Tom Soden

What Tom Soden doesn’t know about drinks is not worth drinking. He’s behind one of the best bars in Bermondsey, Nine Lives and consults on all kinds of things to do with the wonderful world of drinking, from new bars opening to the marvellous KANPAi! Magazine. The obvious next step for him was to make his own drink. In a can. It’s called Ace+Freak, and is a premium, all natural, cocktails in a can. It’s delicious. You need it in your face.

So why did you decide to make a brand new drink Tom?
Why did I decide to put a cocktail in a can, I hear you say? Because I’m fed up with the shit that people put into drinks in the name of profit and at the cost of peoples health and taste.

How do you go about creating a new drink – surely Coke just want to shut you down?
Many of the big companies will want to shut us down. They will try to buy us or they will try and buy the retailers to stop them selling us. Why? Because we put our drinks together with quality first. Our margins are a fraction of what the big guys are because the most important thing to us our customer. I’m building a drinks business with a hospitality mentality, the customer comes first. The customers taste, the customers health, the customers pocket. We make drinks that taste great, are good value for money and have been put together as healthily as possible. The big companies don’t want you to taste quality because once you do you won’t got back to their made-for-profit drinks and the fat cats at the top won’t get their cream… Poor fat cats. Actually, no, fuck the fat cats.

Why Ace+Freak?
So the name came about by lucky chance. Back in the spring of 2017, my founding business partner Adam and I had been struggling to think of a name for our canned drink project. At the time we were opening one of my bars, a cocktail bar in London Bridge named Nine Lives. Adam was the interior designer and was building the venue at the time. Now we were a week or so away from opening and I realised that I needed to get something to use as drinks tokens for guests on the opening night. I wanted something that fitted our vintage aesthetics and our sustainable morals so I purchased some vintage poker chips from the 1970’s from eBay. Whilst ruffling through these in the bar I came across this odd green chip that said “Freak”. I thought this was quite fun and I slipped it in my pocket thinking I would turn it into a little trinket but sent a picture of the chip to Adam to show him my new talisman. The next day Adam was finishing the building of the bar and he too found the box of poker chips when he found a talisman himself, a red chip that said “Ace”. The rest is history. It’s come to neatly sum us up as a team, an odd bunch of Aces and Freaks. A big bunch of weirdos who enjoy the finer things in life.

How has your incredible booze expertise helped with the creation of A+F?
I started bartending at the age of 18 and I worked behind the bar 5-6 days a week, 8-18 hours a day for 11 years. You can do the maths on that. What did I learn from this? Well, I learnt a lot about human beings in general. What people like, what people don’t like, what people want to do with their life, why he cheated, what she dreams of. If you’re a sponge for human behaviour being a bartender is the best job to be a sponge. With Ace+Freak I have condensed all of my experiences in human behaviour and put them in a little can so you can enjoy while listening to techno at 4am in the middle of a field.

The flavours aren’t your usual orange and lemon – how did you end up on the final choices?
I’m a little weird. I’m slightly OCD and slightly ADHD and slightly dyslexic (that word took me three attempts). As a result I have a weird ability to see flavours, which you would call synesthesia (that word took four attempts and a Google). This means that I can pull flavours that will taste together well in my mind. Once I’ve done this I normally test these out in one of my bars and see how it’s received by the public. If people repeatedly buy it then it’s good. If I then take it off the menu and people keep asking for it then it’s really good… Told you I’m a weirdo.

What’s the best drink you’ve made using one?
I actually took one of our original flavours, which was a Passion Fruit + Pineapple Rum Punch and I made a shandy out of it with a nice IPA. It was super tasty. I would say if you want to tweak a can of Ace+Freak then I would say add a splash of Oucho tequila to a can of Watermelon + Cucumber Sangria and a splash of Quiquiriqui Mezcal to the Blood Orange + Cranberry Americano. Everyone loves a little lick of agave to get the party started.

Where the hell can we get our hands and lips on some?
Well, that’s a bit of a magic question. You won’t find us in many shops because we don’t sell to many shops. The only shops that we sell to are The Grocery on Kingsland Road and an undisclosed corner shop in Kingsland Road that I use as a secret stash for when I run out of stock and need some in a jiffy. Where else can you find us? You’ll find us wherever there is good music. We’ve been at hand picked festivals this summer that have been producing the goods such as Houghton and Gottwood. We’re stocked in sublime musical venues such as Village Underground and The Lion & Lamb. If you want to find us then all you need to do is find some good music. This is the environment where we live, we live for the moments where you get lost in a world unto yourself in a whirlwind of sound. We made Ace+Freak so that you can have a nice little can of tastiness right there as you go for that wander in your mind.

Interview: Josh Jones
Photo: Tom Medwell

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