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Meet the two Scouse drinks makers behind Liverpool limoncello Zest

10 months ago

Meet the two Scouse drinks makers behind Liverpool limoncello Zest
Credit: Zest Limoncello

Two Scouse drinks makers are taking on Italy at its own game and winning, creating a Liverpool limoncello that drinkers can’t get enough of.

Andy Oyeneyin and Seamus Sullivan actually started Zest almost by accident, when the restaurant they were working in asked for a limoncello to serve to diners.

“I was bar manager and Seamus was the bartender at a restaurant on Allerton Road which had recently gone through a reiteration as an Italian,” explains Andy, from Allerton. “The boss asked us to make something nice to give to the customers with the bill.

“We already stocked the go-to limoncello for most bars, but we’re both classically-trained cocktail bartenders so we wanted a bit of a project. We had a look at a few recipes, saw how it was made and then decided to put our own spin on it. 

Credit: Zest Limoncello
Credit: Zest Limoncello

“There was never any intention to make a business out of it, the business found us completely. But pretty soon it got to the point where we were handing out the shots with the bill and being asked so many times ‘can we buy a bottle?’”

The pair weren’t selling at the time, but then lockdown hit in 2020, they were both furloughed and began making it from home.

“It was really just something to fill the time, but when lockdown ended and we went back to our jobs, we realised if we wanted the business to progress we were going to have to put our full time into it.”

Andy and Seamus set up Zest Liverpool as a limited company two years ago and went full-time around a year later.

Instead of their own kitchens they started using the professional kitchen at Cork & Fork on Allerton Road, so they could officially regulate the business and get all the necessary certificates and licences for it.

“The owners are friends so they’re really cool with it,” says Andy. “We get there at the crack of dawn and make use of the kitchen from about 5 or 6am for four or five hours most days of the week before their chefs get in.”

Since they launched, Zest Liverpool has grown, selling through their website, at makers markets, and restaurants.

One of their biggest champions has been chef Paul Askew who was an early stockist of the limoncello at Barnacle above Duke Street Market and The Art School.

They’re also in retailers including the deli section of Manuka coffee and cocktail bar on Duke Street, The Wine Club in Rainhill, and Lucca on Allerton Road who’ve asked to sell it in-house because customers love it so much. They’ve just barcoded all the bottles to make them supermarket shelf-ready too, in preparation for their next stage of expansion.

Credit: Zest Limoncello
Credit: Zest Limoncello

Andy, who’s 37, and 24-year-old Seamus are proud of Zest Liverpool’s authenticity and they’re conscious of running the business in an environmentally friendly way. The limoncello is organic, vegan, gluten free and handmade and they have a bottle return incentive, giving customers £1 off their next order for every empty bottle returned. 

“We call it the triple R – return, recycle or reuse. They’re really nice bottles, so sometimes people keep them to put olive oil in them, or we have people coming to the markets with bags jingling with empties!” says Andy.

Andy and Seamus have added extra flavours, so as well as the traditional they also do a ‘hint of’ range. There’s hint of lime plus seasonal ones – currently it’s hint of blackberry which replaced the hint of blood orange – and they do a mulled one at Christmas with star anise, cinnamon, cloves, lime and orange peel, which is perfect for a hot toddy.

Their limoncello is a year-round hit in shots, but with summer here, it’s all about the spritzes. The pair have even added simple spritz recipes to the back of their bottles so people can easily make them at home, and they do cocktail tutorials on their Instagram.

As for the popularity, they still can’t quite believe how amazing the response has been.

“We do have a few authentic Italian restaurants stocking our limoncello now and there’s no greater compliment than a restaurant run by Italians telling you how good your Italian product is when you’re a Scouser!” says Andy. 

For more info on Zest click here. For more on food & drink click here.

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