Seedlip founder Ben Branson
Pea Tini from The Dandelyan in London
Parasol & Swing Company

We chat with Seedlip founder Ben Branson about his alcohol-free ‘spirit’ and Dry July

Such is the phenomenon of turning to alcohol in a bid to warm our cockles when the cold weather kicks in, that Dry July has become an especially popular movement in New Zealand. Offering a reprieve from the quotidian indulgence of a glass or three of red wine, the 31 days ‘dry’ serves as the excuse we all needed to stop, take a breath, and focus on our wellbeing. But while it’s all very well to talk about, actually carrying through with a month of teetotalling is quite another, with the biggest conundrum being what to drink when you’re not drinking. Game-changing new non-alcoholic distilled ‘spirit’ Seedlip, however, is changing all that, digressing from sickly sweet mocktails and over-carbonated soft drinks to provide a clean and refreshing gin alternative. To celebrate the alcohol-free period, the product’s founder, Ben Branson, has conceived a global, non-alcoholic cocktail pop-up by the name of N o l o (short for no and low abv drinks) which is set to grace the Viaduct Harbour’s foremost cocktail bar, Parasol & Swing Company. In light of as much, we had a quick chat with Branson to learn a little more about his vision.

Was there a particular moment that made you pursue the idea of Seedlip? What motivated the concept? Seedlip didn’t begin as a business idea at all; whilst looking into heirloom herbs and spices to grow at home I found a book written in 1651 that documented distilled herbal remedies that were non-alcoholic and out of sheer curiosity bought a little copper still and began experimenting in my kitchen. Three months later I was out for a meal, wasn’t drinking, and asked the waitress what non-alcoholic options they had, the pink, sugary mocktail I was offered was the moment all the dots joined. I decided to do something about it and spent two years bringing Seedlip to launch. 

Why try to create a gin-like product as opposed to any other kind of spirit? We use six different botanicals in each of our spirits, creating a complex and aromatic flavour profile, as you’d expect from other high-quality spirits. We don’t use juniper in either of our spirits though, which is the dominant ingredient in gin and neither is intended to be gin-like. Seedlip is a distilled non-alcoholic spirit, which when mixed with tonic water or within non-alcoholic cocktails offers a great-tasting and sophisticated non-alcoholic alternative. Both Garden 108 and Spice 94 are clear, sugar and sweetener free, distilled non-alcoholic spirits and therefore vodka and gin are certainly connected categories. We have tried to strike the right balance between familiar rituals of making a vodka and soda say, as well as encouraging people to explore new cocktails and think differently about what they can create with the two distinct blends.

What has the response been like — do you think the world has been waiting for a non-alcoholic spirit and if so, why? We typically get two kinds of responses: “Why has no-one done this before, this is amazing, thank you!” and “What is the point, why would you create this, I don’t get it!” The majority I’m glad to say is very positive! We are very grateful to be working in over 16 of the most dynamic cities in the world and Seedlip is served in over 150 Michelin-starred restaurants and many of the best cocktail bars, hotels and retailers in these cities. There are a number of bigger cultural forces at work that mean the timing and need for quality, adult non-alcoholic options have certainly never been more relevant. We’re more mindful of our health than ever and therefore, drinking less but better favouring memorable experiences over purely functional alcohol led occasions. This global trend coupled with the decline in sugary and unsatisfactory soft drinks is literally leading to the dilemma of “what do I drink when I’m not drinking” alcohol. 

What is your favourite drink to create with Seedlip? At this time of year, we’re looking for some warmth and depth of flavour. Our Seedlip Mule is an ideal and simple choice. All you need to do it take a tall glass full of ice, add 50ml Seedlip Spice, 15ml ginger syrup/juice, squeeze of lime and drop it in, then top with soda.

Will we be seeing this at the ‘N o l o’ pop-ups or are the participating bars given creative licence? All of the bars across the 16 cities have creative licence to come up with their own menus. The Dandelyan in London, for example, is serving the Pea Tini (pictured above) on its special ‘N o l o’ menu. Locally in Auckland, the team at Parasol & Swing Company have come up with some spectacular cocktails and without revealing two much — here are two of the six available on the 24th and 25th July. Marmalade Mimosa: Marmalade Seedlip Spice, clarified orange, champagne redux. Forgotten City: Seedlip Spice, spiked pineapple, coconut, peppered tamarillo, banana spiced agave.

Head along to Parasol & Swing Company on the 24th & 25th July to sip on some enticing
N o l o cocktails.   

Parasol & Swing Company

7/204 Quay St
Viaduct Harbour
Auckland

(09) 366 3948

www.parasolandswing.co.nz

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