London-based Seedlip, now available in the U.S., is taking advantage of the restaurant and bar booze-free boom.
If a restaurant doesn’t have a non-alcoholic cocktail on the menu, it’s missing out. Customers are demanding artfully crafted, booze-free creations—a far cry from the sickening sweet mocktails of yore. In its Culinary + Cocktails Trend Forecast, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants estimates a resounding 80 percent of bartenders will be upping their non-alcoholic cocktail selections in 2019. To meet that demand, restaurants like The Fat Radish in New York City and the restaurants and bars at Marcus Hotels & Resorts across the country have turned to Seedlip, a line of non-alcoholic spirits that began in London and is now available throughout the U.S. FSR spoke with founder Ben Branson about what his non-alcoholic spirits are, what led him to create them, and how he recommends building cocktails around them.
What sparked the idea for Seedlip for you?
Creating Seedlip was the perfect opportunity to bring together my mother’s farming heritage and my father’s design expertise to rid the world of poor, fruity, and sweet soft drinks and to solve the dilemma of what to drink when you’re not drinking.
Our story actually begins in the seventeenth century, when my family started farming and apothecaries were distilling both alcoholic and also non-alcoholic herbal remedies. In 2013, I was researching herbs online to grow at home and came across a book written in 1651 called The Art of Distillation that documented these remedies.
No stranger to arts and crafts, I 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 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 1,000 bottles of Seedlip Spice 94, which sold out in London in just three weeks. The next 1,000 sold out in less than three days, and the third batch sold out online in 30 minutes!
Tell me about your products. What do they taste like?
There are three products now in the range, all are a result of a highly-involved six-week maceration, distillation, filtration and blending process and have no sugar, sweetener or artificial ingredients.
Seedlip Spice 94 is aromatic and woody with a great warm spice and citrus character from the allspice berries, cardamom, American oak, and grapefruit peel distillates we use.
Seedlip Garden 108 is bright and fresh using English peas from my farm, floral herbs like rosemary and thyme, and peppery undertones from the hops we use.
Seedlip Grove 42 is zesty and complex with three kinds of orange and a fragrant character from lemongrass, ginger and Japanese sansho peppercorns.
How do you recommend building cocktails around them?
All spirits are easy to serve with mixers like tonic, ginger ale, or good quality, flavored sodas as an aperitif that has the dryness and bitterness to open the palate. Seedlip also provides the base spirit to then build cocktails from.
What does 2019 look like for Seedlip?
Seedlip has grown from just in my kitchen three years ago to now being available in over 25 countries. It’s been surreal!
We are so proud to be working with so many iconic restaurants in the U.S. and hope 2019 is a year to begin working with many more. To have the support of the likes of Eleven Madison Park, The French Laundry, Atelier Crenn, Momofuku, and Alinea has been unbelievable.
Now, we have a team in the U.S. and an office in Los Angeles. 2019 is a year to really build on our platform and work further with more bars, restaurants, and hotels— as well as with retail partners like Whole Foods Market, Dean & DeLuca, and Amazon, so we can continue to lead the category.