For seekers of spectacular flavour, only one name will do: Fentimans. Find out how the botanical brewers of the beautiful Pink Grapefruit Tonic Water our members got in the July Gin of the Month boxes have been making amazing soft drinks and mixers since the turn of the century – and why they believe that traditional craft methods are relevant today.
It was over a hundred years ago that Thomas Fentiman – a former iron puddler – re-invented himself into a soft drinks pioneer. He had received an old ginger beer recipe as security on a loan he made to a fellow tradesman, and when the tradesman didn’t pay up, the foundations of Fentimans and their fantastically flavourful soft drinks and mixers were laid.
“We are a family company and always have been,” says Andrew Jackson, Marketing Director at Fentimans. “Today Fentimans is owned by Eldon Robson, the great-grandson of our founder, Thomas Fentiman.”
But how does Fentimans honour its long history whilst still making big moves in the world of soft drinks and mixers? While they can’t keep delivering their bountiful beverages on horse and cart, they continue to botanically brew their delicious products using traditional methods.
Central to the Fentimans philosophy is developing all of their recipes in-house. This is carried out by Geraldine Coombes, their gifted resident flavourist.
More than 50 tonnes of flavour are produced every year at Fearless House, Fentimans HQ in Northumbria. It is all supervised by Geraldine and guided by her experienced palate. Geraldine develops all of the base flavours with her team, carrying out a diverse range of 'nosings' every month.
With Geraldine on board, Fentimans has developed a number of pioneering flavours– from intricate soft drinks like Wild English Elderflower and Sparkling Lime and Jasmine, to mixers including Rose Lemonade and the Pink Grapefruit Tonic in your July Gin of the Month Box.
The Fentimans team sources the best ingredients from around world, looking to the United States for Pink Grapefruit Tonic and the Valley of the Roses in Bulgaria, where the rose otto oil for their Rose Lemonade is found. Then comes the botanical brewing process, a time-honoured production method that gives Fentimans drinks their amazing depth of flavour.
Widespread at the beginning of the century, faster production methods pushed botanical brewing out of fashion, as companies began to focus on profit before flavour. “As technology advanced it just became too expensive,” says Andrew, “and a lot of botanical brewers had to shut down. We’re the only botanical brewer left in the world, which is an incredible claim – but it’s absolutely true.”
The botanical brewing process is worth the time it takes, imparting an extraordinary complexity and depth of flavour to all of Fentimans’ mixers and soft drinks. You can taste it in the Pink Grapefruit Tonic Water in your July Gin of the Month Box, a wonder of a mixer that goes perfectly with Marylebone Gin.
Andrew says, “The result of using the best raw materials and our botanical brewing process is a mixer that’s fairly tangy, with an almost luminous sweetness. Personally, I like it in a classic G&T, with frozen pink grapefruit and cracked black pepper in a tall glass.”