Meet the founders of the Travelling Gin Co., Joe Lewis (left) and Ed Godden. (Photo: The Travelling Gin Co.)
Every so often, there comes along a job so sweet, you wonder why you didn’t think of it yourself. That happened to me when I first heard about The Travelling Gin Co., two dudes who ride around London selling gin cocktails out of their bicycle baskets. Their names are Ed Godden and Joe Lewis, ages 29 and 30, respectively, and I sat down with them to hear about how they got their start serving spirits on wheels.
Yahoo Travel (YT): So, how did you come up with such a genius idea?
TGC: We weren’t thinking about it intentionally at all. We went to Holland on a holiday weekend with our friends, and we attached spirit dispensers to our bicycles just to have fun. It was just a laugh at first. But then people started taking photos of us, because it was such a novelty thing. And our friends said, ‘Oh, that’s so brilliant,’ and we thought, you know what, it is brilliant. And then we realized that we could make it be brilliant in London when we got back.
YT: What were your day jobs at the time?
TGC: We met when we were both working at Abbey Road studios — yes, the Abbey Road studios! I [Joe] was working in the graphic design department, and Ed was working in the video department as the booking manager. I left in 2010 for a different design job, but was still freelancing for them, and Ed was still there full-time when we started the gin company in 2011. Ed left Abbey Road next, in 2012, and then, in 2013, we both left our jobs to do TGC full-time.
Having the opportunity to have something of our own was too tempting to not give it a go. And actually, our people at Abbey Road were super supportive. In fact, they’re now one of our clients. We just did a party for them where we made specific Abbey Road-themed cocktails.
YT: So tell me about how your operation works, exactly.
TGC: It’s all very self-contained. We have baskets on the front and back of our bikes, and frames around the handles to help support them. We make sure to use high-quality gin — Beefeater is our favorite — because we have such a limited capacity, so the booze has to be good. And then we carry fresh orange juice, fresh lemon and lime, and homemade cordial syrup that we make and bottle ourselves. People on the street will fill up our ice buckets for us. And that’s sort of it, really. It’s such a simple concept.
Their self-contained rig. (Photo: The Travelling Gin Co.)
Once we have our rig set up, we go to parties and to festivals and to whatever else is going on and just sell our cocktails. Right now, a gin and tonic is four pounds 50, and we sometimes use other alcohol. We just did an elderflower cocktail for six to eight pounds.
Ed serving up drinks at a wedding in Kings Cross, London. (Photo: The Travelling Gin Co.)
YT: How did you get the word out originally?
TGC: It started as a word of mouth thing. One of our good friends is an artist, and he was having a gallery opening at The Outside World Gallery in Shorevitch. He invited us to serve our cocktails there, and it was just this massive hit. In London, you can stand outside with your drinks, so everyone was happy. We got such a good response; we sold out in an hour and a half! And that’s when we knew we had something real. That first gallery event really opened our eyes, and we saw how much we could do with our bikes. So we just rolled with it.
They even have fold-out tables on their bikes! (Photo: The Travelling Gin Co.)
YT: Any plans to take it global?
TGC: Right now, it’s mainly a London thing. Our city is brimming with events, so we have a lot of work. But we’ve also done gigs in Europe. We served at the Michel, a hotel in Berlin, and we go to Denmark quite a bit because we’ve got friends there. We have an official TGC launching in Copenhagen by the end of the summer. And we also have big dreams: We want to have different employees serving from different bicycles in different countries all over the world.
Drinking homemade cocktails from a bicycle in a romantic European backyard? Yes, please. (Photo: The Travelling Gin Co.)
YT: That’s awesome. Any last words?
TGC: We’re just thrilled that our business is so successful. A lot of our friends complain and moan about going to work. But we’re best friends, and we basically just get to travel around together, and hang out — and get paid for it. That’s the best thing.
Want to make one of Ed and Joe’s favorite cocktails yourself? Try this recipe for their summer beverage of choice, the Blood Orange Sparkler:
40 ml Beefeater London Dry Gin
25 ml Fresh Blood Orange Juice
15 ml Homemade Basil Syrup
Direction: Combine ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker for a good one-minute shake. Strain into your chilled glass. Add a splash of sparkling water. Top with a blood orange slice to finish.
The Blood Orange Sparkler. (Photo: The Travelling Gin Co.)
Check out our original adventure travel series A Broad Abroad.