In Depth

Seedlip: a spirited alternative to alcohol

The purveyor of this year's growing no-alcohol drinks trend is a refreshing substitute for those looking to avoid the hard stuff

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Seedlip trademarking the phrase "what to drink when you're not drinking" may be slightly tongue in cheek, but for those of us who have unsuccessfully scoured pubs, bars and even supermarket shelves in search of an "adult" non-alcoholic alternative, this dilemma is all too familiar.

It bills itself as the world's first alcohol-free spirit and the concoctions it offers – packed full of botanicals, spices and other unusual ingredients – certainly stand out in a market of fizzy, sweet and all-too-often sickly soft drinks.

Founder Ben Branson took inspiration from a book published in London in 1651, The Art of Distillation, and has revived and reimagined such forgotten techniques and recipes for distilling non-alcoholic spirits. His company's second and newest blend, the Garden 108, combines a vibrant and floral mix of peas and hay, picked from the family farm, with an assortment of herbs including spearmint, rosemary and thyme. First offering Spice 94 creates a complex profile from oak, cascarilla bark, green cardamom, allspice berries and grapefruit peel. Each item is distilled individually in copper pots using a method kept strictly under lock and key.

At £27.99 per 700ml bottle, it can seem a little steep for a guilt-free tipple. But like its alcoholic counterpart, a little goes a long way. The key is treating it like any other spirit – add a touch of Garden 108 to some tonic water to recall a G&T, while the Spice 94 makes a mean fake Martini when combined with olive brine and verjuice (a tart juice made from unripe grapes), then poured into an elegant coupe and finished with an olive.

Thomas Alexander Photography

If not already a virtuous enough choice, it contains no calories while remaining free from sugar, sweeteners and artificial flavours. Little surprise, then, that it's gaining traction with top bartenders around the UK; you can try out innovative takes at such Michelin-starred and acclaimed restaurants as The Savoy, Claridge's, The Clove Club and Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck.

Of course, "Dry January" provides the perfect excuse to put Seedlip's taste to the test and the company has partnered with leading locations for one-month-only special menus. At Launceston Place in South Kensington, London, the five-course tasting menu will be served alongside a paired accompaniment of non-alcoholic cocktails created for the occasion, from a "Spice Toddy", a heady mix of apple, ginger and clove, to the indulgent "Winter Martini", which combines the spirit with sweet cranberry and fir shrub.

Meanwhile, at Harvey Nichols, already a regular Seedlip stockist, the drink will be taking over the London store's terrace for January. As well as offering a special drinks menu devised by a guest bartender, there's a host of events designed to keep your diet on track.

Join the Seedlip founder, along with the company's resident mixologist Stewart Howard for a masterclass, or sit down with author and chef Natasha Corrett for a one-off afternoon tea.

seedlipdrinks.com

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