When we tried to pick just a few of our today guest’s accolades, we couldn’t, as literally every award that caught our eye was followed by another one, of even greater scale. For thirty-five years, Matthew Jukes has been obsessing over wine: writing about it, tasting, loving it, and probably, sometimes even hating, so his becoming an innovator in the food&beverage industry was just a matter of time—and talent. Known to us as the man who replaced the ABV with ACV, or apple cider vinegar, Matthew is the founder and alchemist behind Jukes Cordialities—the delicious, apple vinegar-based cordial blends with a lower-cholesterol and better-skin promise, for us to glow brighter. The flavor-sculpting process? Not the most straightforward, but definitely artistic. Involves 3D. Read on to find out about Matthew’s eureka moment, learn more about apple cider vinegar benefits and how to give it a try, and definitely read till the end if you’re an observant Jukes lover, who’s been haunted by the missing flavor numbers since the brand’s inception.
When someone of your knowledge and experience in the wine industry starts a venture like Jukes, we better try to understand why. Why proxies and what’s so innovative about them?
I could not find any alcohol-free drinks I enjoyed, so I created my own. As a person who has spent their entire life writing about taste, I have never wanted to compromise on perfume, flavor or complexity. Yet traditional soft drinks and the various offerings in restaurants and bars were all sweet, simple and overtly calorific. My challenge was to create a suite of adult, dry, gastronomically intriguing drinks, low in sugar and calories and good for you from a well-being and health perspective. I have written about food and wine pairings for over two decades, so all manner of global cuisine was at the back of my mind when I set about blending my drinks. The eureka moment came to me in the end when I read about an old recipe called a haymaker’s punch. Using organic apple cider vinegar was a bolt of creative lightning in my brain, and the rest of the development and experimentation became a joy.
Let’s rip the band-aid right away: what is the right way to enjoy those tiny Jukes bottles?
It couldn’t be easier. They are concentrated flavors that require dilution with water, whether still, sparkling, tonic, or fabulously creative mixologists and sommeliers have made fantastic blends using cold tea infusions; all you have to do is dilute them to your taste. Some like them strong – 1 little bottle mixed with 250ml (~8 oz) water; others like them ‘stretched’ with one bottle diluted into 500ml water. You can add ice, dress the drink up with garnish and even create cocktail-style creations with tonic – you make them your own!
You use over 150 ingredients to produce your drinks: vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices, and even flowers. What was the initial number and how did those lucky ones make the cut?
There is no fixed recipe base for any of the drinks. When creating the five core recipes, I visualize 3D flavors and then build a complete flavor picture by careful additions, trial and error, and occasionally wild guesses. This flavor-sculpting is gradual and cannot be rushed – Jukes 6, The Dark Red, took a year to create. The inspirations come from my wine-tasting experience, but the finished drinks, while ‘wine-shaped’, in terms of perfume, attack, mid-palate and finish, are nothing like wine.
Apple cider vinegar, or ACV, is the backbone of your drinks and the up-and-comer in the wellness industry, and yet some consumers are still haunted by its former rep in the kitchen as a stain remover. Can you talk a bit about its medicinal benefits and ways of taking it to feel better?
We are not medical professionals, nor do we promise life-improving wonders when you drink Jukes. Still, the immutable fact is that a spoonful of ACV every day is proven to be very good for your gut health, may help lower blood sugar levels and manage diabetes, make your skin glow, reduce cholesterol and even support weight loss. There is your daily dose in each bottle of Jukes. Whether or not these benefits are scientifically proven, there is no doubt that it is very good for you, and we are thrilled about this because, without it, we would not be able to make such complex, dry and delicious drinks.
The visual messaging around Jukes is quite tranquil and serene, conjuring up images of a sun-lit kitchen in a villa somewhere in Europe. If we could teleport to where Jukes is being made, what would we see there?
A beautiful and historic Victorian railway arch in Battersea, in London. It is a stunning set-up with a high, vaulted brick ceiling within which we have built a space-age production facility where every bottle of Jukes is made, capped, labeled, dressed and boxed by hand. The counterpoint between old London and ergonomic modernism is particularly exciting. As a workspace, as you have noted, it is serene and tranquil because Jukes drinks involve a long, slow, delicate maceration process which is tranquility personified.
With the growth of the non-alc market, some hybrid products on the intersection of categories are hard to classify and assign the right shelf for, even in the most up-to-date stores. Do you think the trend has the potential to change wholesale layouts?
Without a doubt. We are seeing this happening in the UK, with store layouts shifting to display ‘adult’, as opposed to soda-pop-style drinks, in their own dedicated bays. This makes the job of finding these 0.0% drinks much easier for the keen consumer.
If your drinks could evoke just one emotion, what would it be?
Finally, for those of us still looking for the missing Jukes numbers, what do they even mean? Is that an homage to non-linear thinking or some kind of a mystery we’re yet to unveil?
Unfortunately, the answer is not particularly fascinating. It is my brain that assigns numbers to flavors. They have only ever been these numbers in my head and could not be anything else. You will note that some are missing – 3, 4, 7, and 9 will not appear on Jukes drinks! Odd, I know, but I think about perfume and flavor in a 3-D manner and have millions of tasting notes stored in my flavor memory, so simplifying this to one digit allows me to concentrate and blend to an endpoint, which is, in my head, perfect balance.