Whether you are into your gins , rums, vodkas or cocktails you cannot go on Instagram these days without seeing some very beautiful garnishes. One dried garnish company that is hitting the top spots on the social media at the moment is TheZestCo.
Who better to sit and have a Sunday session with than with Sarah Roads founder of TheZestCo. She was happy to chat about all things garnish with me and this is what she spilled the beans on….
Tell me a little bit about yourself? Well I am mid fifties, but I really don't know how I am called a grown up! I'm still around 21 in my head and attitude, its only when my knees start aching and I fall asleep in front of the telly that I am forced to face the horrible reality. Married to a very long suffering man who puts up with no end of my nonsense and just patiently follows me around, sighing and tidying up my various scrapes, messes and disasters. Two fabulous kids - one of each variety. One has just given us our first grandchild and he really is the most gorgeous little thing. My son has just commissioned from Sandhurst and we are so blooming proud that we are fit to burst. I was never cut out to be a parent. I spent my childhood trying to live outdoors convincing everyone around me that I was really a pony, while my peers were playing with dolls and prams. Anyway, these offspring survived my questionable parenting skills and didn't turn out half bad.
Tell me a little bit about TheZestCo and where you got the idea to launch it as a business. As so often happens there was gin involved. Myself and my two sisters were having a drink and lamenting the fact that we were wasting lemons and limes for the sake of a couple of slices in our drinks. Then the discussion moved on to Why can we buy dried citrus fruit for decorative purposes and not for alcoholic purposes? The following morning as I was throwing out the half used fruit - or stashing it in the fridge for throwing out at a later date, I thought about the conversation, and the idea happened.
Tell me what you like best about running your own business? After many years working for a large company (and still do) it was just so freeing to have an idea and put it into practice there and then. Not have to take it to a committee/meeting and get approval from a distant superior, then see it watered down. Everything is down to me, I am responsible for every aspect of the business, I can make it into my own vision. Then there is the HUGE buzz of seeing orders come in. There really is nothing like it, I get such a huge high - and then when you get great feedback from someone who has paid ACTUAL MONEY and you are NOT RELATED to them - its completely out of this world. I received a fab review just this morning and actually got chills it was so thrilling! I thoroughly recommend everyone to have a go at running their own business. You never know, you might just uncover that one item/service that will make you a million!
Which part has been the most rewarding so far? I've probably answered this already, but it really is that unbiased feedback. When I look at my product, I only see mistakes and improvements, but to hear someone else praise it, it knocks me over.
Which garnish is your favourite? Most popular product? My current favourite is my clementines, they look a little rough when they are dried, but they pack such a punch for their size - and they are great to eat once you've finished your drink too. But I am very fickle, I know as soon as Blood Oranges come into season, I will be all about those instead. The most popular product at the moment, seems to be grapefruit - I think Gin Mare is having a bit of a moment and grapefruit is one of the suggested garnishes.
You must be very busy. What makes you get out of bed in the morning? Its a bit sad sounding but social media! I have met so many absolutely fantastic people through Instagram, I love it! Also I am always very eager to check my email inbox - I never know whats going to drop in next. Could be an order, could be an interview (haha they are the best), could be a request for a quote - or it could be something else incredibly exciting!
If there was that magic extra hour in a day just for you what would you do? Aside from eat crisps and drink gin? I have a list of books I want to get through, I want to rearrange my gin shelf, but really - anything to do with TheZestCo, from spreadsheets, to website tweaking, to costing out new ideas and finding new suppliers - I really do get so much energy from anything Zesty!
I came across TheZestCo in a gin related manner – what other markets do you appeal to…. That's a hard one as we are still so tiny in the gin world, which is where we position ourselves. I would like to see us as an ingredient into Christmas hampers and (time will tell) I think we could offer something to the Christmas gift market, also some ladies at my gym class were saying they use my slices to flavour their bottled water. They find the fruit flavoured waters very sweet and artificial - so there's another idea I would like to explore. In terms of who do we appeal to aside from the gin market, I don't see why the spirit world (the alcoholic one, not ghostly) in general and cocktail mixers would not find a use for our product. My great niece also tried to decorate a cake using our slices, now that may not have been our finest hour...
Are you a big gin fan? Yes! Although I see myself as a gin collector rather than a drinker. I am a sucker for a good looking bottle and label. And collections! Oh my word I want every variety from every producer.
Gin cocktails or classic gin and mixer (of choice)…whats your poison? I guess it would depend - a quickie on a school night might be a Brockmans or a Scapegrace and Fevertree Mediterranean Tonic, as a real treat it would be Brentingby Barrel Aged with a tiny splash of lemonade (sorry to all the purists out there), at the weekend I will take a bit more time and make up a cocktail - usually the latest one from the Craft Gin magazine as I am useless at making decisions of that sort for myself, or something that has inspired me on Insta.
What is your favourite cocktail? This really does vary according to where I am, who I am with and what I'm doing - I don't think I have an out and out favourite. A few years ago I was all about Cosmopolitans and Pink Pussycats, if that helps!
If you are a gin fan…which botanicals are your favourite? I (naturally) love anything citrus, so if I can pick up a citrus note in gin I'm a happy bunny.
Who would be your ultimate drinking buddy be (dead or alive). Great question! I have given this one more thought than anything. And honestly it would be my Dad. He died six years ago, before I started getting seriously into my gins. I think he would have become a massive gin fan himself but the blossoming gin world had not really entered into his life at that time. So he was very much limited in choice. I would love to show him my collection and have a session with each gin to discuss it, its bottle and its label. We would probably end up getting very silly and raiding the fridge at midnight and dressing the dog up in hat and spectacles. As you do.
Please tell me about your ultimate gin related experience. I attended quite by chance one of the early Gin Festivals at Peterborough Cathedral (I was given a spare ticket). I was completely blown away by the knowledge and variety and camaraderie around me. This was back in the day when there was a whole section where new producers were giving out free tasters, and you could get quite s**tfaced just on the freebies. This was where I had my first ever taste of Brockmans and Malfy to name just a couple. There must have been other new suppliers around, but I particularly remember these guys.
If you were to pick a gin brand that best represented your personality what would it be and why? And that's another hard one! OK, so, in my head I'd like to think I am akin to Theodore Pictish gin - that untamed, earthy elemental free spirit with an impish sense of humour and boundless energy. But! I think in reality I probably relate more closely to The English Drinks Co as I think of this one as absolutely reliable and traditional, yet given the range of their gins, you never know which variety you might get. That probably makes no sense at all!
Thank you Sarah for such a lovely lively and honest Sunday session. A few new gins in there for me to try. Malfy, Theodore Pictish and the English Drinks Company for sure. If you haven’t tried TheZestCo these are just perfect to pop in your gins and even your water bottles for the gym. I froze some of mine in ice cubes – perfect.
See more funky, funny and fabulously gin based interviews at https://atitsascottishginthing.wordpress.com/