Soft drinks just got serious. Make way for Seedlip Ben’s deliciously complex, wonderfully aromatic Seedlip, designed to refresh the parts other non-alcoholic drinks don’t reach. Here he explains why…
Seedlip is the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirit
There is no sugar, sweeteners or any artificial flavourings in it – basically it’s the essence of nature.
I don’t drink alcohol
But that doesn’t mean I don’t want something interesting in my glass. These days, despite the quality of bars and restaurants, if you’re not drinking alcohol, you usually have three options: cola, a blend of sweet, sugary juices, or water. That’s what set me on a mission to create a quality drink, something complex, created with adults in mind.
It’s been created as a drink to sip, not gulp
Seedlip is a blend of two barks (American oak and cascarilla), two spices (all spice berries and cardamom), and two citrus peels (grapefruit and lemon peels), so it’s a little reminiscent of gin, vermouth and bourbon. I’ve tested it on people around me who are drinkers and they’ve given me a drinkers’ perspective on the flavour profile. we’re not just targeting pregnant women, teetotallers or religious people.
The dream of having my own brand, something I could pour my heart and soul into has always been there
Prior to setting up Seedlip I worked in branding and design agencies for brands like Moët et Chandon, Glenmorangie and Absolut. I’ve also worked with some amazing entrepreneurs and start-ups including Innocent in the early days. I loved seeing how excited entrepreneurs get – I wanted some of that for myself.
Farming, nature, countryside – those are the things I grew up with
My family have been farming in Lincolnshire from the early 1700s – we still farm across Lincolnshire and Yorkshire today. That history is a massive part of my inspiration and it also defines why the provenance of ingredients and being able to visit farmers and growers is so important to me, it’s in my blood.
The idea for Seedlip came from my wanting to grow herbs
I spent a lot of time living in the woods, looking at medieval cookbooks and old cottage gardens to see what was growing in the 16th and 17th century, when the garden was both the medicine and spice cabinet. This was at the time of the spice route, when exotic ingredients were moving around the world.
Researching alcohol as medicine took me to a book called The Art of Distillation
It was written in 1651 by a physician called John French. I could only find one original copy, it belonged to King George III and it’s sat in the Rare Books section of the British Library. I’ve spent quite a lot of time in there poring over it.
The book contains alcohol remedy recipes also no alcohol remedy recipes
Both use distillation and copper stills. So I bought a three-litre copper still and started experimenting for myself. The process of putting mint through the still and getting a liquid that tasted of mint at the other end was just magicical. That’s when I decided to expand the idea and Seedlip was born.
I love tonic water on its own but it always felt like I was having half a drink
I wanted to create something that would complement it. Fever-Tree tonic was my benchmark – it’s a fantastic brand and I think the flavour profile and balance works really well.
Why the name?
Simple, a seedlip is a basket farmers used to scatter their seeds. I recently found one from the 18th century – a bargain at £60!
The Seedlip perfect serve is 50ml of Seedlip, Fever-Tree tonic and a grapefruit twist
It’s also really good in a non-alcholic Martini – 50ml of Seedlip, 5ml of olive brine, 5ml of jalepeno brine and a red grapefruit twist – it’s our play on a Dirty Martini.
We use a family-owned company in Germany for our distilling
They individually distil five of our ingredients in copper stills. The lemon peels are different – they’re distilled using a stainless steel still at source in Argentina.
What does it taste like?
You can’t really compare it to anything which is great. There’s a strong clove and citrus hit but my favourite bit is the late smoky cardamom, and the long, juicy, citrus finish that hits your bitter receptors. On the nose it reminds me of sitting on a combine harvester with my grandfather but that’s something very personal to me.
I originally wanted to launch five different profiles
But if I’ve learned one thing in the last two years, it’s to do one thing and be really single-minded about it. Good brands do one thing and do it really well.
The idea is always to add value to the core product
That might be barrel-ageing, bespoke editions, limited runs, partnerships – the possibilities are endless.
The difference between a successful and unsuccessful product is the timing
With the war on sugar and more people either choosing not to drink for two consecutive days a week, or just wanting an alternative to alcohol every now and again, I think we’ve got it right.
Seedlip is available exclusively at Selfridges. Ask for it at your favourite bar. For more details, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Extracted from issue 17 of The Cocktail Lovers magazine. Get your free copy here