Seedlip's Fool's Gold, photo by Steve Freihon

Seedlip’s Fool’s Gold, photo by Steve Freihon

It started with a pink fruity mocktail. “I wasn’t drinking and asked for a non-alcoholic option, and was offered a poor and sweet drink,” says Ben Branson, who set off on a two-year path trying to solve his dilemma.

Already dabbling in home distilling, the design agency owner worked with historians, distillers, botanists and farmers to create Seedlip, the world’s first distilled nonalcoholic spirit. The England-based company’s motto sums up the result, this is “what to drink when you’re not drinking.”

A trailblazer in the bold new world of zero-proof spirits, Seedlip is made using a method that’s based on the production of nonalcoholic remedies found in 1651’s The Art of Distillation. The product’s botanicals are individually macerated in neutral grain spirit for up to six-weeks to extract the most flavour before they are copper pot-distilled, de-alcoholized, diluted, blended and bottled.

Herbaceous and vegetal, Garden 108 hints at peas and hay (ingredients from Branson’s family farm) with strong spearmint, rosemary and thyme aromas. Warm and woody, Spice 94 is a mix of cardamom and allspice, citrus peels and bitters. Not meant to be consumed neat, the sugar-, calorie- and allergen-free product often replaces traditional alcoholic spirits.

Whether it’s for health or personal reasons, the demand for quality booze-free alternatives is growing beyond teetotalers, pregnant women and clean-living advocates. The interest in developing serious virgin cocktails appeals to abstainers, who want to still participate in the social pleasures of drinking while eschewing alcohol’s side effect.

Often as complex and sophisticated as their quaffable counterparts, these no-alcohol cocktails have evolved from their saccharine-sweet predecessors. Typically crafted from the same high-quality ingredients found behind a well-stocked bar, they might be made from a combination of fresh-pressed juices, kombucha, shrubs (drinking vinegars), coffee and teas, or with products like Seedlip.

“The hard work is absolutely worth it,” says Branson, whose product is sold at fancy retailers from Dean & Deluca to Toronto’s Pusateris and served at cocktail bars including The American Bar in London’s The Savoy and at more than 150 Michelin-starred restaurants.

“[This] new approach to what we drink, and what can be done without alcohol when done well, [will] further drive the growth and awareness of this movement.”

Three Mocktails to Drink

Nitecap's Drella, photo by Eric Medsker

Nitecap’s Drella, photo by Eric Medsker

Drella at Nitecap in New York City

Head bartender Lauren Corriveau captures the essence of summer with mango, honey, orange and lime juices with coconut cream and cardamom.

Liebling at Trick Dog in San Francisco 

Served on the rocks, it is a blend of apricot, Chinese almond milk, grapefruit, lemon and osmanthus.

Bradsell at Sea Containers London — Dandelyan Bar

This bold-flavoured offering is made with cold-brew coffee, malt caramel and chai spices such as cinnamon and ginger, and served in a pint glass.

Mocktail Recipes

Seedlip’s Fool’s Gold

1 oz. Seedlip Garden 108

1 oz. pomegranate syrup

5 oz. Moroccan mint and

green tea blend

3 dashes Fee Brothers rhubarb bitters

1 dash rosewater

Seedlip’s Olney

1.5 oz. Seedlip Garden 108

.75 oz. Shiso Avocado

.5 oz. lemon

Top with Cheer wine

[This story appears in the October 2018 issue of WestJet Magazine]