Inspired by the bounty of England’s orchards and hedgerows, Lovely Drinks prides itself on handcrafting an award-winning range of quintessentially English soft drinks. Victoria Earle, co-founder and head of sales and marketing at the Barrow Gurney-based company, said the brand had humble beginnings but has now picked up a slew of top awards.
Victoria: "Lovely Drinks began several years ago as a hobby in our potting shed when we started making elderflower presses with the blossoms in our garden and nearby hedgerows. We started serving our drinks at local events and farmers’ markets and from there we began supplying local cafes and restaurants. It was also at a time when locally sourced and foraged food and drink were becoming really popular in Somerset. We had a lot of support from the ‘foodie’ community and our customers’ loyalty enabled us to grow. We now sell our drinks to independent delis, farm shops, bars and eateries across the UK and we also export within the EU."
The company moved out of the shed quite a while ago and is now based in a converted saw mill in Barrow Gurney, a village in North Somerset, and about six miles from Bristol. As well as making, bottling, and packing all of the drinks themselves on site, Victoria said the company also sources all of its ingredients as locally as possible, whilst remaining free from artificial flavourings and concentrates.
Victoria: "When we first started making elderflower presse we served it to friends and family, who often remarked how ‘lovely’ it was. Hence we decided to name the business Lovely Drinks! We now make flavours that we really like, rather than just following a current fad. My partner, Rick Freeman (co-founder) creates all the drinks but our team taste tests them and we ask key customers to sample them and give us feedback. We’re currently working on reducing the sugar content in our drinks, but without the use of artificial sweeteners."
Last summer, the company also launched two brand new, all-natural and caffeine-free colas – original and sour cherry. The Original Cola is a natural twist on the classic soda made with lime juice and burnt sugar, while the Sour Cherry Cola is a natural fruity soda made with whole pressed sour cherries. Both flavours contain the company’s signature hand-blended botanicals. But it’s a much-loved classic that is Victoria’s personal favourite.
Victoria: "My favourite is Elderflower & Rose as that is the first flavour Rick created, using roses from our garden. As you might imagine it has an extra floral hint to it, thanks to the English rosewater we add to it. It’s won several awards including two Gold stars at the 2016 Great Taste Awards. It’s also lovely with a slosh of gin!"
So why does Victoria and Lovely Drinks love Somerset?
Victoria: "I really enjoy the beautiful countryside, including the Mendips and the Quantocks. I also really enjoy being near the coast – and of course I love the amazing food and drink that Somerset has to offer!"