The entrepreneurs behind a string of successful Spanish venues in the North East have now launched an online tonic retail business to help tap into the booming gin market.
Claire Elwell and Toni Almiron – alongside business partner Joan Targas, from Spanish Fine Foods – have launched Importonics, an e-commerce company that stocks a wide range of premium tonics sourced from around the world. Flavours are as diverse as cucumber, liquorice or tangerine.
The couple, whose Dacantus and recently opened The Continental venues in Newcastle stock hundreds of gins, supply to many bars and restaurants across the city, as well as those across the wider North East and UK.
As with their other ventures, which also include El Torero in Newcastle and El Coto restaurants in Newcastle and Durham, Importonics takes influence from Spain and the popularity there of drinking gin with flavoured mixers.
Since its launch three months ago, Importonics – which sells mixers, gin glasses and botanical sprays through importonics.co.uk – has already seen strong interest from across the UK.
While renowned in the region for their Spanish-themed food and traditional atmosphere, Claire and Toni are also building a reputation as gin specialists.
Dacantus, on Grey Street, has a collection of over 300 gins, but the couple’s latest venue – The Continental restaurant and bar on Collingwood Street, which has seen an investment of over £150,000 to open – stocks over 500 different varieties. Both venues share a gin expert general manager, Shaun Stewart.
Claire says: “The gin and tonic revolution happened about 15 years ago in Spain, so it’s nothing new to have gin with a flavoured tonic there, but here in the UK it is still very different. There are a few very established brands producing tonics, but not a huge amount of variety. That is why we wanted to introduce flavoured tonics, and those sourced from around the world, to a wider audience in the UK.
“Even using our own venues as an example, it is proving very popular to have a flavoured gin and tonic and to use a coloured mixer. Through our online shop, popularity is definitely growing, and we have venues in Newcastle and other places across the UK now introducing them.”
Sarah Smith, head of licensing at Sintons, is the long-standing legal advisor to Claire and Toni, and recently licensed The Continental.
“Claire and Toni are well known in Newcastle for their authentic Spanish venues, so Importonics is something different yet complementary to their existing portfolio. After popularising the Spanish way of dining in the city, they are now helping to redefine the traditional gin and tonic through their addition of coloured and flavoured gins and mixers,” she says.
“Unsurprisingly, Importonics has been well received by the trade, who are keen to capitalise on the ever-increasing popularity of gin by offering something new and different to their clientele.”