Gin-loving twins Joyce and Raissa De Haas have gone from concocting homemade tonics for university friends in the Netherlands to founding a hugely popular and award-winning mixer brand. Now, Double Dutch tonics are available in 5,000 venues across the UK, from chic bars and restaurants to high-end department stores and supermarkets.
“When we went to university, the gin hype was just starting,” Raissa says. “But the choice of mixers was limited. We always threw parties on Wednesdays and Thursdays in our flat, and my sister and I would make a big jar of our own tonic waters with different flavours.”
The sisters did that for four years before, on graduating, a short-lived stint working (and hating) finance jobs. After quitting those, the pair moved to London to complete a second masters in technological entrepreneurship at UCL. They discovered that gin was even more popular in the UK than it was in the Netherlands – where the spirit was invented – and they ended up writing a joint dissertation about the spirit and mixer market. The twins graduated with an award for best thesis of the year and an investment from the university, which they used to produce the first tonics under the Double Dutch brand name and fulfil their ambition of starting their own company.
Raissa and Joyce design their tonics to complement high-quality gins, rather than overpower their subtle favours. “It’s super important, if you spend a bit more on a premium gin, not to ruin it with a cheaper tonic,” explains Raissa. “I’m not a fan of bitter tonic waters because they overpower the spirit completely, whereas natural ingredients bring out the best in gin. If you’re making the effort to try nice gins, you need a good mixer.”
So what’s it like working so closely with a sibling? “It’s nice to be together for the ups and downs. If there’s a negative atmosphere or we’ve worked super hard and then didn’t get a deal, it’s a lot nicer to be able to bring each other up again and celebrate the good times – it’s better with the two of us.”
What was your childhood ambition?
Raissa: To start our own company. We always knew we were going to do our own thing – and most probably together – but thought it would happen later in life.
What do you know now that you wished you’d known when you were 21?
Raissa: Things don’t always go as you plan, and opportunities come and go when you least expect it. Some of our best ideas have come from spontaneous meetings and being open to changing our plans.
Joyce: Building your network and surrounding yourselves with the right people is the most important thing, both in your social and business life.
What exercise do you do?
Raissa: We’ve never really done any sports, but during lockdown, we started running three times a week and it has become a little addictive.
What is the character trait you most wish you could change in yourself?
Raissa: Being more organised – it would definitely help in business.
Joyce: I wish I had more patience.
What’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought (aside from property)?
Raissa: I don’t really spend a lot of money on things, so I don’t think it would be more than a few hundred pounds on a piece of clothing, perhaps. I generally only spend money on holidays, food and, of course, drinks.
Joyce: A super-cute, timeless Chanel bag.
If you could live anywhere, where would it be and why?
Raissa: Somewhere sunny for sure, with gorgeous beaches and delicious cocktails. Somewhere to truly unwind.
Joyce: Cape Town. I absolutely adore it there.
If you could do any other job what would it be and why?
Joyce: I’ve always had an interest in buildings and architecture, so probably would have gone into real estate.
Raissa: That’s really difficult because I honestly think we have the best job in the world.
What luxury item would you take with you to a desert island?
Raissa: It has to be my laptop and phone.
Joyce: A yacht.
What haven’t you yet achieved that you want to?
Raissa: Making Double Dutch a household name globally.
If you were king or queen of the world, what’s the first law you would enact?
Raissa: In the UK, I would hire a minister for hospitality. I might also also ensure that everyone has a Friday cocktail or mocktail hour at 5pm to wind down into the weekend with a glass of something nice.
Joyce: I’d outlaw all forms of inequality and discrimination, and throw in an extra bank holiday so we can spend more time with loved ones.
Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?
Raissa: The cast from my favourite Netflix show, Billions, to get the inside scoop on the next storyline.
Joyce: I would invite Billie Eilish for some after-dinner music, and a great chef (hopefully they might cook for us). And of course the best bartender in the world to help us shake up some excellent cocktails.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Raissa: Sunday Netflix binge-watching.
Joyce: Secretly stalking people on Instagram.
What’s your secret talent?
Raissa: I’m an incredibly fast typist.
Joyce: I learned to speak fluent Italian in four weeks.
When were you happiest?
Joyce: On holiday with the family in Ibiza, sipping cocktails on the beach. We don’t often get a break at the moment, and it was the perfect end to a lovely day.
Raissa: When Heineken agreed to invest in Double Dutch last year at the start of the COVID crisis.
Who do you most admire?
Raissa: All women who are breaking barriers wherever they find them – whether that’s fellow entrepreneurs like Ellie at Caleño, or inspiring chefs like Angela Hartnett or world leaders like Jacinda Ardern and Kamala Harris.
Joyce: We love celebrating other women’s success and learning from their achievements.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
What’s your greatest regret?
Raissa: I don’t really regret anything in life – I’m more interested in learning from it and looking ahead.
What time do you go to bed?
Raissa: We both go to bed around midnight, although it really depends on what’s going on with the business and where in the world we are.
What album, boxset or podcast are you currently listening to on a night in alone on the sofa?
Raissa: Jessie Ware’s ‘Table Manners’ with her mum is great – they have super guests and talk all things food.
What’s your favourite thing in your wardrobe?
Raissa: A bright pink coat – it’s a guaranteed mood-lifter.
Joyce: A new white party dress from Maje.