling and putting them carefully into our handmade boxes.
What’s the best advice you’ve received about starting a business?
We’ve been the beneficiaries of so many kind people’s advice along the way. Having conducted hundreds of secret tastings over the past few years, we are always over the moon to hear the feedback. It has kept us going and, looking back, it was worth all of the frustration, head-scratching, brainstorming, tasting and tweaking over and over again. Jack’s mentorship and business acumen has also brought us so far. It matters that our wider team, including our PR experts, highly skilled craftspeople, fruit and veg suppliers and management team are all singing from the same hymn sheet.
What sort of effect has the recent health crisis had on business and do you think more people are suddenly aware of how much they're drinking?
I admit, business has gone from a rather wonderful countdown and lift off, followed by a fabulous few weeks of press and plaudits, to no trade clients whatsoever. And while we cannot wait for the restaurant scene, which is the heart of our business, to rise again, we have rapidly pivoted into selling directly to consumers. I’m pleased to say that the word is getting out, because our direct sales are growing steadily as the weeks pass. It’s also quite encouraging to see that, in general, people are being more abstemious while they’re confined to their homes. For the first time in a while, we’re thinking about both our bodies and our wellbeing, and while this is one of the most challenging and uncertain periods in living memory, there may be some good that comes out of it.
Finally, tell us about your latest product, Jukes 8?
Because word has travelled so fast, we’re receiving enquiries about Jukes from all corners of the globe – so much so we were forced to bring forward the launch of another drink in our series. Jukes 8 is a ‘rosé’ inspired by Provençal flavours. Preview tastings have been extraordinarily successful, and while we may not be able to fly down to Provence this summer, the aim is to bring the heavenly perfumes and romantic flavours of this stunning region to you, instead.