What is this new alcohol free sector that is emerging in the spirits market? Alcohol free Gin… WOW! In the past 2 months we have seen 4 nonalcoholic gins enter the market! The first 4 in SA…. All within a few weeks of each other! Sugar free, alcohol free and looks just like the real thing.
But is the SA premium spirits market as concerned with conscious drinking as consumers are elsewhere in the world? Based on the success of The Duchess, I believe we already have some traction in this arena and our cocktail mixologists will surely welcome these new arrivals.
All of these soul-spinning, yoga-schvitzing, cold-pressed-juice-extract-swilling Millennials aren’t seeing strong pours of gin as conducive to their clean eating, calorie-counting diets, and some of the world’s best bars and restaurants are taking notice.
The first we ever knew about nonalcoholic G&T’s was The Duchess, the world’s first non-alcoholic, sugar-free Gin & Tonic. Made right here in sunny SA! Crafted using re-distilled juniper berries, The Duchess has the distinct gin and tonic taste, complimented by aromatic layers of locally produced botanicals. The Duchess was launched by The Duchess Drinks Company in September 2016 and has quickly gained success as a healthy alternative to the real thing.
The Duchess is the brainchild of Johannes Le Roux; a Cape Town-native with a background in advertising and brand launches. In partnership with Inus Smuts, a long-time friend and collaborator, the duo developed The Duchess with local botanists. The Duchess products are now sold throughout SA and more recently becoming increasingly popular in Europe and the UK.
When UK Ben Branson started tinkering with a copper still he bought on the internet, toying with herbal distillate recipes from a 17th-century book of medicinal tinctures, being trendy is definitely not what he had in mind.
Fast forward three years, and his Seedlip alcohol-free spirits might be the most popular thing in the UK at the moment. For grownups who want to drink without drinking, Seedlip is a great option.
Seedlip was not produced as an alcohol free gin – rather a unique flavour profile made from a copper still, made with botanicals and served with tonic. It is not a juniper-led beverage and in fact does not contain juniper at all but it does work really well with tonic water.
According to Ben Branson, the founder of Seedlip, ‘I’ve learned that the world is actually beginning to drink less alcohol. Sugary fizzy drinks like Coca-Cola are also declining. At the same time, I also thought that cocktail culture and the innovation culture within the world of spirits was really exciting.’
Ben stopped drinking when he left school, but he loved working in the alcohol world and he loves his food. He was tired of going to a restaurant and seeing a great cocktail list and watching his friends having a glass of Champagne or an aperitif to start their meal, and the options for those not drinking, being very disappointing. On a Monday night, or if you’re driving, or if you’re pregnant, or if you’re having a night off—there are lots of reasons that you might not be drinking. The alternative options to alcohol are all very poor. Usually fruity or sweet or both.
Seedlip has two products. Seedlip Spice which is very aromatic and woody, and has two barks, two spices, and two types of citrus peel. Their second product is Seedlip Garden which is very floral, very herbal.
Seedlip has been an overnight success in the UK – it started as a one-man show but is now in Selfridges and featured in over 30 Michelin starred restaurants worldwide.
Seedlip has also put together many innovative products, menus and even a cocktail recipe book for those looking to limit or cut their alcohol consumption—in this same spirit, the brand is now also introducing ‘N o l o’ as “the world’s first no & lo cocktail bar.”
JOHN ROSS – Virgin Distilled Botanicals – by Barker & Quin
Oenologist Hanneli vd Merwe, the founder of Barker & Quin has been experimenting with botanicals for a number of years now with her innovative premium range of tonic waters, which have taken the SA market by storm in the past year. South Africa needed a natural, high-quality tonic water to complement its emerging gin industry – and Hanneli decided to change this.
And this month, they add John Ross to their family of alcohol free beverages. Hanneli and business partner, Chris Wium used the finest honeybush extract to tie together fragrant botanicals which have been distilled to create a beautiful alcohol free gin with a real South African twist. Marketed as having no calories, no sugar and ideal when served with tonic water and ice as one would a normal G&T.
I tasted John Ross as a blind tasting against Inverroche Amber – admittedly with tonic water, it is hard to tell the difference so well done to the B&Q team! All the best with this product Hanneli and Chris.
Extremely likeable ‘Stof’and Theresa from Vermont Distillery have been in contact with us for some time now. A distillation team with two decades of experience growing and distilling organic botanicals guarantees exceptional results. They have recently launched Vergin Bloom and Vergin Limon nonalcoholic juniper forward spirits.
Vergin Bloom is a floral spice with hibiscus, rose, citrus, juniper and spice. It has a lovely color and contains no alcohol, no sugar, no artificial sweeteners, flavours or colours. Vergin Limon is a lemon and lime journey. Made with juniper, green citrus, it is a lot dryer and more subtle flavours. Both are pretty intense neat but really good once tonic water is added. When one tastes them, it is hard to believe there is no alcohol in either of them as they are jam packed with flavor and intensity, almost flooding your mouth with a bunch of unusual flavours. But the tonic water does dilute the intensity and you are left with a more typical G & T taste experience, and for that reason founders Stof and Theresa do say the perfect serve is 25ml of Vergin with a full bottle of tonic water and lots of ice and garnish. I have a feeling our local trendy cocktails bars are going to have a lot of fun with these!
SAINT G&T – NON ALCOHOLIC GIN
Sadly we have not tasted Saint but according to their website, they say “This extraordinary cocktail of awe, wonder and untapped potential is familiar to those of us who live surrounded by the virgin bush of Africa – we lucky few who awaken to the music of Lowveld birdsong under the gin-clear vault of a flawless Mzansi sky.” Saint G&T is produced out of Qualito Distillery in Phalaborwa.
“There could be no better birthplace for our very first non alcoholic Gin. Inspired by a benevolent micro-climate and the crystal-clear waters of the Olifants River,our master-distillers set out to craft a superlative alcohol-free G&T. The first. The finest. The only one of its kind. There are no artificial colours, no artificial flavours, no artificial sweeteners, no calories and no alcohol. Our secret process has now been perfected. At the Qualito Craft Distillery under the exacting eye of master craftsmen and women, SAINT G&T non alcoholic Gin continues to combine distinctive herbal notes and botanical aromatics with fragrant re-distilled juniper in small hand-bottled batches. Savour your no sugar, no alcohol, no hangover, no compromise SAINT G&T non alcoholic Gin with a curl of orange or lemon zest, crushed ice and a splash of tonic or any other way that takes your fancy.”
FINAL WORD FROM THE GIN BOX à Exciting times ahead. But for now, we’re sticking to 43% gin!