Hugo Morrissey, Nuisance Drinks
We all have different memories of lockdown, but for Hugo, it’s nettles. Waiting for them to grow. Spending hours picking the tricky things in the grounds of Hopetoun Estate, west of Edinburgh, where he asked for permission to forage. He gave up his job in asset management at the end of 2019 with the aim of developing a retail product, he just didn’t know what that product would be. But his mind turned to childhood memories of gathering nettles with his mum, who made her own cordial. “I thought about my mum’s lovely cordial and I thought, why does nobody use nettles, they’re everywhere?”, he says. With cafes closed, he borrowed some kitchen space and made barrels of cordial. We’re talking 5000 bottles so pretty impressive, for starters. It went down well at local markets in Edinburgh and Christmas fairs, so once he’d proved he had something he raised a bit of investment among friends and family and developed the first three drinks: Nettle and Elderflower, Bramble and Rosemary, and Mint, Cucumber and Chilli.
He was, he points out, very naïve in the early days, and building the business from scratch has been tough. It’s involved learning a new industry from scratch, working all hours, every weekend, which led to burnout for a while. But hard work, an appetite for risk and an increasing public appetite for healthy, good-tasting soft drinks have paid off. It’s been a breakneck journey. He’s now supplying over 250 stockists and planning a spell in London to build up distribution. A far cry from a lockdown spent wading through acres of nettles.