You've heard of non-alcoholic beer, and possibly even non-alcoholic wine. But a non-alcoholic spirit? Surely that's an oxymoron.
Now available in Australia, Seedlip was founded by UK-based entrepreneur, botany enthusiast and drinks visionary Ben Branson.
The world's first distilled non-alcoholic spirit, it is billed as 'the drink you have when you're not drinking'.
Copper pot distillation of individual herbs, plants and spices has created two unique spirit blends that are sugar-free, sweetener-free and calorie free and are best mixed with tonic or used as a base for non-alcoholic cocktails.
"We are at the beginning of a paradigm shift in the role drinks play in people's lives and there are a number of bigger cultural forces at work that mean the timing and need for quality, adult non-alcoholic drinks has never been more relevant," Branson says.
"From pressures on both alcohol and the soft drinks industries to how the internet influences our 'public' profile and our unprecedented access to health information we are fortunate to have launched at just the right time!"
Between alcohol and soft drink
It seems the product does indeed have legs (the non-alcoholic kind). Having launched in London department store Selfridges in 2015, Seedlip was its best-selling spirit the following year.
The product has since been championed by celebrated Michelin-starred chefs and award-winning bartenders at renowned spots such as The Fat Duck, The Ledbury, Clove Club, Dandelyan and The American Bar at The Savoy.
Branson must have really known he was onto something in 2016, when global spirits giant Diageo – owner of household name brands like Bundy Rum, Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff – took a stake in Seedlip through its start-up incubation fund, Distill Ventures.
"Whilst certainly a category in its infancy, the potential of working within the gap between alcohol and soft drinks is very exciting and based on global drinking trends, only going to grow," Branson says.
"Our bottom line is that regardless of whether you are drinking alcohol or not and regardless of whether you are at home or out, in this day and age people should be able to have a fantastic drink."
Price of punch
Abstinence does not come cheap. At $49.99 for a 700ml bottle, Seedlip is priced in line with many gins or vodkas.
Alcohol excise tax may account for as much as $30 of the price of these comparatively priced alcoholic products – how does Branson justify a similar price point?
"Seedlip sources the highest quality ingredients from farmers all over the world and has created a unique coveted process for each individual plant we work with including two that are homegrown and handpicked from my farm," Branson says.
"With a six week process to make a bottle that includes working with neutral grain spirit [ie subject to upfront taxes] we have worked hard to make Seedlip in line with a super premium spirit minus the tax."
There are two variants. Seedlip Garden 108 is bright and herbal with six distillates including hand-picked peas from Branson's family farm in Lincolnshire. Seedlip Spice 94 is complex and aromatic with six distillates including Jamaican All Spice berries and American Oak. Best served with tonic, both offer an alternative to traditional mocktails or soft drinks.
"We don't promise Seedlip will make you better looking, rich or famous but we do make the next morning a bit easier!" Branson says.
Signature serve: Seedlip Garden & Tonic
Fill a highball glass full with ice. Add 1 3⁄4 oz Seedlip Garden 108. Add a handful of fresh peas. Top with tonic water.
Signature serve: Seedlip Spice & Tonic
Fill a highball glass full with ice. Add 13⁄4oz Seedlip Spice 94. Top with tonic water. Garnish with a red grapefruit twist.