Espensen Spirit founder, Sam Espensen, tells us why her Bristol Spirit has been refocused during the pandemic plus a recipe for a refreshing cocktail, perfect on a summer's day. Have a go at home and be sure to share your results!

Sam and Shecky Espensen
Image: Sam and Shecky Espensen

I run Espensen Spirit and we make naturally infused spirits in Redfield, BS5. We also have a bar and off licence called Bristol Spirit. The virus has had a devastating effect on our businesses - all of our wedding, festival and party bookings disappeared overnight. All of the bars that stock our spirits closed down, and all of my tastings, spirits workshops and cocktail classes had to be cancelled. 

Summer in the bar is very quiet anyway, but I am usually busy making bespoke spirits for weddings and doing cocktail bars at some of our favourite local events like Redfest and the St Nick's Night Market.

Bristol Spirit Bar and Kitchen
Image: Bristol Spirit Bar and Kitchen

I called our bar Bristol Spirit because of the tenacity, bravery, bloody mindedness and buccaneering spirit of the people in this city. And the pandemic has compounded my belief in that. BS5 is full of people helping each other in a huge variety of ways. I honestly think the city has changed during the crisis and has even more of a cohesive and progressive mindset than before. 

With this in mind, I realised that the pandemic also gives us at Bristol Spirit a chance to reset. So I have decided to do something different in the bar going forward. We’ll still be selling our gins, vodkas, vermouths and cocktail kits, which have been really popular during lockdown. And we’re taking bookings for small groups of friends who want to come out for drinks but don’t want to risk busier places yet. 

However we are hugely upping our bottle shop element, and we’ll be concentrating on stocking beers, ciders and wines made by women or coming from female-owned businesses. Luckily this includes a number of the Bristol breweries we already stock, but it also means we’ve got really delicious ciders, wines and other beers coming in from all around the country. It’s been fantastic to learn about all the fabulous women working in booze, and we’ve had universally positive support for the idea. 

So to celebrate our refocused Bristol Spirit, I wanted to share one of our most popular cocktails that we sell in the bar and as a cocktail kit. It’s called a Joni Collins and is tart, fresh and delicious on a summer’s day.

Joni Collins Cocktail credit Frances Tolson
Image: Joni Collins Cocktail credit Frances Tolson

Joni Collins Cocktail Recipe

Fill a highball glass two thirds with ice, then add...
50ml PG Sips Pink Grapefruit & Raspberry Vodka 
30 ml Thyme syrup
30ml Lemon juice
3 dashes orange bitters

Give it a good stir and then add a dash of soda water. Garnish with some raspberries or a slice of grapefruit.  

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