Step into any of the most well-appointed bars around the world, and chances are that you’ll spy a bottle of Seedlip perched on the back shelves. It’s the latest spirit to have taken the hospitality world by storm. Carefully brewed using all-natural materials, it’s designed to be measured into a handful of classic drink combinations. The only difference? There’s not a drop of alcohol in it.
When Ben Branson first dreamed Seedlip up, it was to fulfil a personal need: he was fed-up of being stuck with childish, sweet or tasteless booze-free beverages whenever he wanted to forgo something stronger. “I was out for a meal”, Branson explains, “and wasn’t drinking. I asked the waitress what non-alcoholic options they had – the pink fruity mocktail I was offered was the moment all the dots joined and I decided to do something about it!”
Fast-forward two years from that first batch of bottles making it onto the market, and it seems Seedlip is set on world domination. It was our pleasure to pull up a pew with Branson and find out more about how it all started and why folks in today’s world need fewer hangovers.
Why and how did you decide that the time was right for Seedlip to be born?
“Our story actually begins in the 17th century, my family had 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.
It took two years to launch Seedlip and I hand bottled and labelled the first 1000 bottles which sold out in London in just 3 weeks, the next 1000 in 3 days and the 3rd batch sold out online in 30 minutes.
Fast forward another two years to today, we’re an International team of 60+, operating in over 13 different markets & served in many of the world’s best bars and hotels including more than 150 Michelin * restaurants & 20 Hatted restaurants! It’s been surreal and it feels like we’re just getting started!
What does Seedlip mean to you, and what do you hope it means for those who drink it?
Whether someone is drinking alcohol or not, they should still be able to go out to a bar, restaurant or party and have a great-tasting, grown-up cocktail. With Seedlip we are able to challenge the idea around what constitutes a ‘drink’, by offering sophisticated, sugar and alcohol-free alternatives to an alcoholic drink. We hope that when drinking a Seedlip cocktail, people feel fully part of a social occasion and satisfied with the great tasting drink in their hand – that just happens to contain no alcohol.
But founding Seedlip doesn’t mean you don’t like booze?
I am a huge fan of the world of bars, restaurants and hospitality and the passionate community working within it.
We are fortunate to work with many of those at the very forefront of the food and drink industry who believe in one consistent thing; that they want their customers to have a good time, and not offering someone a fantastic non-alcoholic option is one way to not deliver that.
There are so many considered and crafted brands and drinks with alcohol out there, why can’t there be any without alcohol?
Currently, you’ve got two spirits on the shelves. What are you aiming for?
Yes, currently we have two distilled non-alcoholic spirits in our range.
Seedlip Garden 108 is a herbal blend of pea and hay distillates from my farm combined with rosemary and thyme, spearmint and hops. Seedlip Spice 94 is an aromatic blend of Jamaican all-spice berry, cardamom, citrus peel and two bark [oak & cascarilla] distillates. Both are great simply mixed with tonic or as the base for non-alcoholic cocktails.
We are launching a new Seedlip spirit later this year and have also just announced our plans to create more non-alcoholic innovations to create a portfolio of brands that further expand the options for customers and consumers.
We have a very busy year ahead and we believe this is definitely the year that the non-alcoholic category really begins to establish itself globally – a flag we’re proud to be flying.
Today’s consumers are often driven by health and wellness concerns, which Seedlip can help with. Why do you think this new awareness has come about?
There is a long way to go but we are proud to be leading the way highlighting the global paradigm shift in how people socialise, what hospitality means and what constitutes a great drink.
And we think there are four key cultural forces at work.
Or at least know we should be, as we have unprecedented access to information about what we should or shouldn’t be eating, drinking or doing.
Our lives are now well documented on social media and the curation of how we appear to the world has greater importance when your potential boss or partner has the opportunity to snoop around online.
We can create driverless cars, put people on the moon, yet if you’re not drinking, for whatever reason the fact that you can’t get a good grown up non-alcoholic drink is bordering on ridiculous. We demand quality, provenance, morality and aren’t afraid to speak up for it.
A personal life, a work life, a digital life… a balancing act that sees us seemingly busier than ever in a hyper-connected world that changes by the minute. Less time to be hungover, more opportunity to miss out, increasingly we’re more mindful of how and with who we spend our precious time.
And so… We’re drinking less.