Jen Wright: The Yorkshire Cocktail Queen
Jen Wright’s kegs are exploding. And they have made her a TV celebrity and one of Gordon Ramsay’s Future Food Stars.
She is one of twelve foodie stars competing for the £150,000 first prize in the new Apprentice-like BBC TV show.
“Think cocktails and you think high heels, backless dresses and glam parties” Jen said. “In reality, I wear massive jumpers and Whitwood Enterprise Park, Castleford is hardly glam!”
Now based in West Yorkshire, the Doncaster-born former estate agent-turned-drink entrepreneur hasn’t resorted to sending zombies and porn stars through the post. But she is getting close. She sends her products to addresses all over the UK. She pioneered the Ready To Drink (RTD) boom and has made west Yorkshire the cradle of modern British mixology.
“A new generation of mixologists”
Jen Wright runs “Cocktail Pickers” and is one of a new generation of mixologists and infusions specialists making mail-order, build-your-own classic cocktails. She was the first to provide ready-made quality classic cocktails and is still at the forefront of the trend. Something that exploded during the Covid lockdown.
Wright, 34, was previously an estate agent. “The estate agency was doing well” she said. “But I needed a new challenge. And I had my Eureka moment one Christmas Eve. I was driving along wondering what lovely drink I’d serve to friends who were coming over for a party. I’ve always been very sociable and love a full house full and cooking and making drinks for people. I discovered you couldn’t get anything classy and different. So I told my family I was going to sell my business and start bottling cocktails. Of course, they thought I was absolutely crazy!”
“I was adamant my cocktails were to be bar quality with absolutely nothing artificial added to the bottle whatsoever.” Jen found a manufacturer who followed her recipes and could produce to high quality in commercially viable quantities. She also found a warehouse to store the finished products and quickly established a delivery network.
22,000 bottles were produced in year one. But convincing people it was a good thing was the big challenge.
“My biggest challenge after two years of development was to fly the cocktail flag and convince everyone that a ready-to-drink cocktail was as good quality as one you’d spend far more on on a night out. RTD was tarred with an alco-pop label and there can still be a snobbery about it.”
Jen’s drinks are lightly pasteurised to increase shelf life. “That took some trials to get the right time to pasteurise without affecting the flavour and alcohol. I was very lucky to have a big flavour house Cobel take me under their wing. They really believed in my vision.
“Cocktails bring people together”
“I’ve always been a Cocktail fan but I really started going crazy for them when I started drinking the ‘Pornstar martini’ which is what I’ve based my Passion Fruit martini on. I just love that people drink one or two really lovely quality drinks and really enjoy the quality of them. Cocktails bring people together.
Jen’s The Christmas market boxes will include other brands Naked Marshmallow, Laura’s Confectionary and the Bottled Baking Co.
Cocktail Pickers current range comprises Passion Fruit Vodka Martini. Strawberry and Rhubarb Cosmopolitan and English Country Garden Gin Cocktail with Limited Batch Cocktails (usually 2000 litres only) Mango and Ginger Spiced Rum Cocktail, Elderflower Mojito and Blood Orange Margarita.
“Limited Batch flavours give the opportunity to test the market and push the boundaries” Jen Wright told us. “The business is 4 years old now. In August I launched the first botted Cocktail subscription box. It’s £20 Bi monthly and includes a brand new flavour, snacks, garnishes and discounts for the web shop. The subscribers are building well. They have a taste for classy cocktails around here.”
Watch Jen Wright from The Cocktail Pickers Club on BBC’s Gordon Ramsey’s Future Food Stars