Samuel loves mixing it with gin and vodka made from milk

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AS you pour yourself a gin or vodka and tonic at the end of a busy week, you probably give little thought to the ingredients that have gone into that well-earned tipple.

The Jersey Cow Distillery has added a gin infused with cream to its range. Emily Moore hears how working with the Island Dairy helps the brand

And, if you did spare a moment to consider its composition, you might assume that the spirit was made from fermented grains and then flavoured with the manufacturer’s chosen botanicals and spices.

It is unlikely, as you gaze at the clear liquid, that you would think that it contained milk or cream. But that is exactly what goes into the vodka and gin produced by The Jersey Cow Distillery, a brand which was first inspired while its founder was on a mixology course four years ago.

‘I was on a course at the European Bartending School in London and one of the days was focused on vodka,’ explained Jersey born Samuel Pierce. ‘During that session, I came across a brand which was using dairy products to make its vodka. Coming from Jersey, which is renowned for having the best dairy products in the world, I was instantly struck by the potential to create something really special.’

Despite his initial enthusiasm for the project, though, Samuel was not sure that he would receive the backing he needed to bring his vision to fruition.

‘I expected to be told that I wasn’t allowed to use the Jersey cow wording within the brand but, as I couldn’t stop thinking about the idea, I approached both Jersey Business and Jersey Dairy, both of whom were really excited about the possibilities,’ he reflected.

‘We started working on the recipes straight away and, after about three months of trial and error – and a lot of boozy nights – we found the perfect mix for our vodka.’

While maintaining tight-lipped about the recipe itself, Samuel explains that the vodka is made from a base of fermented Jersey milk.

‘When you first tell people that the drink is made from milk, they assume that it will be similar to Baileys in consistency and appearance but that couldn’t be further from the truth,’ he said. ‘Once the milk has been fermented and distilled, it loses its gluten and lactose and comes through as a clear spirit, which is perfect to enjoy with tonic water or as the base for a cocktail.’

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given his background as a mixologist, Samuel has devised a range of tipples based on The Jersey Cow Distillery spirits.

‘As well as the distillery, I run a company called The Jersey Mixologist so I am always experimenting with new ideas and flavour combinations,’ he smiled. ‘For the past four years, as well as setting up The Jersey Cow Distillery, I have been running cocktail tastings at corporate events and household parties.’

And, although his main focus has been on bringing his vodka and gin to the market, he is also developing a further arm to The Jersey Mixologist.

‘To get the best experience from a cocktail, it has to be made fresh. Part of the joy of ordering a cocktail in a bar is watching the bartender make it for you, adding the fruit and finishing touches to the base,’ he said. ‘Because cocktails often contain several different ingredients, they can be difficult – and time-consuming – to produce at home and this is where The Jersey Mixologist comes in, making batches of some of the most popular cocktails so that they are ready for people to enjoy in their own homes. Made with fresh ingredients, these drinks are not intended to sit on shelves but to be consumed soon after having been made.’

Having launched The Jersey Cow Distillery vodka last Christmas, Samuel and his business partner Flavio Martins – who also runs Blip Productions – have recently added a gin to their range.

‘The gin is infused with Jersey cream. We use it as a botanical to add extra flavour to the spirit,’ Samuel explained.

Acknowledging the highly competitive nature of the spirit world, Samuel said that it was the unique quality of the Island’s products which had given him the confidence to develop his own drinks.

‘We have a point of difference because, to my knowledge, we are one of only four companies in the world to be producing dairy-based vodka and gin,’ he said. ‘However, if it wasn’t for coming from Jersey, where we have the best dairy products in the world, I wouldn’t have entered the market. You need a special angle to stand out in such a crowded space.’

While the Island’s produce may have provided the unique selling point for his spirits, Samuel’s love of food and drink goes back to his childhood.

‘Although I spent ten years in Mauritius running a commercial fishing company before coming back to Jersey four years ago, my life has always revolved around food and drink,’ he explained. ‘My mum is a trained chef and, between her and my grandma, I was brought up around cooking. When I was a teenager, we lived in Stratford-upon-Avon where my family ran a guesthouse so I grew up in the hospitality industry and, perhaps because of that, I have always enjoyed feeding people.’

From that foodie background came a love of flavour which inspired his career choice as a mixologist.

‘I naturally progressed into the drinks side of the industry, working as a barman in a number of hotels and bars and I think that mixology is an extension of the cooking side, as you are always experimenting with different flavour combinations,’ he explained. ‘And the same is true with The Jersey Cow Distillery. It took about three months to perfect the recipes for the gin and the vodka but it was a tremendously exciting and rewarding project to work on.’

While Samuel and Flavio are currently working with a distillery just outside Leeds, their aim is to set up their own facility in the Island next year.

‘When we first brought our vodka to the market last Christmas, it was a small batch which sold out very quickly,’ he said. ‘We then encountered some delays launching our gin because some of the ingredients come from Ukraine. However, now that we are producing both spirits in greater quantities, we are keen to upscale and set up a local distillery, which would also help us to achieve Genuine Jersey accreditation.’

Although they are keen to bring the production side of the company into the Island, the men also want to build an export side to the business.

‘I think that Jersey is going through a good time with new distillers breaking into the market,’ Samuel reflected. ‘Brands such as The Jersey Cow Distillery and Tidal Rum are doing a lot to put Jersey on the map by using unique ingredients and showcasing how special the Island is.

‘We have done a lot of work with local retailers and are delighted that our vodka and gin are now available from, the Co-op, Dunells and Love Wine as well as from our own website and in Project 52, a bar which I co-manage, and Krafty Js. The next stage for us is to get a foothold in the UK market and we are making headway in this area now.

‘With so many plans in the pipeline, we are super-proud to be representing Jersey Dairy and the Island, and I am really excited about the potential to develop the brand.’

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