Thirsty for more?

Thirsty feels like it has been around for years such is the impact it has made in Cambridge.  It only opened on Chesterton Road in 2015.  The man behind Thirsty is formidable, flamboyant and a force to behold: Sam Owens.  I met with him to find out a little more about the person responsible for this drinking revolution.

Sam knows Cambridge well; he says, “it’s like a vein that flows through me”.  He was born just outside Royston, studied French and German at Christ’s College, and is now settled here with his family.  After university he worked as a copywriter in London for 10 years before heading off to Chamonix in 2003 to set up a small catered chalet business.  It didn’t take him long to see that a lot of the British chalet operators were offering poor quality supermarket wines to their guests.

“I’ve always had a passion for wine and was lucky to spend my gap year working at various wine companies in France where I visited producers and vineyards and learnt loads about the industry.  There was no excuse to be serving inferior wine.  I was quite outraged, but it did give me the idea for a business.

“In France I made some great contacts including Roch, my friend and fellow wino.  So, when in December 2004 I told him about my idea to sell good quality wine to the chalet operators and hoteliers in Chamonix, he immediately saw the potential.  We set up on a shoe-string budget, but the positive feedback was instant.”  Two years later they set up Le Verre Gourmand.  Today they are one of the leading wholesalers of wines across the Alps.

Homeward bound

Coming back to the UK was prompted by Sam who wanted to return with his family.  It also suited the business, which had a strong British client base; so, having a UK presence was advantageous.  “The original idea for the British arm of the business was to set up as an import wholesaler, possibly with a website, but through an idea by Matt Boucher, one of our original partners, who was with Cambridge Wine Merchants, we decided to team up and set up Thirsty.  We opened on Chesterton Road in August 2015.

Why Thirsty?

Ask Sam about the name and how they came to Thirsty, he says: “As a consumer-facing business in the UK we tossed around loads of ideas.  We wanted something that wasn’t ‘wine merchant’ and wasn’t stuffy.  Thirsty it’s a word that everyone gets: it’s easy to understand and to remember.  You can be thirsty for so many things not just a drink, thirsty for knowledge for example.”

Revolutionise drinking

Sam has strong feelings about the wine industry, particularly the rather stuffy and elitist way wine is presented.  With Thirsty he wants to revolutionise the way people enjoy drink, and wine in particular, as well as the conviviality of our drinking culture.  He says: “A lot of people in the wine trade have been trying to lose the crusty image and we’re part of that.  I’ve always thought that with booze, we shouldn’t be too reverential.  Wine is ultimately a consumable product that goes with some nice grub and some nice company.  Some people can take it too seriously, and I don’t want us to be guilty of that.”

Everything about Thirsty is geared towards the pleasure and enjoyment of drink, and it’s not just wine: they also have an enviable reputation for craft beers and spirits.  Inspired by a more continental approach, guests enjoy eating and drinking at long tables and benches, Sam exclaims,  “informality and conviviality is key to our business.”  The same informality is reflected in the labelling of the drinks throughout the shop.  “We’ve rejected the traditional, conservative way of describing wine and we group ours in a simple, logical away.   Such as ‘big’ for the reds and ‘fresh’ for the whites, it’s much more fun and provides equally useful information.  Plus, we deliberately don’t put out too many wines which can be overwhelming.”

Symbiotically perfect

More than any other independent business in Cambridge, Thirsty has developed a fantastic symbiotic relationship with lots of street food vendors, local businesses and communities.  Was this always the intention? Sam explained: “I thought about this from the very start which is why our application to the Council was for an off-license as well as a license to serve drinks on the premises.  We took the initiative from Steak and Honour, who were serving outside Hot Numbers, but we have gone for it whole heartedly.”

“For all of us this is a really big win.  Thirsty provides the food vendors a ready audience of people who appreciate good food and who like a nice environment.  We’re able to offer top quality, varied food without having the kitchen and additional overheads associated with that.  And of course, people can enjoy excellent wine and beers at the same time”.

And there is no doubt that Thirsty has fully embraced this.  A different food truck is stationed outside their permanent site on Chesterton Road seven nights a week.  Food trucks always accompany their events which have included Thirstyfest at Bodywork in June 2016, and at MacKays in December 2016, Oktoberfest, Thirsty Service at St Philips Church in November 2017 and Thirsty Farmers Markets throughout summer 2017.

This summer Cambridge has benefitted from the incredibly popular and inventive Thirsty Biergarten, a semi-permanent fixture at the Museum of Technology site on Riverside.  And, the seamless transition to Thirsty Wintergarten, on the same site this winter is proving just as popular.  Because of this the museum’s profile has been expanded and visitors’ numbers boosted, and Sam is thrilled to be utilising the only example of industrial Victorian architecture in Cambridge.

Thirsty for more

The potential to take Thirsty in so many directions is vast.  Sam explains that the priority in 2018 is to have three sites: continuing with Chesterton Road (which is about to be upgraded) and the Museum of Technology, as well as looking for new premises in the south of the city.

Sam concludes: “We’ve now got the Thirsty bus, so we can get out there and create exciting private and corporate events.  We’ve built great relationships with local musicians, food traders and venues in and around Cambridge.  I’m looking forward to the future because we have a unique opportunity with our position in the market and experience and I don’t know of anyone who is putting in place a model like ours.

“We’re like an amoeba, an amorphous blob that can go in any direction.  Anything is possible.”

Find out more about Thirsty here
Sam was interviewed by Dawn Giesler, founder of scuseme, a recommendation website developed to provide an essential resource to help your family run smoothly.  Dawn has lived in Cambridge for over 20 years and offers advice based on her own experiences. For more information please visit scuseme



Eight ways to reduce your fuel bills this winter in Cambridge

Cambridge saw temperatures plummet to –3C on Wednesday 13th December and the forecast for the run up to Christmas is predictably cold. While the snow is fun keeping your home warm and cosy is not always easy and can be expensive if not managed properly.

Here are some easy thing to do to that will help reduce your fuel bills and keep your home warm during the harsh winter months:

  1. Insulate water tanks in unheated areas.
  2. Check that your loft insulation is thick and in good condition, running over the pipework where possible.
  3. Check that your boiler has been properly serviced.
  4. Minimise draughts from outside and close doors to unheated parts of your home.
  5. Seal small gaps around the areas where your TV, cable or telephone lines come through your wall.
  6. Leave your loft hatch ajar, allowing warmer air to reach the loft preventing your water tank and pipes freezing.
  7. If you’re going away and the temperature’s likely to drop below freezing, keep your home’s central heating at a minimum of 15°C (59F) for a few hours each day.
  8. If your property is unoccupied for long periods, turn off the water at the stopcock and consider draining down the system.

Some of these jobs can be managed as a DIY project but if you want to find a locally recommended tradesperson for the jobs that require an expert,  get in touch with scuseme for help.

Get in touch: Tel 01223 520573 or email:

Will your chimney go up in smoke or flames this winter?

I’ve just had my chimney swept and of course I should have done it ages ago because like so many other things this is a job that needs doing annually.  However, having been witness a few months ago to a neighbour’s fire disaster, when the chimney went up in flames and the fire brigade had to be called out, I took this advice seriously.

So how do you know if your chimney needs sweeping?
  • Specks of soot dropping into the fireplace.
  • Tar deposits visible in the chimney or stove as well as a strong odour coming from the fireplace.
  • Draught or smoking problems with the chimney.
  • If you have just moved into a new home and want to use the chimney. Animals nesting (squirrels and birds) which can cause fire hazards.
How often should your chimney be cleaned?

The answer depends on what fuel is used in your chimney and how often you use it:

  • Chimneys with solid fuel appliances – smokeless fuels / biomass at least once a year / House coal – at least twice a year
  • Chimneys with wood burning appliances – quarterly when in use
  • Chimneys with gas or oil appliances – once a year

Remember even your central heating flue needs to be cleaned from time to time, especially if you use oil. Check with an expert for guidance.

Logs – One size does not fit all 

It’s important that the length of the pieces must be suitable for your stove, wood  burner or fireplace. Shorter pieces are easier to handle and preferable to pieces that are too long for the appliance. Pieces that are even slightly too long can  make fire stoking difficult or impossible.  Our firewood suppliers will provide the right wood for your needs.

How a cushion can keep your room warm and cosy

When the job was done, and thankfully there were no birds nesting in the chimney, I mentioned how the room gets draughty and cold in the winter and my chimney sweep gave me a great handy tip which I shall share with you.

When the chimney is not in use get an old cushion or pillow and push it up into the chimney breast, opening it out to stop the air (but not jammed tightly to stop any circulation).  Keep it just visible so you don’t forget to remove it when you light the fire.

When you want to use the fire place, gently remove the cushion or pillow using a large bin bag to grab the sides and place the cushion inside thereby collecting the sooty cushion without getting ash everywhere.

Result warm and cosy room.

This is the busiest time of the year for chimney sweepers so book yours early.

At scuseme we have friendly local chimney sweepers that we use ourselves and who have customers who have been using them for years.   They are meticulous about keeping things clean and are competitively priced.  They provide a certificate of chimney sweeping in accordance with the national industry standard as registered members of the  National Association of Chimney Sweeps.

Junk mail for the bin or trustworthy advertising? A Cambridge experience

junk mail trustworthy advertising

Junk mail for the bin or trustworthy advertising? Flyers can be a nuisance; junk mail dispatched to the bin.  But for small businesses they are one of the most cost-effective ways of reaching lots of customers.  I’ve used flyers to promote scuseme and found some wonderful new customers.  But how can you tell if the advertised services are trustworthy? (more…)

How often should my Aga be serviced?

aga service recommended cambridge

As with most domestic appliances, Aga cookers require routine servicing and maintenance to ensure they continue to operate safely and efficiently.

  • Gas Aga heat-storage cookers usually require a service every 12 months.
  • 30-amp electric models should be checked for electrical safety and operation every 12 months.
  • 13-amp electric models, including the Aga Total Control and the Aga Dual Control require an interim service every 2 ½ years and a full service every 5 years.
  • Oil Aga cookers should be serviced every 6 months. 3-oven and diesel models may extend to 12 months. Solid fuel models require their internal flueways to be cleaned monthly, with a six-monthly sweeping of the connecting flue pipe. The main chimney should be swept annually.


How to avoid plumbing disasters at home in Cambridge this winter

I arranged for one of our scuseme plumbers and heating engineers to come and repair a dripping tap and carry out an annual check of our central heating system, which can be temperamental in the winter when there is more demand on its use.  And with my family visiting this Christmas I don’t want any problems.  I know that in Cambridge arctic conditions are a rarity, but even a short spell of bad weather can cause major problems, so it is better to be prepared.  You don’t want to end up like All Bar One in Cambridge, flooding just weeks before Christmas. (more…)

Finding an AGA repair and installation specialist in Cambridge

Aga owners, for most of the time, you are rewarded with incredible food, ambient warmth and a kitchen that is the heart and soul of your home.   You may have turned off your Aga during the summer and with the festive season fast approaching you will want to be confident that your Aga is in perfect working order.

There is never the time for a breakdown but if you do have problems you need reliable, recommended Aga repair specialist.  So, for our Aga owners in Cambridge here are the things you need to do to make sure your Aga is always ready to serve up a scrumptious feast. (more…)

Jazzing it up in Cambridge

Cambridge’s Folk Festival has become world renowned since it started in 1965 and I was surprised to learn that it nearly started life as a jazz festival because the organizer was a fan; but folk took priority.  Jazz, however, is now firmly on the Cambridge music scene agenda, thanks significantly to Ros Russell who has been leading and managing the Cambridge International Jazz Festival since 2014.  I met with Ros to find out how she got jazz back on the map in Cambridge.    (more…)

Blackberrying in Cambridge – 7 top sites for fruity pickings

Out and about in Cambridge you can’t help but notice the abundance of beautiful blackberries weighing down the branches.

Blackberrying or brambling, whichever you prefer, is a great family outing. Plastic containers and the promise of jam or pies keeps everyone motivated.  One of my favourite fruits, my heart leaps with the thought of just how many I will manage to eat before the season ends.  The only problem is eating more than you collect.  (more…)

Unusual and unnecessary items on Mill Road

Mill Road is, without exception, the most diverse and cosmopolitan road in Cambridge with its lion’s share of eclectic independent shops and restaurants.  Many stand out, but one that I think takes center stage is Fantasia; it’s a vibrant pop-up boutique that lights up Mill Road with an eye wateringly beautiful display of colour, fabrics and designs that spill onto the pavement. (more…)