Meet The Maker: Alistair Frost, Pentire

It evokes the experience of being on the Cornish coast, harnesses the power of planets, and Gordon Ramsey's a fan. Fair play

If you've yet to get involved with non-alcoholic spirit Pentire then there's no better time than now. We caught up with founder Alistair Frost to chat about how this badass botanical drink came to be.

What kind of Pentire non-alcoholic ‘cocktail’ are you going to make to introduce me to the brand?

Hey! Firstly, let’s dive into a Pentire & tonic with a rosemary sprig for garnish, it’s our perfect serve and a great way to be introduced to the product. Then let’s move into a Pentire Palomar. Liam who is the bartender at Paul Ainsworth’s No.6 in Padstow made for me when they added it to their menu. The grapefruit pairs so well with the coastal botanicals, I’ll never forget how delicious the first one I had was.

How’s your life changed since setting up Pentire?

It definitely feels full of purpose. Everything we put into Pentire seems to be rewarding in a variety of ways. It’s nice to have that whilst helming a growing start-up in a fast-moving sector of the industry.

What does a typical day look like for you now?

Waking up around 6:30, if I’m at home and the waves are good I love getting an early surf in, if not then it’s always nice to get in the sea in one way or another.

Each day has so much variety, if we are manufacturing then I’ll head up to the distillery and check in. Otherwise, I’ll head to a new space that we're based out of in Rock, which is just behind Sharp’s Brewery. We spend most of our time as a team working on telling our story and trying to connect with existing and new customers. Pre-covid I was on the road a huge amount and hope to be again soon! Our company culture is really about staying active and healthy whilst working super hard so a few of the guys will catch some waves at lunch or in the evening if we aren’t working late (which we seem to most of the time).

Let’s talk about your ‘eureka’ moment - when did it turn from a ‘this would be a good idea’ to ‘I’m actually going to make this happen’?

I had Pentire (which is the name of our local headland) as a kind of holding name along with a few others. Then I went to meet a local botanist on the national trust farm up on the headland to chat about plant life in the area, he let me know that we have a really unique climate for plant growth and have some of the best growing conditions in the country especially for sea herbs, and have over a thousand plants growing in the area. I knew then that this would give Pentire the platform it needed to grow into something special. Also, none of my friends really knew that and with plant-based eating and drinking becoming so popular it seemed very timely and a really underused resource.

Tell us more about the process of exploring the local botanicals, experimenting with botanists and distillers, and the process of capturing the soul of the coast?

What with all of the aforementioned plants available, I wasn’t making a great job of the distillation, so hit up a few of the local distillers to help out. We had to learn pretty quickly how we could develop into a product, along with finding a sustainable supply chain of the ingredients we ended up using in terms of ethical growing and reliability as we scale.

What were some of the frustrations you found during this period of creation? Were there any low points/times when you thought you wanted to give up?

Making non-alc liquids can be so frustrating due to the stability issues plus working with and driving flavour. Then when think you are getting there you can add in one more ingredient that you expect to be great and it can ruin the whole flavour profile. There's an endless list of hurdles that are popping up in my head. Ha! I guess every founder must have those.

We’re taking a sip of a Pentire + tonic, closing our eyes… where are we being transported to? Can you give us a specific scene we should be imagining?

So luckily when we look at our reviews and do tastings our customers repeat back to us exactly what we set out to achieve, which is the flavours and feelings that you get when you are standing on a headland looking out to sea. Hopefully experiencing green, citrussy and naturally salty notes.

The branding is beautiful - so fresh and clean, simple yet striking. Did you always know what kind of imagery you wanted or were there lots of options on the table?

Ah that’s very kind of you! Bottle-wise, I was always keen to create something that naturally fits both in someone's home and in a store. A lot of brands go for an attention-grabbing bottle, whereas I felt a non-alc suits something more natural. Then in terms of our storytelling and imagery, we are always going for immersive imagery that hopefully communicates authenticity. We are lucky to have a nice home area and a real story to tell and lifestyle to boot so it’s always been about communicating that and generally following what feels right.

What would you be doing if you weren’t running Pentire?

Hmmm, something else that can combine life by the sea and being able to work hard, whilst also being planet positive like Pentire is. I would like to think it was in FMCG in an emerging sector, it’s exciting having a tailwind and a bit of uncertainty to keep you on your toes.

Now’s your chance to give a shout-out to someone amazing along the way who’s really been an inspiration/help/motivation to you - who are you choosing?

There are definitely too many to mention, I’m so lucky to be surrounded by amazing kind people. I would have to just say thank you to all of our customers, investors, staff, plus anyone who has believed in and supported us. It means a huge amount.

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs/creatives looking to set up their own thing?

Speak to as many people as possible who are already doing something similar or as similar as possible to get a real idea of what the journey will be like and what the key components are.

The creative and brand involves heaps of feeling and trying to unearth your vision but the actual structure, path, and understanding what’s likely to come your way if you take the leap is key. Some things you're going to be able to control and others you can’t, but being realistic about what they might be is important so that when stuff happens you are as ready as possible.

What’s been the best day/biggest achievement since starting Pentire?

Sitting in the harbour on a summer evening outside my home in the harbour in Port Isaac and opening Instagram to see Gordon Ramsey had kindly done a video to his 9m followers about how much he loved Pentire. That was really special.

And the worst day at Pentire?

I’ve had so many days where people told me it can’t be done and won’t work so it’s hard to find one day. This tends to be more before you’ve proven your concept but there are always hurdles at each stage.

Which other brands do you really respect?

Finisterre, Cubitts, Patagonia, Rapha. Anyone that really starts out as a true independent in a sector dominated by giants has my full respect.

If we wanted to have a bar snack or meal alongside our Pentire and Tonic, what would you recommend?

Nice! It would be some fish grilled over a beach fire like Sea Bass, then with some simple flatbread, whipped feta or maybe aubergine baba ganoush. That’s what we usually make when our best customers come and stay with us.

In your experience, what have you found is the biggest leap for people to make when deciding to go sober instead of having a drink?

Perhaps the social element of it, the fact that sugar and alcohol makes you want to stay up later and gives you more ‘energy’ short term. It can get a little alienating when you want to go home after dinner or whatever you are doing. I think your friends need to understand that drinking isn’t for you. Then having something else to channel that time into is pretty key (which for us is daily adventure) and so many people are so health aware now which makes that easier.

Finally, what’s been the best way someone’s described Pentire to you so far?

‘The most delicious non-alcoholic drink’ Gordon Ramsay. 

Well, if it's good enough for Gordon it's certainly good enough for us. Check out Pentire + grab your own bottle here: