SO Resi Canning Town

Stratford: How Jim And Tonic plans to use Sugar House Island to make gin and rum

Takeover of The Print House at Dane’s Yard includes bar, restaurant, terrace and two distilleries

From left, Jim And Tonic COO Mark Warren, founder Jim Mark and distiller Hendré Barnard – image James Perrin

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

A lot can happen in six years.

A long-time fan of gin and tonic, Jim Mark had been on a skiing holiday to Norway and experienced the drink in a new way.

He was served big glasses with quality contents (think Williams Elegant Gin and Fever Tree Tonic), topped off with a variety of garnishes.

Before long he was gently slurring the words “Jim and tonic” and a business idea and brand name were born.

“That experience got me thinking about getting these flavours to everybody and so I bought for £20 – that was the beginning,” said Jim.

“We started in 2016 with one van – Genevieve – having agreed to trade on a golf course at a corporate event. 

“It was on a whim really, an idea to try and build a company that was about bringing wonderful gin and tonics with crazy garnishes to people, which not many had seen at the time. It went down really well.”

The day was such a success, in fact, that further sporting events followed as the fledgling company built its business from a mobile base.

“Then we got into Mercato Metropolitano, at Elephant And Castle, which was our first permanent bar,” said Jim.

“That’s where our main distillery is and it really helped our business.”

Jim And Tonic garnished with cucumber and lavender

Further expansion followed, including a partnership with brewery German Kraft, which brings us to 2022.

Jim And Tonic recently took over The Print House at Sugar House Island in Stratford and is in the process of creating a blockbuster home for the brand.

In addition to an extensive outdoor terrace, indoor bar and restaurant, there will be two distilleries – one for gin and one to create rum.

There’s also an events space and plans for a botanical rooftop garden on one of the two buildings the company has taken over.

“We visited this place and fell in love with it – it feels like an open space,” said Jim.

“In terms of hospitality, I think the area is underdeveloped – there’s not much of an offering for people.

“But these are lovely buildings, right by the water – there’s the outside space and we can make this a place that’s great for all.

“We’re a distillery but we want to create great spaces – boutique shops and bars for people to come and enjoy their gin and tonics.”

Located a short walk from Pudding Mill Lane DLR station, Sugar House Island is towards the Bow end of Stratford High Street. 

Jim And Tonic’s patch sits in Dane’s Yard, right on the banks of Three Mills Wall River Weir – a stretch of water that forms a triangle with the River Lea and Pudding Mill River.

With a plethora of wooden benches to choose from, lit by white bulbs strung above them, a bar on an open-top bus and a 40m, multicoloured tower lit by some 600 LEDs, Jim And Tonic makes the area an immensely attractive proposition.

And that’s before you even get to the stuff it serves.

Bar staff sharpen up their skills – image James Perrin

“At the moment we’re producing four gins, and a couple of other products, including a Ugandan project with a water charity to fund wells in Africa,” said Jim And Tonic distiller Hendré Barnard.

“We are a sustainable urban distillery, so we try to source as many ingredients locally as possible.

“Our London dry, for example, has botanicals that can be found within the M25. We also try to work with community gardens, that supply us with ingredients we use in the gin. 

“Our Roobee pink gin uses honey from urban apiaries, literally made in the capital.

“What really sets us apart is that we’re small scale compared to other so-called craft distilleries.

“We produce very small batches but we are looking to grow our sales to both consumers and businesses.

“We’ve got big plans and that’s one of the reasons we came here – to have a brand house, so that people can experience the process, do distillery tours, tastings and allow people to get their hands dirty to a certain extent, so they can see what we do and how we do it.

“We’re also going to be making new products for this area, speaking to the community and using local ingredients.”

One of those new products will be a first for Jim And Tonic – Sugar House Rum.

“Rum’s my favourite spirit and it’s really growing as a category,” said Jim And Tonic COO Matt Warren.

“As well as the distilleries over in the Caribbean, you can see a lot of variations with spiced rums, flavoured rums, and as a result it’s becoming a more popular drink. 

The Print House features an extensive terrace area
The Print House features an extensive terrace area

“It’s great for mixing cocktails and it’s an area that really interests us because there’s a bit of a scene in the UK now.

“Here, we want to expand what we’ve done already, to bring that same vibe we’ve created at other venues to Stratford, with good quality products and music. 

“This is an area that’s developing massively, with offices moving in and a lot of residential property.

“We want to make Jim And Tonic a great place to come, have a drink and some nice food – we have a really great chef here.

“Then add to that distillery tours, gin blending classes and events so we can do private bookings.

“We’ve already had our first wedding, so that’s something we want more of – a full calendar ranging from things like Yoga and community get-togethers to networking events and Oktoberfest.”

With all that in the pipeline, and Jim’s plans to create some kind of gin-on-tap system that delivers spirits at the press of a button, this is a place to try sooner rather than later.

The Print House is also home to Jim And Tonic's bar on a bus
The Print House is also home to Jim And Tonic’s bar on a bus

Read more: How Third Space helps Wharfers make the most of their time

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via

Subscribe To Wharf Life

Canary Wharf: Why Bullards wants people to come and try gin at its Cabot Place shop

Founder Russell Evans talks brand history, putting a twist on recipes and the importance of tasting

Bullards' Canary Wharf gin shop and tasting room in Cabot Place
Bullards’ Canary Wharf gin shop and tasting room in Cabot Place

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

Bullards offers something that no other shop in Canary Wharf does – a space dedicated to sampling and selling spirits from a single brand.

The company’s recently opened gin shop and tasting room on the lowest level of Cabot Place offers anyone who pops through its doors the opportunity to taste the products and a multitude of ways to take them home, should imbibing prove agreeable.

With successful branches already operating in Covent Garden, Norwich and Westfield White City it’s a model that’s already gaining traction on the estate. 

reaching out

“We’re bringing the brand to people,” said founder Russell Evans, having encouraged me to sample pretty much its whole range.

“We’d been selling gin locally to people in Norwich, online and through other people’s shops. 

“But our thought process was that while it was in those outlets and people loved it and bought it, there were others who would look at it on the shelf and worry they might be disappointed when they got it home because they’d never tried it.

“We wondered how to overcome that barrier and decided to open a pop-up shop in a shopping centre in Norwich and see how it worked.

“It was phenomenal. People came in, tried the gin and 50% of people who did walked out with a bottle.

“We thought we were on to something and so launched in a department store in Norwich just to check it worked in a different environment albeit locally.

“In August we opened at Westfield  and it was the same there. It was tough, there weren’t a lot of people shopping at that time, but we were still selling to half the people who came through the door.

“We have a store in Covent Garden where it’s 75% conversion because there are lots of tourists there who want something to experience as well as souvenirs.

“Here in Canary Wharf it’s starting to build momentum – you have people living locally as well as working here. People are trying it, liking it and bringing their friends back.”

Bullards Spirits founder Russell Evans
Bullards Spirits founder Russell Evans

a bit of history

Russell, who splits his time between London and the brand’s home in Norfolk, released his first gin in 2015.

He’s been joined in the business by his son, Joe, and both clearly delight in telling its story and visiting stores to talk to customers. 

“Bullards is a brand that’s been around since 1837,” said Russell. “It originally brewed beer. In the 1980s, I went to work for Grand Metropolitan, which is now Diageo, who sent me to Norwich Brewery and one of the brands they gave me to play around with was Bullards.

“I worked on it for a year or so, went off and did other things, worked in brand management for Budweiser, Fosters and other brands.

“Then I ran my own advertising agency, sold it, found out what happened to Bullards, did a bit of research and found out it was owned by Heineken but that they’d forgotten to re-register all the trademarks.

“So I registered them, approached Heineken and – long story short – acquired the brand in 2015.

“I began by making beer, which was good but the gin boom was starting and so we thought we’d try and make some of that.

“We discovered Bullards had actually made gin back in the 1920s as well, so there was some history there.

“We started distilling at the back of an old pub. Then, the London Dry that we produced with a tonka bean twist won World’s Best London Dry Gin in 2017, which catapulted us up a level.”

Botanicals on display at the Cabot Place shop
Botanicals on display at the Cabot Place shop

next level

“Having set that high bar it was a difficult shout to expand the range. We thought we’d do something really different,” said Russell.

“Having done a classic London Dry, we thought we’d go for a flavoured gin because that’s where the market was going.

“People suggested raspberry or rhubarb – but that’s what everybody else was doing and when we do something we like to put a twist on it.

“We decided to do strawberry and black pepper, influenced by eating those ingredients, possibly with balsamic vinegar, as a pudding.

“We launched it and it became our most popular product.”

Russell's son Joe also works for the brand
Russell’s son Joe also works for the brand

sweet stuff

“There was much debate about what to do next and there weren’t many Old Tom-style gins on the market,” said Russell.

“The thing with it is that not many people know what it is – it’s a sweet gin. Before we opened our shops it was our slowest seller but, now people can try it in-store, it’s our best seller.

“Most people wouldn’t think to buy a gin like that off the shelf but we’re educating people as to what it is.

“It’s sweet, but our twist was to make it with mango and honey rather than just dumping a load of sugar in it.

“It’s a drink you can have with tonic or in cocktails, but it’s also a lovely sipping spirit you can have with ice.

Bullards' branding honours the original firm's tipsy anchor
Bullards’ branding honours the original firm’s tipsy anchor

home county

“Then we had a good long think about what we were all about,” said Russell. “We had the London Dry, but it was made with tonka beans from South America. 

“We had the flavoured gin made with strawberries from Norfolk, but the pepper was from overseas and we had the Old Tom, which had honey from our home county in it, but we wanted a product that encapsulated us and our Norfolkness.

“So if you had one gin you could take to a desert island that would sum up what Bullards is all about, it would be the Coastal.

“The reason is because all the botanicals apart from the juniper have been foraged from the Norfolk coast.”

Bold statement: Bullards wants Wharfers to try its gins

a bottle for life

Bullards’ gins cost £40 in the brand’s coloured glass bottles, but are also available in refill pouches for £5 less.

These can be recycled in-store, with postal subscriptions also available via Royal Mail, cutting down on delivery emissions. 

The brand produces cocktail recipes with ingredient hampers available for mixed drink enthusiasts as well as miniatures, scented candles inspired by the four core flavours and a range of other merchandise.

Russell said: “We want to spread the word and we get a great reaction. People like that the owners are in the shops talking to people about what they like.

“It’s the ultimate market research to find out what our customers think.

“So if anyone on the Wharf wants to come and try our gins, there’s always someone here who will be happy to talk them through the range and give them a free taste.

“Personally, my favourite is the Old Tom, but people should make their own minds up.”

Read More: Why Greenwich Gin is a journey around the world

Read e-editions of Wharf Life’s print edition here

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

Subscribe To Wharf Life