IT may not be the tipple of choice in Russia, but Creme Egg Vodka is a big hit in East Lancashire, thanks to an experimental drinksmaster who has invented his own designer alco shots.

Tim Whiteley, 40, who owned Cafe Artisan in Rawtenstall for 10 years, decided he wanted to spend more time with his wife Nicola and nine-year-old twins.

So he sold the lease of the popular live music cafe/bar to concentrate on Retro Shots, premium vodka infused with the flavour of sweets he enjoyed as a kid in the seventies and eighties – Black Jax, Ferero, Drumstix, Skittle, Refresher and Rhubarb and Custard to name but a few. “I love sweets and I like a drink, it seemed the natural thing to do to put the two together,” says Tim.

The Hairy Bikers were introduced to Blackjax and Creme Egg Vodka during their cooking demonstrations at Bolton Food Festival. They told the crowd, “These are fantastic, man. Wonder if they do fruit salad flavour?” And, of course they do.

At Christmas he even did warm Mince Pie vodka topped off with double cream and a Bonfire Toffee version for Guy Fawkes night.

And unlike some of the artificially-flavoured alco pops on the market, Tim uses the real thing, natural flavourings. And although he’s not prepared to divulge the recipe for his Creme Egg vodka, it contains real chocolate, vanilla fondant and a double shot of the hard stuff.

His latest products are literally hot off the press and selling like hot... shots – chilli-infused Sambuca, Tequila and Hellfire Chilli Vodka.

“I sourced the hottest chilli on the market, then someone brought out an even hotter version. They are incredibly popular. People can’t get enough of them.”

Tim, who sells his range online and at food markets around the country, will be taking the collection to the Ramsbottom Chocolate Festival next month.

But is there a danger that their eye-catching branding and flavours will attract a younger market?

“No, we have aimed the range at people who remember sweets from the seventies and eighties. Vintage and all things retro are really fashionable. I don’t think your average 18-year-old will have have heard of Parma Violets. I’m not impressed by the quality or taste of a lot of the alcopops on the market, so I decided to make my own.”

So successful is the business that a new bottling plant is being built in Rawtenstall.

Wife Nicola is also getting in on the sweetie act. She makes Retro Bling, a jewellery range for kids and adults made out of Fimo polymer clay to resemble sweeties, like Love Hearts, Licquorice Allsorts, Flumps and Dolly Mixtures.

And they look good enough to eat.