Why would you go to the hassle of starting a company in your fifties when you’re already worth a fortune? When Howard Raymond inherited £75 million from his father, the notorious King of Soho, Paul Raymond, that’s exactly what he did – creating King of Soho gin as a tribute to his dad.
In the Sixties and Seventies, Paul Raymond famously amassed a huge publishing, property and pornography empire in Soho, including the infamous Raymond Revue Bar and cabaret and burlesque bar Madam JoJo’s. He became one of the UK’s wealthiest men and a household name, regularly in the tabloids for his life of drink, drugs and womanising.
Son Howard has also been involved in the leisure industry, with interests in restaurants, bars and property companies (owning properties in Mayfair, Covent Garden and Leicester Square) – and “going out a lot” – but these days his focus is his drink company.
He runs it from his office in Piccadilly, which he says is far enough away from Soho that he can get to it but not too close that anyone can come and aggravate him.
What inspired you to create your own gin?
“When my father first came down from Liverpool to London in the 1950s he was a pale ale drinker. In those days there wasn’t much choice, but when you started going up in the world you progressed from pale ale or beer to gin.
“I have taken his favourite drink, removed some of the botanicals that people don’t like and have created an extremely nice tasting gin.”
How long did it take to develop the gin that you wanted?
“It took about four years from start to finish. It was the design of the bottle that took so long. It’s taking glass making to the very limits of its abilities and the bottle, it’s true to say, is very attractive and certainly stands out on the shelf.”
The bottle certainly is distinctive. Can you talk us through the design?
“We were trying to get the essence of Soho on the bottle. Paul Raymond helped Soho become an area rich in creativity, music, art and modern culture and it was these elements that we wanted captured in the design of the bottle.
“The elegant fox depicted represents the ‘Spirit of Soho’ character. His velvet suit reflects the hedonistic fashion of the area and his tail signifies Soho’s status as a former royal hunting ground. He is, of course, also a creature of the night.
“The trombone reflects Soho’s rich music history and the book its associations with the publishing industry and media.
“The peacock eye on the hat is a nod to those who wander round Soho thinking that they are looking in when in fact the people who live in Soho are looking down at you.”
How did you finance the company?
“It is all self-financed and now it is self-financing. We are making a profit, which is staggering as we are only coming up to our third year and it normally takes five years to reach a profit, so we are very pleased.”
Where do you sell King of Soho?
“We sell King of Soho Gin in the UK, Europe and recently launched in Japan. We are in talks with many other countries. We are stunned by how the European market has taken it. We don’t sell in supermarkets but in good local shops.”
Howard Raymond’s top tip for starting a business in your fifties
You are much more relaxed and that’s a good thing. If I had started it in my thirties I wouldn’t have had the patience to wait four years for the bottle – I would have wanted it immediately.
Howard’s tips for the best Martini
- The classic martini was created as a gin cocktail, so some would say that a ‘proper’ Martini has to be made with gin. A great martini – a mixture of spirit and vermouth – should be teeth-chatteringly cold without excessive dilution.
- From a purist’s standpoint, a martini should be stirred, not shaken. It is said that shaking a martini ‘bruises’ the gin. However, shaking a martini usually produces a colder drink and a bit more drama, which is also key to the experience.
- The standard ratio for a dry martini cocktail is around 8:1 gin to vermouth. Extra dry 12:1 and the bone-dry Montgomery martini 15:1.
For a very dry martini (known as the ‘in and out’ method):
- Add the Vermouth to the ice-filled mixing glass, give it a swirl then discard the excess. The ice cubes receive a coating of Vermouth and the volume of gin will greatly outweigh the vermouth.
- Or swirl the vermouth around a frozen glass and discard the excess before pouring the stirred gin from the mixing glass. This has the benefit of letting the vermouth warm up slightly, which increases the potency of the aromatised wine.
- Martinis are traditionally garnished with an olive or a lemon twist [Howard prefers a pink grapefruit twist].
- Don’t use a large glass. Ideally, this potent and intoxicating potion should be drunk in five sips so it is as cold at the end as it was in the beginning.”