What to drink when you’re not drinking?
Seedlip Founder Ben Branson answered that conundrum with his two new, world’s first, copper-pot distilled non-alcoholic spirits that have won over all my senses. The taste is exceptional, the branding is nothing short of stunning. I had the pleasure of meeting Ben at the launch of Seedlip here in Canada. His passion and curiosity, knowledge and authenticity made me want to chat with him all night! Ben shared tales of ancient ingredients, the perfect Seedlip pairing and what is next for his dynamic company.
Mocktails used to be an afterthought; syrupy Shirley Temple-esque drinks reserved for designated drivers. Over the last couple years we’re seeing a “mocktail revolution”, driven by people choosing to go booze-free. What do you think is causing this rise in popularity of the non-alcoholic drink?
Ooooh that word… It’s Voldemort at Seedlip! Ha!
Trend wise, there is definitely a growing acceptance that better non-alcoholic options need to be considered and offered but it’s still such early days! Globally we are at the beginning of a paradigm shift in the role drinks play in people’s lives with a number of bigger cultural forces at work that mean the timing and need for quality, adult non-alcoholic options has certainly never been more relevant.
People are increasingly mindful of what they put in their bodies, where their food and drink comes from and the curation of their social media “public” profiles. These are all societal shifts that impact whether we want to drink alcohol or not and are resulting in us drinking less, but drinking better, favouring more meaningful experiences over functional “let’s go out to drink” evenings which in turn is forcing a recalibration of our relationship with alcohol.
The pressures on both the alcohol and the soft drinks industries are widely documented which coupled with our unprecedented access to health information means 2018 is set to be a defining year of balancing the scales!
What was your key motivating factor for creating Seedlip?
Creating Seedlip was the perfect opportunity to bring together my mother’s 300 year farming heritage and my father’s brand design expertise to rid the world of poor, fruity and sweet soft drinks.
Our aim is to solve the dilemma of what to drink when you’re not drinking with adult, complex non-alcoholic cocktails using Seedlip, the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirits.
Our story actually begins in the 17th century, my family had started farming and apothecaries were distilling both alcoholic and also non-alcoholic herbal remedies. In 2013 I was researching herbs to grow at home and came across a book online written in 1651 called The Art of Distillation that documented these ancient remedies and techniques.
I love arts & crafts so initially just began experimenting with a little copper still in my kitchen and herbs from my garden. Three months later I was out for a meal, wasn’t drinking, and asked the waitress what non-alcoholic options they had, her sad, apologetic face and offer of a fruity sweet mocktail was the moment all the dots joined and I decided to do something about it!
Two years later I was hand bottling and labeling the first 1000x bottles which sold out in London in just 3 weeks, the next 1000 in 3 days and the 3rd batch sold out online in 30 minutes!
At your Canadian launch event, we had the chance to chat and you kindly showed me your original copy of ‘The Art of Distillation’. Which ingredients from this book inspired the two flavours of Seedlip the most?
I feel so lucky to own an original 1664 edition of The Art of Distillation! There are over 200 wonderful ingredients mentioned in the book from the familiar; mint, rosemary and thyme to the more unusual; eyebright, maidenhair and agrimony.
For Seedlip Spice 94 it was an opportunity to base a flavour profile around All Spice Berries [called Bayberries in the book] and use cardamom, citrus peels and two barks [oak & cascarilla] all individually distilled to create a complex and aromatic blend best mixed with tonic.
For Seedlip Garden 108 I wanted to bring things closer to home and work with ingredients grown on my farm. I love our peas, we handpick English pea pods each year and harvest hay from our farm which we then distill and blend with a suite of complementary herbs from the book [rosemary, thyme, mint & hops] to complete a green herbal profile that perfectly pairs with tonic. We recommend peas as a garnish!
What is your favourite way to drink Seedlip?
When I get home from work, a Seedlip & Tonic has become a bit of a ritual to mark the end of the day. I find a nice glass, fill it with ice, pour 50ml of Seedlip Spice, top with Fever Tree tonic and then cut a nice piece of grapefruit peel for the garnish. My girlfriend has also become a somewhat willing cocktail guinea pig on most evenings; I retreat to my garage lab and can then test out new recipes on her!
Seedlip is a massive success story. An award-winning, global brand that launched just two years ago in your farm’s kitchen. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in the past two years from this success?
From hand making it in my kitchen two years ago as a one man company to now selling Seedlip in 15x of the most dynamic food & drink cities in the world, being served in over 100x Michelin * restaurants, the three best cocktail bars in the world and having just launched in Canada to already have Seedlip in Pusateris and Robin Goodfellow’s cocktail bars, well, it’s genuinely nothing short of surreal. I couldn’t do this without my incredible team.
The most important lesson? If you genuinely solve a need that people have, stay single-mindedly true to solving it amidst all the distractions and bring your company to life in a meaningful and desirable way, then, I believe, you have the foundations for a compelling business.
What is your favourite dish to pair Seedlip with?
Typically non-alcoholic options overpower food with their sweetness and given Seedlip is sugar free, savoury and plant forward, both our spirits pair very well with food. The brightness of Seedlip Garden works perfectly with fish, salad and white meat dishes and Seedlip Spice, with its earthy’ness is great match for dark meat, stews and desserts. Having recently announced our partnership with The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, non-alcoholic food pairing menus is an area we are very excited about for 2018!
Wondering where you can snap up Seedlip here in Canada?
You can find Seedlip in the GTA at fine restaurants and bars in Toronto like, Jacobs Steakhouse, Canoe, Bymark, Bar Raval, Pretty Ugly, Bar Isabel, DW Alexander. You can pick a bottle for your home bar at at Pusateris or order online at Jacobsons Gourmet Concepts.