Merrydown Medium Cider Review

Having recently celebrated the Queen’s diamond jubilee and with the Olympics starting in July, there’s plenty of reasons to crack open a bottle of something bubbly at garden parties, picnics and BBQs. My husband is a fan of traditional ale, but I personally prefer a yummy cider or perry. That’s not to say that I’m not picky, there are far more bottles I reject than accept. Having had the opportunity to testdrive Merrydown Medium Cider I’m very pleased to report on my personal findings!

The Merrydown story began in 1946 when three friends turned their garage bound hobby into a business. The first batch of Merrydown was called apple wine and was pressed in a 300 year old oak cider press borrowed from a farmer. The current recipe is free from artificial sweeteners, colours and flavours.

From a visual perspective the cider is a light yellow tone, with sporadic bubbles floating to the surface. It’s not heavy on the fizz which I infinitely prefer, so many other makes seem to relie on fizziness to disguise less than perfect flavour.

Taste wise Merrydown is very refreshing, summery and fruity, so much so than I’ve been forced into that most woeful of situations, creating a fake word to sum the flavour up ‘Applely!’

Having received several bottles I’ve been handing it out to friends and family alike and have yet to find anyone who doesn’t rate it highly. It has a lighter quality than many ciders but with such a satisfying taste that it hardly fails to impress. It would cook beautifully, but while I kept vowing to use it in this way I have to admit that it didn’t hang around long enough. A full selection of complementary recipes is available on the Merrydown website.

The Apple flavour itself is somehow exceedingly British, there’s nothing sharp or pert about it. Just like Brtish Apples themselves it has a roundness that just rolls off the tongue. It would make a fabulous addition to a traditional summer picnic or garden party. At 7.5% it’s average in terms of alcohol content.

Would I recommend this product?

I would and I have been, it really has such a lovely flavour I don’t see how it can fail to win fans.

Could it be improved in anyway?

Not really, it’s perfect as it is. Maybe if it came with free bunting 😛


For more variations, stockists and a selection of scrumptuous summer recipes visit the Merrydown website.

SodaStream Naturals Review & Fruity Fizz Recipe!

SodaStream became a household name back in the 1980s and it’s recently been making something of a comeback. With gorgeous new machines that would grace any kitchen side, SodaStream are moving with the times. It’s not all about aesthetics though. We are all increasingly conscious of the foods we put into our bodies and the potential damage we could be doing. Fizzy drinks do not traditionally conjure up healthy images, but SodaStream have recently launched a brand new Naturals range which hopes to combat past prejudices and encourage us all that fizzy can mean healthy.

SodaStream Naturals are available in three flavours:

  1. Lemon & Lime
  2. Blackcurrant & Pear
  3. Pink Grapefruit

With a sub range created just for kids which is also available in three flavours:

  1. Apple
  2. Strawberry
  3. Orange & Peach

I received Apple, Strawberry and Lemon & Lime to review.

I was surprised by the size of the bottles, they are quite a bit larger than a standard SodaStream concentrate bottle. Each makes up six litres of sparkling soft drink and every bottle of flavouring has to be refrigerated after opening. If you open more than one bottle they take up quite a bit of space in the fridge. This was problematic for myself as I only have door storage where they will fit.

The drinks are made by carbonating tap water in your SodaStream drinksmaker. The flavouring is then carefully added. All the flavours in the Naturals range have no artificial colours, flavours or sweeteners, using only cane sugar and natural fruit juices. Plus the Naturals for Kids range also contains 100% RDA of Vitamin C per serving.

Flavour wise the drinks are very refreshing and obviously more natural in taste. I would liken the flavour to a quality fruit juice, gentle, delicate and wonderfully fruity.

To really add to the appeal of this new range, they make the perfect base for fun and fizzy cocktails. The following recipe makes a non-alcoholic ‘mocktail’ that’s perfect for the kids at Christmas.

Fruit Fizzy Recipe

  • Fill a tall glass with ice.
  • Top with equal parts of SodaStream Naturals Apple and SodaStream Naturals Strawberry.
  • Garnish with an orange slice and a sliced strawberry.

Would I recommend this product?

Yes, they’re fun, fruity and have a lovely delicate taste.

Could they be improved in anyway?

I found the bottles a little hard to fit in the fridge, but this is more of a niggle than a point needing improvement.


750ml bottles of SodaStream Naturals syrups are priced at £3.99 each.

SodaStream drinksmakers are available from John Lewis, Selfridges, Comet, Argos, Robert Dyas, Lakeland, Harvey Nichols, The Range, Maplin, Curry’s Megastores and selected Sainsburys, Asda and Homebase stores. Prices start at £49.99.

500ml standard flavour concentrates are priced at £3.29.

Firefly Tonics ‘Step Up’ drink review


I was recently asked to try out a new drink from Firefly Tonics called ‘Step Up’. This brand new flavour has been created with the aim of raising £30,000 for Oxford Children’s Hospital.

If you’re not aware of the company, Firefly tonics was founded by Marcus Waley-Cohen whose younger brother Tom battled bone cancer for much of his life. As a result of this he grew strong ties with the Oxford Children’s Hospital. 10p from every bottle of ‘Step Up’ sold will go straight to the charity with the aim being to buy new equipment and services that are not currently funded by the NHS. The Waley-Cohen family (which includes the famous jockey Sam Waley-Cohen) have already raised over £1m to name a ward in Tom’s memory.

The striking design on this Tangerine and Lime flavoured soft drink is called ‘Kids’ and was created by the renowned artist Michael Craig-Martin for the Atrium at Oxford Children’s Hospital.


So we’ve already firmly established that this little bottle has a very valuable role upon the shelves. But does it taste any good? As mentioned the soft drink is Tangerine and Lime flavoured, with a blend of fruit juices and botanical extracts like Green Tea and Kola for a natural lift. I’ll admit that I was expecting a stronger taste, but I can only attribute this to past experience of more heavily flavoured, heavily sugared soft drinks.

I would describe the taste as delicate and fresh, perfect on a hot afternoon when you need a little boost. You wont find yourself suffering from a heavy sugar crash half an hour after drinking, but you will find yourself refreshed.


I love the external look of the bottle. But I have one small note and that’s that the bottle is made of glass. Of course this makes it easy to recycle, but it doesn’t make it terribly light. This might cause an obstacle to it’s inclusion in a picnic or bag. If you were carrying several you would probably feel it. So perhaps a lighter option for those of us on the move would be a nice introduction. But on a purely aesthetic level the bottle works brilliantly.

Would I recommend this product?

Definitely, anything that will help to bring a smile to very ill children can’t help but get a thumbs up. Forgetting it’s worthy goals though, the drink is pleasant and light. If you like a strong flavour then it might not be for you. On the other hand for those who drink/try to drink water but want something a little more interestin,g then this little bottle is perfect.


Step Up is available form Wholefoods Market, Harvey Nichols and other independent retailers nationwide.

RRP from £1.49 for 330ml bottle.

Step Up contains: Purified water, Fruit juices (White Grape, Apple, Orange, Lime, Tangerine, Lemon), Botanical extracts (Yerba Mate, Rosemary, Green Tea, Kola, Guarana) and natural flavourings. No added sugar, nothing artificial.

Follow the ‘Step Up’ campaign @

If you want to help even more text ‘CHOX’ to 70099* to donate £1 to the Oxford Children’s Hospital*.

*You will be charged £1 plus one message at your standard network rate. Oxford Children’s Hospital will receive between £0.76 and £0.96, depending on your network. Thank you.