In Food + Drink

The Drink To Order When You’re Not Drinking

In 2013, distiller Ben Branson was out for a meal and asked the waitress about their non-alcoholic options. The pink fruity mocktail he was offered just didn’t cut it. This inspired what became Seedlip two years later, the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirit, solving the ever-growing dilemma of what to drink when you’re not drinking.

With the launch of their third flavour Grove 42, called a celebration of the orange – a citrus blend of bitter orange, mandarin, blood orange, lemongrass, ginger & lemon – the new spirit is offering a much-welcomed option for non-drinkers.

Since launch in late 2015, Seedlip has been championed by some of the most celebrated bartenders and Michelin-starred chefs around the globe and today is served in over 16 international cities. You’ll currently find it in over 50 Hatted restaurants in Australia including the likes of The Fat Duck, Blue Hill Stone Barns, Attica, Igni and The French Laundry.

Ben Branson says Seedlip solves the ever-growing dilemma of what to drink when you’re not drinking. Image: Rob Lawson

“Starting Seedlip was the perfect opportunity to unite my mother’s 300-year farming heritage and my father’s design expertise to solve the dilemma of what to drink when you’re not drinking,” says Branson. “[I wanted to] rid the world of poor, fruity and sweet mocktails.

“In general, those who drink Seedlip seem to care about what they eat and drink,” he says. “They care about where things come from and who is behind the products they buy.

“I think everyone can relate to being offered a boring lime and soda or feeling totally let down if they get offered a sweet fruity mocktail.

“We are building a modern apothecary and experimental plant nursery on my farm and have some new products and even a new brand all in the pipeline as well as some incredibly exciting partnerships to announce in the new year,” he says.

Grove_Malt_Soda Seedlip

You’ll find Seedlip in over 50 Hatted restaurants in Australia. Image: Rob Lawson

Branson farms ingredients in the Lincolnshire countryside in the UK, where his family has worked the land for over 300 years. He read a book, published in 1651, called The Art of Distillation, containing a number of non-alcoholic herbal remedies, inspiring him to give it a try.

“I started playing around in my kitchen,” he says. “It kicked off a two-year process of working with historians, distillers, botanists and farmers to try to solve this modern drinking problem.”

Their previous two incarnations included Spice 94, an earthy mix of cardamom, Jamaican allspice berries and American oak with lemon and grapefruit peel as well as the second, Garden 108, a more herbaceous blend combining spearmint, rosemary and thyme with hay and green peas from Branson’s farm.

“We’ve been growing peas for 70 years,” he says. “What Hendrick’s did with the cucumber, we’re going to do that with the pea.”

Seedlip Garden Booch, like the rest of the range, is calorie and sugar-free. Image: Rob Lawson

Their latest, the citrusy Grove 42 follows a string of innovation within the non-alcoholic spirits world including a limited edition dark Seedlip Spirit for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards and the world’s first ever NOgroni made with 22 different ingredients. Branson says each bottle takes roughly six weeks to make.

The spirits are calorie and sugar-free, as well as sweetener and artificial flavour-free, making them a hit with the health conscious too.

Branson says it’s worth having a study of the label as each one also features an illustration of an animal found on his farm, such as a fix, hare and squirrel. Branson says his ancestors’ initials are also hidden with the acorn on the front of Seedlip Spice 94.

His favourite way to drink it? “When I get home after work there is nothing better than a Seedlip and tonic,” he says. “It marks the end of the day – simple to make and, depending on what’s growing in the garden or sitting in the fridge, I can choose a nice garnish. At the moment I am enjoying Seedlip Grove, tonic with a twist of orange.”

The drink can be found on cocktails menu around the country, as well as at David Jones, Dan Murphy’s and online at seedlipdrinks.com.

(Lead image: Seedlip Garden, image: Rob Lawson / Seedlip)

Published 28 March, 2019