Daily Archives: 05/02/2016

Seedlip! S&T the new cool ;)

OK so it’s the first Friday night of February and you’ve been dry all January and had the first 4 days of the month off too.  You deserve a drink right?  How about a grown up drink that offers you the flavours of a good G&T but none of the liver damage or hangover?

This was in the Evening Standard in December and thank you Club Soda for bringing it to my attention! 🙂 I think we’ve discovered the drink that is going to make being sober really cool – Seedlip “Developed with Botanists, Distillers and Historians to solve the “what-to-drink-when-you-are-not-drinking” dilemma.” *I think I’m in love* 😉

seedlipImagine you’re having a night off the sauce. Then imagine that instead of having to order a glass of boring lime and soda or elderflower cordial and explain your choice to everyone, you simply said to the barperson, “I’ll have a Seedlip Martini please” — and what you got was a martini that looked and almost tasted like a martini, and no one even noticed. It could be brilliant.

Seedlip, billed by its founder Ben Branson as the world’s first distilled non-alcohol spirit, has arrived in London. After Selfridges bought the rights to sell it exclusively for two months, online stocks sold out within three weeks. Needless to say, Branson is making 1,000 more to arrive before Christmas.

So this is not a spirit as you know it, yet it is clear like gin, made like gin — different botanicals such as lemon peel, cardamom and cascarilla tree bark are distilled individually then blended together — and you can drink it like gin, with tonic or in a martini and other cocktails. It is also sold in what could easily pass for a beautifully labelled gin bottle. So theoretically you could replace gin with Seedlip and no one would know.

Last weekend I was challenged to go out in London with Branson and drink only Seedlip. I accepted willingly — as a regular drinker who takes an occasional lime and soda night, I get bored of saying, “I just don’t feel like drinking this evening,” to raised eyebrows.

At 5pm on Saturday I arrive at the glamorous Dandelyan bar at the Mondrian London hotel and eye its “boozeless” cocktail list. There I meet Branson, who is informed then and there by bartender Aidan that everything on it now includes Seedlip. He can’t believe his luck. Aidan thinks Seedlip is a “totally banging” addition to the drinks market — and the bottle, with its elegant illustration of a fox made out of botanicals on the label, fits so seemlessly into the cluster of others lined up on the back bar that I don’t even notice it. 

I order a Dandelyan Sourless, a light green number with an egg white foam that Aidan shakes up in front of us. It’s smooth and refined, with moments of pea and coconut, and it feels boozy, but I am assured that it’s simply Seedlip’s gin-like botanicals. 

The same happens with the Tropical Grass, made with Seedlip, pineapple juice and pine sherbet. By our third round — S&Ts, each served over ice with slices of fresh lemon — I’m still feeling perky.

Branson is both euphoric and worried about the early success of Seedlip. Earlier this year, after developing a flavour profile, he took his new drink, unpackaged and unbranded, to various bartenders and soon discovered that they all wanted it. Currently available at Dandelyan, The Clove Club, Sexy Fish and Hix bars, in January it will also arrive at the bars of the London Edition, The Savoy, Gordon Ramsay Group and House of St Barnabas.

Branson’s vision for Seedlip — named after a basket used for holding seeds — came about while he still owned his own design agency, working on product design for food and drink brands including Absolut Vodka, but wanted to solve a problem. He loved going to good restaurants but felt that, as a non-drinker “you don’t get that same kind of attention to detail for aperitifs, for example. I always drank a bitter lemon or a tonic but I knew it was only half a drink.” 

While researching old herbals, he came across a copy of the 1651 book The Art of Distillation, where he found some curious non-alcoholic herbal remedies for illnesses, none of which required any sugar or fruit juices. An idea was sparked.

“It was critical to have a fantastic brand, something that would really stand out that wasn’t a clichéd craft spirit, and to find a new category that created an  aesthetic that could really bring nature to life,” says Branson of the design process.

Seedlip is blended and bottled in England, though some of the preparatory work happens abroad. Having grown up on his family’s farm in Lincolnshire, Branson would ultimately like to open a distillery there, once he’s proved the London market. Botanicals are sourced from around the world — the lemon peel is distilled in Argentina — and five other botanicals are distilled in Germany using “a secret process”. Next year he’ll launch two more products.

Back on our bar crawl, I ask Branson whether he’s solved his problem. “I think we’re just getting started. From what I’m told we’ve given bartenders a way to start a non-alcoholic cocktail … I’m not sure that they have been able to do that before.” 

Indeed, when I arrive at The Clove Club, head barman Rob Simpson pours us an elegant Seedlip-based apple and chestnut cocktail called the Woodland Wander, and describes why Branson has filled an important gap in the market. “This is such an exciting product. Some of our customers don’t drink and we want to give them the same experience of those who do. Now we have more options.”

Later, at a friend’s Christmas house party, those who have been going since 6pm are getting slowly sozzled. Some, seeing me pour Seedlip into a glass and adding tonic, ask what I’m doing and are confused when I declare it to be booze-free. “But it’s so good!” they exclaim after tasting it, utterly gobsmacked.

By midnight and nearly seven hours’ out, it’s time for bed. I wake up fully compos mentis at 8am and make a mental note to take Seedlip nights out more often. Ben Branson, you’ve started a revolution.

For more information, visit seedlipdrinks.com

You can purchase it here: http://www.honestlyhealthyfood.com/products/seedlip-the-worlds-first-distilled-non-alcoholic-spirit?variant=11066639617

Plus product number 2 is on it’s way! 🙂

And I’ve tasted it and it’s lovely – all the taste of a good botanical gin but none of the downside of drinking spirits either at the time or the following day ……

And if you want a cool venue to drink your cool new spirit – how about?


The first UK club night to go BOOZE FREE.

Look after you body and your mind with full power partying Kachette in Shoreditch.



Alcohol and dementia: Adding insult to injury?

alocholism-and-dementia-are-they-related-11-728This was an excellent guest blog post on Alcohol Policy UK looking at alcohol and dementia (further related posts here).

In this guest post, Dr Tony Rao, a consultant and visiting researcher in Old Age Psychiatry, considers recent media coverage over drinking and Alzheimer’s disease in the context of the research and his clinical experience.

When I started as consultant old age psychiatrist in an area of high socio-economic deprivation nearly 20 years ago, the thought of taking on the challenge of alcohol related problems in older people couldn’t have been further from my mind.

What shocked me was the number of referrals for older drinkers who also had memory problems. Traditional thinking was that any form of alcohol misuse can only be coincidental in the development of common forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s Disease. In fact, there was very little consideration given at that time as to whether heavy drinking could really damage the brain to such an extent that it actually caused dementia.

Almost every month, the media sways us one way and then the other. One day, drinking red wine is ‘good for the brain’; the next day drinking within recommended guidelines ‘gives you brain damage’. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the media, it is that their selective abstraction for the sake of a story often has little bearing to what might be an evidence based conclusion. If this were the case, such headlines would be qualified with the statement ‘there are several limitations to the study and a firm conclusion about causality cannot be drawn’. Wouldn’t that be a turn up for the books!

After 5 years as a consultant, I had what can only be called a medical epiphany when I looked at my ward round list to find that half the patients had alcohol related problems of one sort or another. The most obvious problem was dementia. It was time to do something and I threw myself in at the deep end, taking on a postgraduate degree that included both public health and clinical components. After emerging from the other end with both clinical and research knowledge, skills and attitudes relevant to addictions, I was now equipped to care for older people with alcohol misuse, many of whom had problems such as dementia.

So what has changed over the past 18 years? Well, the number of people whom I am now diagnosing with alcohol related dementia has increased beyond belief. This isn’t just because I am looking for it more carefully. It is also because the sheer number of older people with this diagnosis has also increased. There is also the ‘baby boomer’ effect of a sudden surge of substance misuse in those people in the UK born between 1947 and 1964. The youngest of this cohort have now crossed their half century. This is also reflected in the fact that the average age at which I am seeing alcohol related dementia is people in their mid to late 60s.

Many might argue that I see the extreme end of the picture and that alcohol in ‘moderation’ may still confer health benefits and be a ‘brain tonic’ in the general population. After the all, we read it in the paper.

Most of the evidence about the relationship between alcohol and dementia is taken from studies of health and aging, in which alcohol consumption is ‘nested’ in follow-up mortality. Few of these drill down into detailed quantity/frequency measures and couple this with detailed cognitive testing or changes in functional abilities. This research fog is clouded still by problems in selecting a control group that is supposedly free of the brain changes seen in alcohol misuse.

It would be true to say that, on the whole, researchers have still not cracked the problem of finding a representative control group. This often means that groups labelled as moderate drinkers are being compared against groups that include former drinkers who have given up (so called ‘sick quitters’). We also have the problem of those who supposedly drink moderately, under-reporting their alcohol consumption.

There are two main conclusions from what would be regard­­­­ed as robust research in this area. The first is that there is no consistent evidence that drinking within recommended guidelines is associated with the development of dementia. However, this is qualified with an equally relevant conclusion that there is also little evidence to suggest that moderate drinking actually prevents the onset of dementia. These findings suggest that older people should not be advised to take up drinking to prevent dementia. Nor does it suggest that those who drink within the guidelines should necessarily become abstinent.

Additionally we must remember that the adverse effects of alcohol on both the body and on some prescribed medication increase with age.

Let’s now turn back to how heavy drinking affects the aging brain. Firstly, alcohol is a toxin, with increasingly damaging effects if taken in high enough amounts over long periods of time. In younger people, it may only affect memory but in older people its effects can mimic Alzheimer’s Disease. What helps to distinguish it from an Alzheimer’s type dementia is the early presence of changes in personality and behaviour. This is borne out in my own clinical practice, with most of the severe and challenging behaviours present in those people with a history of heavy drinking.

Further to dispelling misconceptions about the preventative effects of alcohol on dementia, it is time to move on and develop strong public health preventions strategies to support lower risk drinking. This needs to be complemented by care pathways for people with alcohol related dementia, most of who are often batted between services until they are finally in long term care.

There remains much that we can do prevent dementia in people with alcohol misuse. In this age of austerity, we need committed groups of people to join up the writing on the wall and link up public health interventions with clinical services to provide integrated care. At the moment, it is too little, too late.

Other headlines:

Older people drinking too much could create NHS ‘timebomb’, says doctor

Figures show high levels of alcohol consumption leading to increased numbers of over-65s being hospitalised for illnesses such as dementia | Guardian, UK

Thank you James & Dr Rao for this & I strongly agree!  Any thoughts?