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* 😉
Imagine 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
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.
LAUNCH 13TH FEB 2016