Ben Branson, founder of Seedlip, pulls a small book out of his bag—oil-softened, the once-crisp edges of the pages now rounded and dulled, with a pliable cover that reads ancient. Ben tells me it was this tattered tome that contributed to the creation of Seedlip, a non-alcoholic spirit like many available in our Shop.
As Ben handled the relic with gentle reverence, it was clear that behind Seedlip's artistic, gold-tinged packaging and its meticulous Instagram feed was a man with a thoughtful and passionate mind—with just a little bit of madcap scientist mixed in.
That book from Ben's bag? The Art of Distillation, a guide to medicinal tinctures dating back to 1651. This smallish manual is a big source of inspiration behind Seedlip. Ben drew on the book's age-old formulas and little-known ingredients as a starting point for his concoctions. Seedlip's herbaceousness, its complicated dance of flavors, are nods to these ancient practices.
If the words "non-alcoholic" and "spirit" aren't quite harmonizing for you—you're not alone. I think of old liquor stores in my hometown, the words "Wine & Spirits" hung over the door in large lacquered letters. Spirits imply liquor. Seedlip helped turn that idea upside down, providing a non-alcoholic alternative for the palette that craves more than soda water and lime when not drinking.
Ben hails from a family of farmers and his experimenting began on their land, starting with an old copper still and obsessive curiosity. He spent two years in his kitchen tweaking his mixtures, combining and re-combining a myriad of herbs, spices, and vegetables from the farmland—hay, peas, rosemary, thyme, to name a few.
Making Seedlip is much like a traditional distillation process, taking a total of six weeks for each batch of spirit. Each ingredient is treated individually, macerated individually, and steeped in a neutral grain spirit. Each resulting solution is poured into Ben's copper still.
Because of the ratios Ben uses during the steeping process, the solutions have a much lower alcohol content than those intended for liquor distillation; once the boiling begins, the alcohol is the first to boil off until not a trace remains. What's left is a concentrated distillation that is then filtered, bottled, labeled, and delivered to your next cocktail.
The beginnings of Ben's operation were small, but ambitious. Though this has changed with the growing production, the first 1,000 bottles of Seedlip were hand-bottled, hand-labeled, and hand-delivered to Selfridge's of London, the brand's first major retailer. That first batch sold out within the three weeks. A second shipment sold out in three days. And a third batch sold out in 30 minutes.*
That's when Ben knew his wild imaginings, his time spent in the laboratory tinkering away, were not for nothing. A market existed for a non-alcoholic option that still felt refined and complex.
So why reach for a non-alcoholic spirit? Maybe you're taking a few nights off imbibing, maybe you're pregnant, maybe you're nursing a bad hangover from the night before and want to focus on rehydration (not dehydration), or maybe you've had your fill of boozy drinks for the night but want something to sip while you stay out with friends. Maybe you just don't drink.
Mocktail brands like Seedlip and Pentire give you the opportunity to enjoy a drink that subtly calls to mind a cocktail, without any of the effects of alcohol (or after-effects).
The simplest way to drink these NA spirits is mixed with soda water, garnished with citrus. You'll find a refreshingly different cocktail in your hand—something worth sipping alongside your boozing companions.
And of course you can enjoy it at home. Non-alcoholic spirits are perfect for entertaining: It's a lovely gesture to give a non-drinking guest another option besides a water-from-the-tap afterthought. You'll be a truly thoughtful host.
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Do you have any non-alcoholic drinks up your sleeves that you're enjoying these days? Share with us below.