New Zealander Lucy Smith works remotely from Croatia. She is not Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson or George Clooney, but not living in Hollywood hasn’t stopped her launching her own tequila which she hopes, alongside Rita Ora’s Prospero, will challenge and change the tequila status quo.
Neurita Tequila is a range of fruit-infused tequilas that are designed for easy and tasty margarita mixology at home.
“It all started during social nights in with friends. Something wasn’t quite right without Margaritas. All the tequilas on the market looked very masculine, traditional, stoic, and they all tasted quite similar. Tequila seemed quite 2D in how it presented itself.
“I wanted to find a spirit that resonated with the spirit of my friendship circle, a drink that was credible and serious about quality and authenticity, but also celebrated flavour and fun.”
The daughter of an accountant and an artist, Lucy grew up in Dunedin and has worked for Kellogg’s, Tetley Tea, and was Nestle Beverage Head of Innovation – Europe. More recently, she co-founded successful purpose-led food and beverage brand accelerator ADD PSALT, to diversify entrepreneurs with brands getting listed in UK retailers.
Companies she has helped include Jamaican Rum Vibes, Rogue Jams, Blue Turaco Coffee, Liv Rum – Novice Kitchen, JitterBug Sodas, Mama Dolce. No Guilt Bakes and Roots by Isa.
“I’ve always loved the art of conceptualising something than physically making it. Neurita is an idea born from a simple love of Margaritas, making a premium Tequila that’s the perfect base for Margaritas.”
Lucy moved to Croatia in 2020, commenting:
“I lived in London for six years and all my work is still based there. Sadies in Hackney is a favourite drinking hole. Roots in Zagreb makes a perfect Classic and Delicious Spicy Marg. Tequila is the only spirit I drink and Margaritas the only cocktails.”
Co-founder Holly Fergusson has a technical product development background.
“We worked together at Nestle. She has the best roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-it-done attitude I’ve ever seen. We had a development day in a lab just outside London where we tasted a lot of Tequila and mixed different flavours (which was a lot of fun!”
They worked with a professional liquid developer to get the perfect flavours using only Neurita flavoured Tequila plus lime and agave.
“We wanted to make Neurita Margaritas super simple to make at home. George Clooney’s Casamigos was definitely the first to bring modernity in tequila branding and with The Rock’s Teremana (a brand our Neurita Tequila advisor worked on) has driven Tequila consumption by appealing to a wider and younger audience.
“While these brands are more modern, they still play to the traditional Tequila cues of best enjoyed neat and are more masculine in tone and style. There are very limited Tequilas that stretch to the needs of women – flavoured, made for mixing and longer serve drinks, with personality and sophistication. Most Tequilas sit within the more ‘traditional’ space and try to get women to stretch into that world – whilst we are doing the opposite – evolving a Tequila to meet the needs of women which men can enjoy too.”
Females make up 70 per cent of spirit purchase decisions, yet there are no female targeted Tequila brands in the UK.
“I want to widen the space of tequila lovers and make the drink more inclusive to both men and women, moving away from shots and championing the longer serve. Specifically, the Margarita.”
Neurita Rosa is infused with strawberry, pomegranate and raspberry and Neurita Citrus with Sicilian orange and tangerine. They are both 35% ABV. Smith works with a family-run distillery in Jalisco, Mexico. They grow their own stock of agave.
“The journey has been challenging. In addition to overcoming production delays and corks getting stuck at customs, I’ve had to navigate the current global agave shortage. Due to high demand and 7-year harvest times, there’s not enough to go around.”
Margaritas are officially the world’s favourite cocktail, and, according to Google Trends, they have become the UK’s as well.
“Neurita was crafted with women in mind, but we certainly aren’t exclusively for the ladies. From what I have seen the men of the UK are also fans of Marg O’clock.”
Kevin Pilley is a former professional cricketer and chief staff writer of PUNCH magazine. His humour, travel, food and drink work appears worldwide and he has been published in over 800 titles.
Photographs courtesy of Neurita Tequila