A recent poll I ran indicted that only 8% of my Twitter followers intended to attempt Dry January, with the vast majority opting instead for a boozy Ginuary! However, with more and more so-called millenials cutting down their drinking in favour of a more healthy lifestyle and plenty of other reasons to decline a double G&T – pregnancy, designated driver duties, marathon training or simply a nasty hangover – there is increasing demand for booze-free adult-style drinks.
When I was pregnant (which feels like many moons ago now) the alcohol-free options were utterly predictable and, more often than not, sugary enough to set your teeth on edge. Nowadays, there is an abundance of quality tonic waters and soft drinks that are more than good enough to drink dry, from Fever-Tree and Fentimans to Double Dutch and Dalston Cola. But what if it’s the gin you really miss? That lovely hit that only your favourite spirit can deliver? Well, here they are; the gins to drink when you’re not drinking gin!
Seedlip doesn’t claim to be a non-alcoholic gin (and indeed contains no juniper), but this “distilled non-alcoholic spirit” means serious business. Remarkably, it was the best-selling spirit – boozy or otherwise – in the Selfridges drinks department in January 2016. A groundbreaking concept that has undertaken some seriously clever branding and market positioning, Seedlip have even trademarked the phrase: “What to drink when you’re not drinking”.
“It was critical to have a fantastic brand, something that would really stand out that wasn’t a clichéd craft spirit, and to find a new category that created an aesthetic that could really bring nature to life”
Inspired by the 1651 publication The Art of Distillation, which documented how apothecaries were using small copper stills to make non-alcoholic herbal remedies, Seedlip is traditionally distilled using ethanol which is separated and sometimes reused, achieving a delicately flavoured clear liquid. Seedlip is also sugar/sweetener-free and contains no artificial colours or flavours or allergens.
There are currently two products in the Seedlip range; Spice 94 and Garden 108. The branding is spot on, with the bottles depicting frankly stunning images of a fox and a hare respectively, formed from the botanicals in each spirit. Neither would look out of place in the finest gin collections.
Spice 94 features allspice, cardamom, oak, lemon and grapefruit as its botanicals, each of which is clearly distinguishable on the palate. It is clean and crisp, warming and yet not remotely boozy. It is, to be honest, somewhat mind-boggling! The suggested serve for Spice 94 is with Indian tonic and grapefruit peel, which make an aromatic, yet citrusy, drink with a long finish but no unpleasant aftertaste.
Garden 108 is made using peas, hay, spearmint, rosemary and thyme and is incredibly fresh and herbaceous. The peas and spearmint are more dominant this time and Garden 108 also has a surprising, slightly oily mouthfeel to it too. Very grassy, and slightly floral, this is clean, refreshing and summery. This is a spirit that really packs a punch and, even served with the suggested elderflower tonic and cucumber, is not overly sweet but well balanced.
My personal preference is definitely for Spice 94, but both make excellent sipping drinks and definitely replicate some of the pleasure of drinking an alcoholic spirit. They are also proving incredibly popular with bartenders across the city, and further afield, who are making a wealth of stunning ‘mocktails’ using a Seedlip base. This is undoubtedly a spirit worthy of experimentation and having in stock for the days you can’t, or shouldn’t, be drinking.
One word of caution though; at its current retail price, it’s significantly more expensive than a lot of other excellent gins and, though it does offer something unique, it comes with the caveat that it ought to be consumed within eight weeks of opening (although I’m reassured that this is a ‘best before’, rather than ‘use by’, date and, besides, such things are only ever intended as guidelines). On that basis, however, it may not be one you’ll want to leave on your shelf for those occasional bouts of abstinence, but it’s definitely one to have in if you’re committed to not drinking on a regular basis.
Seedlip is available from 31Dover for £27.95 for 70cl.
The Temperance Spirit Company was launched when three Yorkshiremen – a restauranteur, a chemist and an inventor – got together to put the adult soft drinks industry to rights. Ian Ackroyd, who had been in the licensed trade for over 20 years, Ian Jowett, a former research chemist, and Brendan Duckworth, a local entrepreneur, set as their goal a quality drink that used only naturally sourced ingredients and botanicals. And so Teetotal G’n’T was born.
Teetotal G’n’T has surprisingly low carbonation, and quite a subtle juniper hit, but it does taste good and, best of all (like Seedlip), it has absolutely no synthetic taste at all. I tried it with a variety of garnishes – lemon, cucumber, and chilli and coriander – and they all brought out subtle differences in the product but this is, at heart, a very classic version of a G&T. Given current trends, it might be nice to see something a little more adventurous but what they are doing they are definitely doing well. They have also recently launched a G’n’S gin-and-soda flavoured drink so perhaps more eclectic editions will follow in due course. I certainly hope so!
‘Gin’ Rhubarb Celebration Soda
The lovely folk at Square Root London, who started fruit-juicing and pop-bottling back in 2012, decided to celebrate their 500th batch last year with something extra special. And boy did they succeed! They joined forces with their good friends at Peg & Patriot and combined their non-alcoholic gin hydrasol (a herbal distillate to you and me) with their own rhubarb soda to make a quite outstanding sparkling drink that resembles a rhubarb gin fizz. Real, fresh rhubarb is the dominant flavour but it is complemented by gentle carbonation and a subtle hint of juniper. It really is a cracking drink for a special occasion, especially as it is grandly presented in a champagne style bottle and would be just the thing for a booze-free birthday or baby shower.
‘Gin’ Rhubarb Celebration Soda can be purchased direct from Square Root London at £5 for 75cl or £25 for a case of 6.
With thanks to Seedlip and The Temperance Spirit Company for the free samples. I purchased the ‘Gin’ Rhubarb Celebration Soda from Square Root London at Well Street Market, E9.