Kiwi launches luxury hand-crafted bottled cocktails in London

James Kerslake moved to London 19 years ago from Auckland - and he's ready to move home. 

But the 39-year-old wants to return with something to show for his stint in the UK, other than his good memories, work experience, and a passport full of stamps. 

So he's embarking on a gutsy business initiative: Tom Savano Cocktails - an idea that came to him after bartending at a wedding.

"My ex's sister asked me to do cocktails at her wedding and they kept raving about how good they were and straight away, my entrepreneurial brain thought 'what can you do with this'," he says. 

He considered setting up a mobile bar, but couldn't see the potential growth in that idea. Then it twigged: he could bottle them. 

The ready-to-drink cocktail market is still in its infancy in the United Kingdom, and many existing products are cheap mass-produced drinks. 

Kerslake saw the gap in the market for something much more refined, and set about coming up with four cocktails made with top-shelf, craft-distilled ingredients. 

"I stay away from the big-name brands. It's all about finding really good founder-owned stuff. 

"I'd order 20 or 30 bottles of the spirits and sit there developing and trying until I was happy with the recipe and that would take anywhere between six to nine months," he says. 

All of the experimenting was done after Kerslake got home from his full-time job as a software engineer at a British bank. 

"I was basically drunk every evening doing this. I basically have been for the last year," he laughs. 

The sacrifice has been worth it though - in a fortnight, he'll open up his online store where Brits can buy his limited-edition potions: Margarita, Negroni, Lychee Martini, and Old Fashioned. 

Before they've even hit the market, he's already rolling in awards for all of them, getting three gold medals and one silver at the UK Spirits Awards this year. 

The phone call from the judge left him speechless: "When he said 'three golds and a silver', I couldn't believe it. It's probably the best news I've ever had in my life. Absolutely incredible."

If the first round of sales goes well, Kerslake says he'll probably go into production again before looking for an investor or buyer. 

"I don't know what happens next. It might start growing beyond my ability to control it. There's no way this can see the bigger light of day without an investor. 

"I mean, we're talking big drinks brands like Diegeo and Bacardi, people who have $100 million to throw at this. There's no way I can compete with that so unless I can get a proper investor, there's no point," he says.

But when you boil it all down, his goal is pretty simple: "To give up the day job and do this full time. I'm not far off that," he adds. 

All going well, Kerslake will return to New Zealand not only with a wealth of booze knowledge, but a fat wallet as well. 




Contact Newshub with your story tips: