3 of the best gin and spirits producers in Essex

Hard seltzer cocktails with various fruits: pear, grapefruit, lemon. Refreshing colorful summer drin

Use local spirits for your summer cocktails - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Taste the very essence of Essex as we discover three artisan distilleries making delicious spirits using the best local ingredients 

Essex Spirits Co, Chelmsford

Last month, Zane Chiswell-Rivas opened a new distillery, shop and tasting room on the Waterhouse Business Centre in Chelmsford. ‘It’s just 10 to 15 minutes’ walk through the park from the railway station – so pretty central,’ Zane says. ‘It opened just after the Jubilee weekend. We have one full-time employee and my dad helping out with the deliveries. Once the shop, tours and tasting rooms get busier, we’ll look to take on more staff.’ 

Launching the business has been hard work for Zane; he began the business in 2020, in the middle of a pandemic. ‘But it’s been worth it, and we couldn’t have done it without all those local people who have come along and supported us and bought gin.’ 

Tours are bookable via their website and are held on Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons. ‘We hope to have the shop open on a Thursday and Friday evening and throughout the day on Saturdays. It’s very early days, so we need to find our feet first in our new location. The focus is still very much on quality products, made sustainably with local provenance.  

Refreshing fruit drinks with ice on a grey background. Flat lay, top view.

Get ready for summer cocktails - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

‘We now make gin, vodkas and rums, as well as seasonal releases. We only work with local farms. We use local berries to make summer fruit gins and then local apples to make winter gins. Our Summer Cup is coming back for its second year – it's almost like a posh Pimm’s, using local strawberries, cherries and raspberries. We will be going to Lathcoats Farm in Galleywood shortly to pick the fruit.’ 

Before launching his business, Zane had worked in London for seven years writing cocktail menus for a large pub chain. ‘Spirits and cocktails have always been my passion,’ he says. I asked Zane for a recommendation for a special summer cocktail. ‘It would have to be an Essex Summer Cup cocktail, served in a tall glass with mint, cucumber and any berries you have to hand. Add a double shot of the Essex Spirit Summer Cup gin, then top it up with equal parts of prosecco and either lemonade or ginger ale.’  

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Later this year there will be another opportunity to purchase Zane's Winter Cup. ‘It’s a mix of sloe gin, damson gin, spices and local honey. It tastes like all of your favourite winter gins in one bottle!’ You can check out the current selection at essexspiritsco.com or visit one of the local independent stockists listed on the website. 

East Coast Distillery, Thorpe-le-Soken

Director Nicole North​ works alongside friends Ben and Lucy Mann and Simon Burrows. The four of them created East Coast Distillery, which produces Tides Fortune, a London dry gin.  

The distillery celebrates the beautiful North Essex coast where they all live. Based on the outskirts of Thorpe-le-Soken, the three botanical ‘stars of the show’ are foraged or grown within a stone's throw from the distillery: sea purslane is foraged on the backwaters, fennel is grown at the distillery and a local farm produces sea buckthorn just a few fields away.   

Tide's Fortune Essex Dry Gin by East Coast Distillery lying on a pebble beach

East Coast Distillery's delicious gins are Essex through and through - Credit: East Coast Distillery

In a nod to the beauty of the local coastline, the six panels of the Tide Fortune bottles celebrate the region, and importantly, the bottles and packaging are plastic-free.  

Nicole explains about a new gin launched earlier this year. ‘Elder Pear gin is another London dry gin, and it has 10 kilos of locally grown pears, which are from just up the road in Holland-on-Sea. We roast them first to release all of their sweetness and then we use other botanicals, fresh lemon, elderflower, ginger. It’s a refreshing long summer drink if you serve it with an elderflower tonic.  

‘We’ve stayed true to ourselves by using local botanicals. As well as the ones that are grown nearby, we also forage for alexanders (greenish yellow flowers with an umbrella of blooms), which you’ll often find on coastal pathways. The plant was brought over by the Romans, and it gives a beautiful fresh taste to the gin. This new gin is in a copper shade of our original bottles.’ 

Elder Pear Dry Gin from East Coast Distillery

Elder Pear Dry Gin from East Coast Distillery - Credit: East Coast Distillery

The company also host regular events. ‘We are looking to host a cheese and gin pairing event, and another flower-arranging event will be coming up soon.’ Sign up to the newsletter on the website to hear when bookings open, as well as being notified of limited-edition gins. 

‘We have ideas for cocktails on our website. A great seasonal cocktail would use our limited-edition Afternoon Tea gin. It’s a liqueur with black tea, hibiscus, rose petals, raspberries and strawberries, and it has a really lovely jammy flavour. To make a super summer cocktail, mix it with elderflower cordial and sparkling water. Or you could just enjoy it over ice. 

‘We like to use seasonal products. We are about to launch our local rhubarb gin – it’s currently steeping in the tank. The rhubarb comes from my garden so when I say local, it really is!’ 

East Coast Distillery is open Friday and Saturday, 10am to 3pm. Nicole says, ‘We also host tours every Saturday and they are really popular. People are really interested in finding out about the provenance of our gin and the botanicals we use, and you get to have a taste of our gins and meet ‘Monty’ our still. They are free of charge; you just need to book online.’ 

Pigs Bay Distillery, Southend

A revolutionary new distillery, established to produce high-quality gins, liqueurs and vodka, Pig’s Bay Distillery has just celebrated its first year in business. Based in Southend-on-Sea, Dale Smith is master distiller and founder, and he owns the business with wife Sandra and 22-year-old son Calum. It’s taken Dale four long years to cut through the red tape to establish themselves.  

Dale and Sandra Smith at Pigs Bay Distillery

Dale and Sandra in the distillery - Credit: Pigs Bay Distillery

The business is very high tech, and they are breaking the mould when it comes to running a distillery. ‘I had been around the Scottish breweries and was fascinated by the production side. I was in Derbyshire and nipped into a shop, which was promoting a home-still. The shop keeper explained that the UK market is 50 years behind the New Zealand market when it comes to distilling.  

‘I tried their vodka, and it was so incredibly smooth, I couldn’t believe it. The differences were in the filtration using coconut and distilling using a vacuum, which means the boiling point is much lower at just 15 degrees, so you can distil with fruit without cooking it. It means the fruit-flavoured gins we produce are totally natural, with no artificial flavours or colourings. 

Four local spirits from Pigs Bay Distillery

Four local spirits from Pigs Bay Distillery - Credit: Pigs Bay Distillery

Dale spent thousands on all the kit, only to find out he needed a licence to use it. ‘They don’t give distillers licences very readily. It took until June 2021 until we were able to sell it.’ 

You can sample their wares on July 28, at 8pm at the Royal Hotel, Southend. There will be premium craft gins, vodkas and a gin liqueur range. On the night you will have a chance to enjoy 10 high-quality spirits made by Dale’s pioneering production processes, which includes the use of medical-grade purified Essex water. The spirits are also filtered for two weeks through charcoal and then coconut. 

The range includes everything from wrack seaweed and samphire gin (perfect with seafood) to a chocolate fudge rum liqueur, which is great neat or in a boozy coffee. 

‘Our new Pier Gin was designed to celebrate the yesteryear of UK piers, when they were high-class entertainment and dining venues. With Southend Pier being refurbished and a recent royal visit, the juniper-led gin flavoured with natural strawberries and Cornish clotted cream seemed the perfect summer drink for Southend.’ 

Leigh Shore gin martini from Pigs Bay Distillery

Leigh Shore gin martini - Credit: Pigs Bay Distillery

I asked Dale for a summer cocktail recommendation. ‘We have plenty of recipes on our Facebook page. One is based on the Perfect John cocktail, but it’s made with our Southend Gin and named in honour of our distillery cat, Dave, who went to cat heaven recently. For the Perfect Dave, take 60ml of Southend Gin, add 30ml Triple Sec or Cointreau, 125ml freshly squeezed orange juice, 10ml grenadine, ice cubes and decorate with a slice of orange.’ Et voila! Summer in a glass. 

Get in the spirit... 

Essex Spirit Co 

Waterhouse Business Centre 



Instagram @essexspiritsco 

Facebook @ESCDrinkLocal 

East Coast Distillery  

Landermere Farm Buildings 3A 




Pigs Bay Distillery  

07710 445 634 




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Essex's sweet and dessert producers: https://www.greatbritishlife.co.uk/food-and-drink/sweet-producers-of-essex-9142128