There are plenty of reasons to smile this summer if you are served a Sipello, the new aperitif that’s chock full of botanicals and UK-sourced fruits including the little-known chuckleberry. Designed as a relaxing spritzer or an intriguing cocktail base for inventive mixologists, bittersweet Sipello comes in an ornate, eye-catching bottle and is hand crafted in Surrey by first time entrepreneur Tim Simmons.
Seizing on the trend for drinking less and better, the drinks market expert launched the brand in a single-handed operation last autumn with £100,000 of his own funds.
Production, where the ingredients are macerated, blended, filtered and batched over four weeks, is an outsourced collaboration with Silent Pool Distillery, set amid the Surrey Hills near Guildford.
“We had to move the launch time because of lockdown – the distillery was making hand sanitiser and there was a shortage of glass,” recalls Simmons.
“I cycled all over London making deliveries after reaching out to furloughed bar tenders on Instagram for their input test tasting the first batches and improving the recipe.
“Bar tenders’ opinions and endorsements are critical. Exciting their interest leads to their wanting to be creative with cocktails and to us getting stocked. It’s the same for bar managers wanting to refresh their menus.
“Our bottle’s design adds to our attention-grabbing statement. We don’t hide on the shelf, we stand out.”
Currently the majority of sales are on trade with off trade growing through the website, where gift purchases are strong, and online retailers such as The Whisky Exchange and Master of Malt.
“My way of operating is old-school traditional, but out-sourcing and using digital management tools have enabled me to streamline everything and make Sipello a very modern company,” explains Simmons.
“I was determined to create a brand and a business because I lost my parents when I was young and I want my daughters to be secure. Building a legacy is the best way I know to achieve that.”
Using sustainable ingredients does its bit too helping to safeguard the earth’s future. Every £32 bottle of Sipello has 100 gooseberries, as well as rhubarb, and orris from the iris flower’s root. Gentian adds floral notes while wormwood and red sandalwood lend earthy flavours.
The gooseberry, redcurrant and blackcurrant hybrid that is the chuckleberry adds a “jammy signature sweetness that balances the other fruits’ tartness,” explains Simmons.
“Our sourcing is transparent and our suppliers sustainable. Our ingredients are impacted by the terroir where they are grown just like wine. In tastings customers say how their palates can detect Sipello’s complex layers of flavours and aromas.
“Our dry products come from overseas and are the unusual bedfellows. Cinchona, from the tree that produces quinine for example, comes from Ecuador and our wormwood is wild harvested in Albania.
“Sipello embodies natural and local, something that chimes with a lighter style of drinking among customers now shifting away from mass-produced mainstream products.”
Getting to grips with how the wholesale market worked was one of his biggest challenges and not easy for a startup, but organic goods wholesalers have been a big support.
This summer independent sellers, festivals and events such as black tie balls will lead the push for growth. Securing listings with premium retailers such as Waitrose or Selfridges and quality restaurant chains are other key targets.
Come 2026 Simmons is forecasting a £1 million turnover and from next year will look for two rounds of external investment in the region of £250,000, beginning with family and friends. That will be to scale domestically and then overseas in places with vibrant cocktail scenes such as New York, Paris and Singapore.
Manufacture closer to markets is also a possibility. “Perhaps using eccentric fruit to support local economies in other countries,” he adds.
“Authenticity, sustainability, and lower alcohol content are the pillars Sipello is built on. We are different by nature.”