Meet Chris Yandell and Katie Bain, founders of seafood sensation, The Oyster Shack, in South Devon. They’re also the brains behind a new non-alcoholic tipple, ROCKTAILS. Born as a result of the pair experimenting with botanicals grown from their kitchen herb garden…
You’ve spent the last 14 years running an award-winning restaurant in Devon. How did your experiences lead to the creation of Rocktails?
Our restaurant is perched off the beaten track in Devon, you reach us via a tidal road, if the tide is in then it requires an extra 25 minutes of driving time. So, there’s always a designated driver for every table booking. With this in mind we have always been focussed on our alcohol–free offering and we were never happy with anything in the marketplace.
Soft drinks are notoriously child-like and just don’t offer the same experience, juices are too heavy, mocktails just don’t pair well with food so we started to experiment with steeping our own botanicals, that we grew in our kitchen herb garden thus leading to the birth of ROCKTAILS.
What does the signature ‘Citrus Spritz’ taste like and how should it be served?
It’s a delicate blend that’s well balanced, with floral top notes. The rounded pepperiness of the juniper is intertwined with the fragrant notes of basil and lavender. Grapefruit peel adds a dry base with slight bitter tones whilst lemon zest adds a refreshing top note. The gentle spritz is ideal for pairing with food.
The serve is crucial to the craft of the drink and the experience of the flavour. We recommend serving in a stemmed glass over ice, garnished with a generous twist of grapefruit peel. This enlivens and accentuates the botanicals and brings the full experience of the ingredients to the fore.
According to YouGov, almost five million people signed up to ‘Dry January’ this year. Why do you think there is such a movement towards going alcohol-free?
Mindsets are really changing – alcohol is no longer at the core of social experiences – people are becoming much more health conscious, seeing the negative effects that alcohol can have on the body and the mind.
How do you get around putting sugar in your drinks to add flavour?
It’s a tricky one as sugar does carry flavour and adds mouthfeel – it’s so widely used in alcoholic drinks and many soft drinks and even tonics heavily use it. We add a tiny dash of organic agave (2.5g) so a quarter of that of a tonic water even and we are continuing to experiment with distilling botanicals that add the aroma of sweetness.
What food best accompanies the Citrus Spritz?
Seafood – white fish, salads, fragrant spicy dishes and white meats.
Favourite restaurant in London and why?
Spring at Somerset House. It’s incredibly elegant, fresh and comfortable, in such a beautiful setting – the arts and cultural heart of London. Head Chef Skye Gyngell really celebrates food for its conviviality and the joyfulness. The cooking is a real balance that’s heartfelt, wholesome, produce driven and you can feel the passion in their dishes. It’s a real treat to go there!
How do you like to stay fit and healthy in Devon?
When we get the opportunity, we go for a coastal hike or beach runs – which is brilliant for clearing the mind too. We have miles upon miles of stunning rugged coastline on our doorstep. We have an abundance of local produce in Devon from seafood landed daily to many surrounding organic farms – so eating well is part of daily life.
Why should more people visit this part of the world?
South Devon has so much to offer – from pretty Dartmoor through to the stunning coastlines, Caribbean-esque beaches, sailing, array of award winning chefs, restaurants and cosy pubs and local produce (also known as the UKs pantry!).
What are your 3 tips for starting a new business?
Solve a problem
The most successful businesses solve a problem, providing a solution for a gap in the marketplace. Don’t copycat something that already exists unless you feel that you can do it differently and so much better than your competition.
You will receive negativity along the way, make mistakes, go through grueling and challenging periods – with everything on the line financially too and no stability – you have to just keep pushing day by day and your persistence will be worth it in the end.
Balance your passion with wisdom
Let your passion hit the pedal and your mind control the steering wheel. That way you can be confident about the direction you are going in, steer the business in the right way as you hit obstacles and sustain the momentum when you get there.
Treat every day as a new beginning. Stop thinking about what could have been, or what you should have done and start looking at how you can keep moving forwards in a positive way. As Einstein said – “life is like riding a bicycle – in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
Main image: hellokingsbridge.co.uk