Artisan Drinks looks to challenge mixer market with new bartender-developed range

Kate Malczewski

Kate Malczewski

23 August 2018

Artisan Drinks has launched in the UK with the ambitious goal of reshaping the mixer category.

‘I look at the spirits category and see a wonderful array of brands, some with heritage and history, and some contemporary, colourful, stylish brands. Whatever your need is, there’s a choice in premium spirits,’ Steve Cooper, Artisan’s co-founder, told Imbibe.

‘There’s been a lot of growth in the mixer market and Fever-Tree's done tremendously well. [But], while I really respect the job they’ve done, it's a brand you associate with being more traditional and conservative.

‘And everybody that’s followed Fever-Tree has quite literally followed them, whether it’s Fentimans or Franklins. They’ve all followed as traditional, premium, quite safe, and we just wanted to do something completely different.'

Cooper has teamed up with Mikey Enright, owner of The Barber Shop in Sydney, to create Artisan Drinks, which were ‘developed in a bar, making sure that the mixers we’re creating actually complement craft spirits’. Enright came up with the brand’s four flavours: Classic London Tonic, Skinny London Tonic, Violet Blossom Tonic and Barrel Smoked Cola.

‘[Enright’s] got a real passion for spirits, and he was very keen with our classic and skinny tonics to create products that really complement those drier styles of gin,’ explained Cooper. ‘Our classic has a little bit less sugar than normal – less sugar than Fever-Tree – but it’s got some clean citrus notes that come in.’

Like the classic, Artisan’s skinny tonic also focuses on citrus notes. To create this lighter style, Enright passed up artificial sweeteners and stevia, and chose to cut back on sugar levels, using smaller quantities of fructose. This, Cooper claims, makes it an ideal pairing for that arbiter of controversy flavoured gins, which tend to be sweeter than their classic counterparts.

According to Cooper, the violet blossom tonic and cola are particularly piquing bartenders’ interest.

‘I think the perception is that [the violet blossom] is going to be like those violet gins, quite sweet, like confectionery, whereas ours is all natural. It's violet blossom, but it's also apple blossom, elderflower and citrus.’

The cola was created with the same complexity in mind, said Cooper. ‘It starts off as a classic cola taste, then we've got this oakwood smoke note that comes in and builds, and then there's vanilla notes at the end.

‘It's really great presenting and tasting with bar owners, because they’re really into the flavours and they love seeing drinks with more depth.’

The bottles’ slick branding doesn’t hurt, either, setting their drinks apart aesthetically. Cooper and Enright worked with artist Alan Walsh, who designed vibrant pop art-inspired labels for each flavour.

‘Our idea was to innovate on the inside and out,' said Cooper. 'Let's create different kinds of recipes, different types of flavours, let's do it from the point of view of somebody who understands spirits rather than somebody who understands soft drinks. Then let's bring that art onto the bottle.

‘There's so much interest in the spirits category and now the mixers category, and there’s a real desire for something that is different, stands out as interesting flavours, and also looks and feels different.

‘There's a real opportunity for someone to come along and take a different path.’

RRP £1.80/200ml, Love Drinks, lovedrinks.com

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