There is a quiet revolution brewing in the drinks world and it could spell the end of hangovers, forever. Our national vigour to sign up to Dry July and FebFast shows an awareness of the benefits of going booze-free, however, outside of these teetotaling months, there is little impetus to abstain, and that’s down to a lack of compelling options in the glass.
We’ve all been there, waving away another round of sparkling water, wishing there was a grown-up, non-alcoholic drink on the menu. It is exactly this scenario that played out in a high-end London restaurant two years ago that inspired British graphic designer and craft enthusiast Ben Branson to create Seedlip, the world’s first non-alcoholic spirits, on his family farm in Lincolnshire.
“I thought this is nuts, I’m in an amazing restaurant, but why can’t I get a good drink if I’m not drinking?” Ben says while sipping a ‘million dollar smile’ at London’s hot Dandelyan bar. The cocktail is made with his Seedlip Spice 94, a heady trip to Jamaica with whisky-esque notes of allspice, citrus zest, acorn and oak shavings; while I’m sipping Seedlip Garden 108 (so called as it takes 108 days to sow, grow and harvest peas, the main flavour note) with tonic, which tastes as good as a romp in the English countryside.
“I thought this is nuts, I’m in an amazing restaurant, but why can’t I get a good drink if I’m not drinking?”
Jameel Lalani from Lalani & Co. is a specialist in single-batch artisan tea and supplies some of London’s finest, including Fergus Henderson’s Lyle’s and the Burberry flagship cafe. He says health is the biggest driver in food consumption for the future and that means lighter dining, international flavours and a movement away from traditional techniques and ingredients. Tea is the drink of choice for this scenario, he says: “The terroir of tea is as important as wine and in the future, knowing your tea and being able to talk tea is going to be as important as knowing how to talk wine.”
Sydney chef-restaurateur Mike McEnearney is seeing the trend in real time at his restaurant No. 1 Bent Street, where he says less and less people are drinking alcohol on a daily basis, and the demand for non-alcoholic drinks is increasing at a rate of knots. “As a restaurateur, it’s not about the sweet and fruity mocktails of the 80s, it’s about getting with the program and offering something more sophisticated that is on par with the alcoholic drinks we have.”
Down the road, Michael Chiem, who owns PS40, Sydney’s first soda factory and bar, is blazing the booze-free trail with handmade sodas made from Australian botanicals that are designed to complement cocktails but also hold their own as a stand-alone drink – his smoked lemonade is as woody and complex as mezcal, so you can say adios to the hangover.