Tottenham-based start-up Longflint produces a range of hand-crafted bottled cocktails made from natural ingredients, handmade simple syrups and tinctures.
When Mark and James launched the business in May, the duo thought they were creating a grown-up range of bottled cocktails for their craft beer drinking friends.
After three months however, as they found themselves being stocked by Selfridges Food Hall and another 40 shops and bars across London, they realised they had a business with real scalability.
The rise of craft beer showed drinkers that beer could deliver a complex range of flavours and styles and brought a new wave of design and attitude to the sector.
Inspired by this movement, co-founder James Law set out to fill a perceived gap between these new beers and the growing range of small batch spirits being produced.
He said: “I was working at Crate Brewery in Hackney Wick and they had a huge tap room selling a brilliant range of beer. But that was about it - if you didn’t want beer you were stuck with Prosecco.
“It struck me that I could create a range of spirit based drinks that followed the ethos of craft beer by using really good quality natural ingredients, and our own simple syrups flavoured with fruit and herbs combined with top quality vodka and gin or whatever the recipe called for.”
James pitched his idea to Mark and after six months of product development they had hit upon a core range of three recipes: Rhubarb and Vodka Seltzer, Rose Hip and Gin Fizz and Ginger and Rum Fuego.
Before finalising the name and design for their products they were invited to launch at Beavertown Brewery’s fourth birthday party and sold out of their entire stock in just four hours.
“After the Beavertown event we knew we were at least on to something that people liked the taste of and were willing to part with their hard-earned cash for.” James added.
“That inspired us to put our heads down and focus on sorting out production and getting the look and feel right.”
After a number of miss-fires with the design, James came across the work of textile designer Andrea Stark (andreaalice.com) and the bottles as they are today quickly fell into shape.
“Design has always been very important to me and I wanted the bottles to look as beautiful as the drinks tasted - at least that was the aim!”
“I believe that any of the success we’ve had so far stems from the fact that what we do is actual pretty simple.
“We use top quality natural ingredients and blend drinks that offer a grown-up taste profile - they’re not day-glow sugary rubbish - and we put them in a bottle that looks really great.
“It’s kind of like craft beer all over again.”
It was only after they had officially launched that they were quickly signed up by retailers such as Sourced Market and Eat17, as well as becoming a permanent fixture in Beavertown’s tap room, that James and Mark realised that they might have struck upon a mini drinks revolution.
James said: “When we started speaking to bar and shop owners around East London we’d hear things like ‘Hold on a minute, this is completely new. Why hasn’t anyone done this before?’ It was great to hear and gave us the confidence to push for bigger retailers.
“After a couple of months of waiting we heard from Selfridges that they wanted to stock us in their Food Hall. That was a great day. To be able to say we’d gone from launch to Selfridges in under four months blew us away.”
The pair are now focusing on adding additional flavours to the range including partnerships with other small batch spirits producers and are hoping to continue this revolution in craft bottled cocktails, albeit in their own quiet way.
James concluded: “Our key aim is to show as many people as possible exactly what a bottled cocktail can really be. It baffles us that so many people use artificial sweeteners and flavourings - can you imagine if someone like Cloudwater Brewery did that!
“In terms of developing the business, I guess it would be nice to be able to say we have 100 stockists signed up by this time next year.”