Raissa de Haas – Double Dutch
Bursting onto the scene, Double Dutch are taking off at an impressive rate. With two mixers packed with flavour along with two tonic waters becoming more widely available in February, they are a prime alternative for those looking for different options, when it comes to matching gin with either tonic or other mixers. We talked to co-founder, Raissa de Haas to see what 2016 has in store for what is easily becoming THE company to watch in the soft drinks sector.
Gin Foundry – Hello Raissa! Double Dutch Mixers launched in 2015 but where did it all start?
Raissa de Haas – Originally, we are from The Netherlands. With such a great history of Gin and other spirits, we’ve always been quite frustrated by the fact that there are so many different type of spirits that are all becoming more experimental, made with different botanicals but the choice of mixers is still very limited.
That’s why we decided to start experimenting with making our own syrups and sodas, and brought them to friends, family and house parties. Over time, especially at university, making our own mixers became a passion.
You mention university – you both completed a Masters in Technology Entrepreneurship at UCL. It sounds like it was quite a springboard for you.
Arriving in London and enjoying British food and drinks, we noticed that the choice of premium and ultra premium spirits is even bigger than back in the Netherlands but that the choice of mixers is as limited as back home.
We decided to start again with making our own sodas – this time being inspired by the exotic flavours tasted around the world. During our year at UCL, we got the opportunity to explore this gap in the beverage industry and find a solution for our frustrations.
We decided to write our dissertation about a new type of mixer and did extensive market research, looking for trends and needs by bartenders but end-consumers as well. Our three big findings were that we needed to create a drink, which is all-natural, offers more unique and exciting flavours than existing mixers and is relatively low in sugars and calories. This was almost exactly what we have been making for all these years in our kitchen!
When we graduated in September 2014 we won the UCL Bright Ideas Awards for most promising start-up. Our university gave us our initial investment, a year free office space and mentorship and this award really enabled us to start commercialising new and innovative flavours and recipes.
What a huge 15 months since… There’s been a massive uptake and fast recognition for what your existing Double Dutch mixers – what’s it been like from your perspective?
It’s been a super exciting ride for sure! So many people warned us about entering a highly competitive market like the beverage industry but in the end it really appears that consumers are looking for something more exciting and complementary with their premium spirits.
We didn’t expect to grow that fast but I think because we focus on a niche segment within the huge beverage industry we are able to offer a product that our target customers are and have been looking for. It’s really amazing to see people open up for small batch and innovative products like ours and we are so astonished by the friendliness of British people.
It helps when you’ve made something that’s really tasty too… Developing drinks is difficult, especially to find the perfect harmony – how long did it take you to create the first two Double Dutch mixers?
When we graduated in September 2014 we started with our flavour development. It took us about 7 months just to get the flavours right. We were determined to find a method that is in line with the time and effort that distilleries put in finding their perfectly balanced spirit.
Everyone has a different way of doing it too, what’s your development process like?
Double Dutch’s recipes are inspired by food pairing, which offers a technique to find the chemical components that specific spirits have in common with certain ingredients. The process starts with an analysis of a certain type of food when the aroma compounds are then determined and quantified.
The essence is to combine different foods that share the same intrinsic properties to create unique and counter-intuitive flavour combinations. These food pairing techniques both look at the enhancement of spirits but also the enhancement of each other’s flavours within the double-flavoured soft drink itself. This technique really enabled us to create much more innovative, delicate and refined flavour combinations of which we knew we would find the perfectly balanced drink. Because of this method, our flavours are also double flavoured as well.
You ended up with Pomegranate & Basil and Cucumber & Watermelon as the two starting mixers in the Double Dutch range, what made you pick those dual flavour profiles?
We started with around ten finished recipes and then tested them with a large amount of people (over 800), cutting down one or two flavours each week, until we ended up with these two flavour-combinations.
They are delicious by themselves but as gin fanatics, we love adding a good measure into the mix… Are there any gins that are particularly well suited to either one?
In our Double Dutch Cucumber & Watermelon, watermelon subtly underlines the cucumber’s flavour, which gives a very refreshing and slightly sweetener drink. This goes particularly well with citrus or floral forward Gins. I personally like it a lot with Martin Miller’s, Aviation Gin and Bombay Sapphire.
The Double Dutch Pomegranate & Basil mixer has red arils from the pomegranate, which are used to add a subtle sweetness to the peppery anise tones of the basil. Therefore this savoury and aromatic flavour goes really well with either herbaceous or big Juniper gins. I personally like it a lot with Gin Mare and Monkey 47.
We noticed the exciting arrival of the two tonic waters, what’s the plan with your range in the next 12 months?
We just launched a traditional Indian and Slimline Tonic Water in November because we wanted to create a standard range as well. However we did add a very subtle twist of juniper and grapefruit just to give that extra bit of spice to your tonic.
We are hoping to launch a seasonal mixer as well. We’re considering something for Christmas with lots of spices like cardamom, chili and cinnamon – or something else for the beginning of spring. By the end of December 2016 we plan to have a range of 5-6 mixers.
So that sounds amazing – sign us up for the testing! Looking further afield – are you looking to export to the US and other markets in 2016?
We won the Virgin Foodpreneur Award by Sir Richard Branson at the beginning of October for most creative, inspiring and disruptive F&B start-up in the UK. With this award, we travelled to the US the first week of December with the Virgin Team and pitched to buyers. As a result, we will now be stocked in 300 Target stores. This has been an amazing opportunity and will continue to help us open doors in the US massively!
Apart from the US we are also focusing on geographic expansion in Europe. We just started exporting to Belgium, The Netherlands and are in further conversations with Switzerland, Portugal, Spain and other exciting countries!
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