Local Portrait: Andrew Rummer of Sipping Liquor

Written by: Sophie Taylor

He’s basically a walking litmus test for quality spirits.

Andrew Rummer is someone you want on your side when you’re choosing your new poison.

You also want him on your side when finding where to source that intoxicant.

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He is the brains behind Sipping Liquor: a craft spirits club that delivers carefully chosen spirits to your door on a monthly or bi-monthly basis (and the man behind this genius video explaining the difference between Bourbon biscuits and their alcoholic namesake).

We embarked on a trip to Bimber Distillery with Andrew one rather rainy morning to check out his latest craft spirit producers.

As the smell of sweet rye knocked us sideways us on entry, we admired the copper pots, pillows of malt and stacks of oak barrels lining the walls. Over the sound of copper filtration pots and pressure systems we met our tour guide, Adam Trethewy and heard his stories of moonshine history and vodka production.

After drying out and furiously filming vodka taps, it was tasting time. Adam went to work setting up row upon row of empty glasses waiting to be filled with oak aged vodkas, infused gins and Bourbon whiskies. 

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Just don’t go suggesting a cocktail

Our favourite was the Starka, a twice-distilled rye-grain vodka, aged in oak barrels and infused with fruit tree leaves. First popular in Poland and Lithuania from the 15th century onwards, we could see why.

While we were there to get tipsy on a Tuesday morning, Andrew was there to meet with his next craft liquor business and finalise plans for a future tasting session. Not necessarily able to casually hop over to Brazil or New York, it’s a good day when he gets to meet the owners in person (with the added bonus of an inevitable sipping sesh).

Andrew knows his spirits. Attempting to impress with a favourable nod towards caipirinhas, we hear of his preference for neat cachaca rum over the more obvious use in cocktails.

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I’d have to spend half my life in China persuading hipsters to change their drinking habits

Ask him about his favourite drink of choice and you’ll find him asking everyone else the same question. It’s this curiosity that feeds Sipping Liquor. “I’m pretty omnivorous with my alcoholic drinks. I’ll always drink decent wine.” Just don’t go suggesting a cocktail.

“Over time I’ve found myself drinking more spirits and discovering that the best ones taste fantastic on their own, without a sugary mixer.” If you see Andrew out and about nursing a beer, you know it’s because the venue hosts an “appalling” range of beverages. He’s basically a walking litmus test for good alcohol. The idea for Sipping Liquor was born out of this appreciation for a good spirit.

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“Initially I was pursuing an idea to create a ‘craft’ version of an ancient Chinese spirit called Baijiu and headed out there to learn more. It quickly became clear that to make it work I’d have to spend half my life in China engaged in the tricky task of persuading hipsters in the bigger cities to change their drinking habits. All in a language I hardly speak.”

Having a young family he admits he might like to see sometimes, Andrew then decided to focus on markets closer to home. The stories behind these distilleries then unfolded rapidly, as Andrew got to know each one personally.

Each distillery is now interviewed, filmed and stored on the Sipping Liquor Hall of Fame so you can peek behind the scenes of your craft bottle.

“We want to give people a connection with the craftspeople and entrepreneurs behind the drink they have in their hand.” 

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They throw in surprise gifts for good measure

One particularly fiery back story started with Burning Barn Rum who got a taste for sweet fire when their dad’s barn burned down, thanks to all the sugar stored inside. “They decided to rebuild and start producing an English rum, because it’s made from sugar and heat.”

Each full sized artisanal bottle that arrives comes with information about the people who have produced the spirit and the techniques they have used to hone its flavour. They also throw in special surprise gifts for good measure.

Sipping Liquor host monthly sipping events with the latest craft distillers who offer tastings, stories and ideas for how to enjoy the spirit to it’s fullest (note, this rarely involves pink lemonade or mini umbrellas).

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Closer to home is Andrew’s neighbourhood, Finsbury Park where he organised a tasting session recently at Blighty Coffee with Chicago based distillers, Koval.

We ran all the way there and delighted in some cinnamon and mint infused gin that we have since recreated many a time at home.

Speaking of Finsbury Park, we hear of Andrew’s ‘two halves’ theory.

“I love the Finsbury Park neighbourhood and having such a well connected station on your doorstep is amazing.

An unfortunate quirk of the mainline railway however is that it splits the neighbourhood into the northern Stroud Green Road section and the southern area around Blackstock Road.

I hope someone comes up with ideas to merge them better as they both have a lot to offer.”

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Once someone has tasted a premium bottle of bourbon or rum they start to understand why it’s something worth spending money on.

In terms of local sipping, Andrew has his recommendations and reservations. “My favourite pub in the Finsbury Park area is The World’s End on Stroud Green Road. It has a good selection of drinks and a pleasant vibe.

South of the station as you head toward the Arsenal stadium the pubs don’t really have any motivation to offer anything beyond swift beer delivery in the two hour boozing window before every home game.

Over the other side of the stadium I’m a huge fan of The Lamb on Holloway Road.”

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So what’s in the stars for Sipping Liquor? Andrew took a moment to mull over this one.

“As we go, I’d love to expand on the tasting sessions and take them further afield. Once someone has tasted a premium bottle of bourbon or rum they start to understand why it might be something worth spending a bit of money on.

On a more practical note, we’d love to expand deliveries to other European countries. But shipping spirits across borders can be very tricky, even with the EU.”

We leave Andrew at Finsbury Park station after our intoxicating adventure to Bimber Distillery, slightly wobbly on our feet. Later that evening, finding ourselves ordering a vodka and slimline from the local, we stop in our tracks noticing they stock Sipping Liquor’s favourite vodka distillers.

“Actually, make that one on the rocks.”

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A Sipping Liquor subscription costs £40 per delivery, including p&p.

You can sign up for a friend (cracking birthday pressie or wedding gift) or simply stock up your drinks globe with some top quality spirits. With all the back stories you’ll never go silent over an awkward date / dinner party again.


Photos by Mike Barry.

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