Sekforde Drinks challenges dominance of the G&T

May 2017

New bespoke mixer features lighter flavour to complement craft gin

Start-up drinks company Sekforde Drinks is challenging the dominance of the gin and tonic with the launch in June of a new bespoke mixer that brings out the botanical flavours of craft gins rather than masking them in quinine and sugar.

Sekforde for Gin is an all-natural blend of English garden botanicals. Raspberry, sage and rose extracts give it a soft, natural sweetness, complementing the intense flavour of the juniper which gives gin its unique taste.

The launch of the gin mixer takes the Sekforde range to three, following the successful launch of Sekforde Rum and Whiskey mixers at the start of 2017. Each lightly carbonated 200ml serving has fewer than 40 calories per bottle, meaning customers stay under 100 calories with a standard spirit single and under 150 calories with a standard double – less than a large glass of wine or a pint of beer. The mixers also come in well below the proposed sugar tax threshold, with no artificial sweeteners, flavours or preservatives.

Sekforde Drinks founder Talula White says, “We were being asked when we would launch a gin mixer even before the launch of our first two varieties. I’ve never been a big gin drinker, mainly because I’m not a fan of bitter quinine, which is often balanced by sugar, in tonic waters. It turned out this was holding other people back from making the most of the craft gin renaissance too.”

Once again, Talula’s husband Tom began experimenting with flavour combinations, looking not just at the juniper character, but other botanicals typically found in gin, such as cassia, coriander, cardamom and citrus.  When combined with gin, the rose and raspberry extracts create a drink with a light, crisp character, merging seamlessly into the flavours of sage and other botanicals in the Sekforde. 

White says: “Sekforde with Gin is every bit as refreshing as a G&T, without the overpowering quinine and sugar flavours. It’s a way for the growing number of gin drinkers to enjoy their favourite spirit, appreciating the quality and variety of its botanical ingredients. As with our rum and whiskey mixers, it’s all about enhancing the flavour of the spirit rather than drowning it.”

She adds: “More than 100 new distilleries have been licensed by HMRC in the past two years alone and the Wine and Spirit Trade Association reports that gin continues to see double-digit sales growth in the on-trade. We think the time is ripe to introduce a new way to drink this increasingly popular spirit.”

Owners of The Imperial in Chelsea, Alan Turtill and Kate MacWhirter said: “We are big fans of Sekforde mixers and the new gin variant is a great addition. We are often asked by customers for different ways to enjoy gin and this the perfect way to offer those drinkers a change, as well as being brilliant for those who aren’t fans of tonic water. The fact it’s all natural and light in sugar also appeals.” 

Taking bar staff skills and speed of service into account, Sekforde is as easy to mix behind the bar as a G&T, creating a refreshing long drink in seconds, with the sophisticated profile of a cocktail in a simple serve. Branded glassware and POS promoting the serves are available.

Sekforde rum and whiskey mixers are stocked by a range of pubs and bars including:  Urban Food Fest, Shoreditch; Barley Mow Shoreditch (part of Remarkable Pubs); The Imperial, Chelsea and The White Horse, near Newbury.

Sekforde for Gin: Perfect Serve

        Sekforde for Gin: Soft sweetness from rose and raspberry extracts counterbalance the piney bitterness of the juniper, offering an evocatively light and fresh characteristic. The dry, leafy secondary flavours from this initial combination merge seamlessly into the sage and other botanicals in the Sekforde, giving a cool and subtle backdrop to enjoy the finish of the gin in a way which is simply impossible with a standard tonic. Serve over ice, with a twist of grapefruit or lemon and a sprig of rosemary or sage.

Make it a Sambuca Summer: Hi-Spirits backs Antica range with new POS support

May 2017

Hi-Spirits is urging pubs and bars to serve up a sambuca summer, with new POS for the Antica Sambuca range designed to reinforce the authentic credentials of the award-winning Italian spirit.

With CGA figures showing sambuca being enjoyed in a broader range of on-trade outlets than ever, from big nights out to food-led pubs and casual dining outlets, Hi-Spirits is encouraging operators to capitalise on the popularity of both Antica Classic and the nine-strong range of Antica Flavours.  

New visuals for the Antica range set the brand against a backdrop of the Dolomite mountains, the home region of the Antiche Distillerie, where Antica has been made since 1868.  

The new Antica POS for summer 2017 includes bar runners, drip mats, shot glasses and strut cards, with kits available through wholesalers when pubs and bars order Antica Sambuca.    

Dan Bolton, managing director of Hi-Spirits, says: “We shook up the shots market with the launch of Antica Sambuca flavours in 2004, and in the process Antica has driven sambuca from being a niche spirit to a back bar essential in the on-trade. The spirits and shots market is more competitive than ever, so ensuring that Antica stays front-of-mind with customers enjoying summer nights out with friends is a key part of our approach.

“CGA figures also show that distribution of Antica grew by 4.25% in food led pubs and by 35.3% in restaurants during 2016, reflecting the boom in spirits in the casual dining market. For those customers, we want to reflect the authenticity, heritage and quality of Antica.

“Whether enjoyed as an after-dinner drink or as a chilled, flavoured shot, sambuca is a must-stock in the on-trade, and we’re stepping up support for Antica to help operators make the most of the opportunity.”

·         Antica Sambuca has won more than 25 international awards and accolades since 2008, including Gold Medals at the International Wine and Spirit Competition and the Liqueur Masters, and Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

·         At 38% ABV, Antica Sambuca is made to a traditional recipe using premium Star Anise at the Antiche Distillerie in Italy.

·         Alongside Antica Sambuca Classic, there are nine Antica Flavours including black, raspberry, apple, banana, mandarin, tropical, amaretto, cherry and chilli.

For more information, contact Hi-Spirits on 01932 252 100, email, or visit

International Brewing & Cider Awards announce Champions

April 2017

Brewers and cider makers from across the world gathered at London’s Guildhall on 26 April for the unveiling of the Championship winners in the International Brewing & Cider Awards 2017. Trophies were awarded to nine brewers and one cider maker from three continents, with all bar one of them winning a Championship for the first time.
The ceremony, which marked the end of the 2017 competition, was attended by more than 400 people.  As well as the presentations to the 10 Championship winners, more than 125 brewers and cider makers from 21 countries accepted their Bronze, Silver and Gold medals.
Chair of judging Bill Taylor said, “We judged more than 1,100 beers and ciders in Burton-upon-Trent in March this year. It’s a tremendous achievement to come through that process to win firstly a medal and then one of just 10 Championship trophies, so everyone on the podium today should feel very proud.
“Our winners today reflect the diversity and innovation that make the global brewing and cider  industries so exciting, with trophies given to a wide range of beer and cider styles from long-established and new producers.  One of the strengths of our competitions is their broad, style-based categories which encourage innovation and give every beer and cider a chance of winning.
“We are also proud of the emphasis we place on products’ commercial worth; all the medal and trophy winners are beers or ciders that, once tasted, judges would recommend as world class examples of their style.”
The number of entries received this year was up by 15% compared to the last competition, held in 2015, and the cider category almost doubled in size. The 45 judges, all currently working as brewers or cider makers, spent three days assessing the beers and ciders, selecting the winners through a consensus approach.
Ruth Evans, director of competition organisers Brewing Technology Services, said, “The fact that our entries this year were up once again, with participation from producers and brand owners around the world, shows the respect that the Awards command in the international brewing and cider communities.”
She added, “While our Champions deserve special praise, winning a medal of any colour is a real achievement, which many of the winners who were announced earlier this year are using to communicate the quality of their beers or ciders and give them a point of difference in a crowded market place.”
Ian Hamilton of Sullivan’s Brewing Company, based in Kilkenny, who lifted the Champion Keg Ale trophy, said, “I spent time early in my brewing career in Burton-on-Trent, so to have my beer judged there  by some of the best brewers in the world and be awarded a trophy,  is about as good as it gets – especially as it comes only a year after Sullivan’s started brewing.”
For Alan Pateman, brewer at Elgoods, the trophy for Champion Speciality Beer was “the ultimate accolade.” He said, “Coolship Sour won a Silver medal in 2015, so it’s wonderful to come back and take the top award with Coolship Fruit. It’s unusual for an English brewer to make a sour beer and we’re proud that ours has been judged the best in this international competition.”
The next International Brewing and Cider Awards will be judged in March 2019, with entries opening in September 2018.
The International Brewing & Cider Awards 2017 are supported by headline sponsors Barth-Haas Group and Krones.  Trophy sponsors include: All Party Parliamentary Beer Group, Barth-Haas Group, BeerQX, BFBi, Brauwelt, Brewers’ Guardian, British Guild of Beer Writers, drink Technology + Marketing, Institute of Brewing & Distilling and the Morning Advertiser. Tradeteam provided consolidation of beers for the competitions and Awards and Molson Coors provided dispense support.

The International Brewing Awards Champions 2017
Champion Cask Ale
Encore: Lacons Brewery, Great Yarmouth, UK

Champion Dark Beer
Kala Black IPA: Saltaire Brewery, Shipley, UK

Champion Keg Ale
Maltings Irish Ale: Sullivan’s Brewing Company, Kilkenny, Ireland

Champion Keg Lager
Frontier: Fuller Smith & Turner, London, UK

Champion Smallpack Ale
Easy Jack: Firestone Walker Brewing Company, California, USA

Champion Smallpack Lager
Pils Unfiltered Lager: Camden Town Brewery, London, UK

Champion Speciality Beer
Coolship Fruit: Elgood’s Brewery, Wisbech, UK

Champion Strong Beer
Rurik Russian Imperial Stout: The Galbraith Brewing Co, Auckland, New Zealand

Non and Low Alcohol Beer
Birell: Plzeský Prazdroj a.s, Nošovice, Poland

The International Cider Awards Champion 2017
Cidre Demi-Sec:  Zeffer Cider Co., Auckland, New Zealand gears up for growth

April 2017

Digital platform forging cross-industry partnerships

Newcastle-based is targeting a new phase in its expansion. As well as growing membership amongst consumers who use the site, the UK’s leading digital pub and bar platform is extending its partnerships with both operators and brand owners.

As the business gears up for growth, has strengthened its senior team with the appointment of John Botia. With a track record including stints with Heineken, Carlsberg and Scottish & Newcastle (S&N), Botia joins as a director to work alongside managing director Stuart Mills, who founded the business in 2009, and Willie Crawshay, who joined as chairman at the start of 2016.

Mills said, “John has joined us at a key point in the growth of There is a huge opportunity to persuade more people to use the pub more often by creating the ‘one stop shop’ online pub portal that consumers tell us they want.

“We have a business model that works – every month, 400,000 visitors search our database of over 75,000 pubs, bars and clubs for news, events, activities and ideas for their perfect night out, and we have only scratched the surface of our potential. Many operators also rely on to provide a bespoke website to promote their business.”

While Heineken UK retains a stake in the business, the priority for the senior team is to forge partnerships with operators and brand owners right across the licensed trade. Mills adds, “Heineken UK’s support for continues to be invaluable. However, to maximise our appeal across the sector, it’s essential that our independence is transparent.

“Our aim is to grow the brand to have the same recognition status in our sector that Just Eat and Rightmove have in theirs.  The operational experience of our senior team means that we are calling on groups of all sizes, as well as individual licensees, to work with us to realise the huge potential of online and digital marketing.

“Equally, for brand owners who want to reach pubs and bars, as well as the customers who use them, provides a compelling platform for both online advertising and carefully targeted promotions.” was founded in 2009, celebrating the role of local pubs and bars in our communities, and actively encouraging people to visit their local more often by connecting pubs and brands with consumers. It lists 75,000 pubs, bars and clubs. Every month, 400,000 consumers search its database to find out about events, food and drink menus and promotional offers to help them plan their pub visit. Of these, 20,000 members have registered to follow one or more local pubs and receive regular emails from them.

The senior team:

  • Stuart Mills, founder and managing director: Stuart began his career in media sales, before a change of tack saw him join Newcastle Breweries, the Northern trading arm of Scottish & Newcastle plc, in 2001. After several roles in sales, marketing & finance he secured the support of S&N to launch in 2009.
  • Willie Crawshay, chairman: After a stint in the army, Willie joined Scottish & Newcastle Breweries as an area manager in 1985. His career at S&N included marketing roles with brands including such as McEwan’s Export, Tartan Special and Newcastle Brown Ale, and 18 months in Hereford leading the HP Bulmer cider business after its purchase by S&N in 2003.  He was later managing director of S&N’s on-trade division and then MD of Heineken UK’s pub division, now Star Pubs and Bars. Since leaving Heineken UK he has retrained as an executive coach as well as joining
  • John Botia, director: John joined Unilever as a marketing graduate before moving to Scottish & Newcastle as brand manager for Beck’s. He became marketing director after Heineken acquired the UK business, and also worked for Heineken in Mexico, leading the integration of Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma. In 2013 he was appointed managing director of Carlsberg Singapore. He returned to Edinburgh in June 2015, becoming involved in a variety of start-up businesses as well as joining

Caption to attached image: The board (l to r): John Botia, director; Stuart Mills, managing director; Willie Crawshay, chairman.


The winning formula: Antica Formula launches cocktail competition

April 2017

Bartenders from across the UK will put their mixology skills to the test in a cocktail competition showcasing the versatility of Antica Formula, the original Italian vermouth.

At stake is the chance for four regional winners to enjoy an exclusive VIP trip to Milan to visit the Fratelli Branca Distillery, where Antica Formula is still made to the original 1786 recipe.

With Antica Formula a key ingredient in three much-loved cocktails –  the Negroni, Americano, and Hanky Panky – entrants will need to demonstrate their knowledge of the heritage and character of the iconic red vermouth.

UK distributor Hi-Spirits is inviting bartenders to create their own aperitivo recipe based on one of the four classics. The drink must either feature on the cocktail menu or as a special at their bar.  The shortlisted finalists will be invited to compete at four regional events in Scotland, London, the North West and the Midlands, where they will be asked to:

·         Make three of their chosen cocktail from the Negroni, Americano and Hanky Panky; the drinks will be made individually and contestants judged on consistency;

·         Make the cocktail which they originally submitted to the competition.

The four regional contests will be decided by a panel of judge headed by Nicola Branca, world ambassador for Antica Formula. Judges will be awarding points for drinks that reflect the tradition and strengths of Antica Formula, as well as the contestants’ technical skills.

Dan Bolton, managing director of Hi-Spirits, said: “Antica Formula is at the heart of some of the world’s best-loved cocktails. We’re not only inviting the UK’s top bartenders to show that they can make the classics expertly and consistently, but also that they have the skill and ingenuity to create an aperitivo of their own as a twist one of these great cocktails.”

The competition opens on 1 May, and entrants have until 31 July to enter their aperitivo recipe online at, where full terms and conditions can be found. The regional finals will be held between 4 and 8 September, with the winners heading to Milan later in September.

Antica Formula is the classic Italian red Vermouth, sweet and with a subtle vanilla aroma. It was created by Antonio Benedetto Carpano, the inventor of the Vermouth category, in 1786. Made by Fratelli Branca Distillerie with a selected infusion of mountain herbs and spices, including saffron, Antica Formula is produced in limited quantities and sealed with a cork in a distinctive brown bottle which includes a reproduction of the original 1786 label. As well as an essential ingredient in many classic cocktail, Antica Formula is ideal to drink over ice with an orange wedge, both as an aperitivo or after dinner.

For more information, contact Hi-Spirits on 01932 252 100, email, or visit

Tesco listing for Tails Cocktails

April 2017

Cocktail enthusiasts are raising a glass to Tesco after the UK’s biggest retailer listed the Tails range of premium pre-mixed cocktails in 290 stores.

The move brings some of the most popular cocktail bar favourites into the at-home market for the first time. The Tails range is crafted in collaboration with global cocktail experts including mixologists, master distillers and flavour experts, and made with premium spirits and ingredients.   

Tesco is stocking four Tails varieties in exclusive 50cl bottles:

·         Espresso Martini: 15% ABV, £10 RSP

·         Elderflower Collins: 10% ABV, £8 RSP

·         Berry Mojito: 10% ABV, £8 RSP

·         Moscow Mule: 10% ABV, £8 RSP

Nick Wall, managing director of Tails, said: “We’re delighted that the Tails range is now available through Tesco, enabling consumers to enjoy premium cocktails in an easy-to-serve format. An indulgent Espresso Martini, or the Berry Mojito variation on the best-seller, along with our other premium varieties, are the highest quality premixed cocktails available.

“Figures from Kantar show that couples enjoying a night in, celebrations and socialising are key occasions for enjoying cocktails at home.  There’s also an opportunity to carry over the growing popularity of matching cocktails with food from the casual dining market, especially US, Mexican and Italian dishes.

“While people enjoy experimenting with their own recipes, there’s nothing to compete with a professionally-mixed cocktail.”

Dan Bolton, managing director of Tails distributor Hi-Spirits, said: “These much-loved cocktail varieties have helped drive the boom in sales in the on-trade, and consumers can now recreate the experience at home. With no compromise on quality, the Tails range takes the home cocktail market to the next level.”

The Tails launch in Tesco is being supported with in-store tastings and displays, as well as coverage in the Summer Drinks feature in Tesco Magazine.