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Smack in the middle of a global pandemic, we’re seeing two disparate beverage trends run in parallel to one another: Alcohol sales are up a dizzying amount, with delivery app Drizzly reporting sales jumped nearly 500% in April. Meanwhile, a growing trend of spirit-free or low Alc brands have launched or gained steam in 2020. We decided to dive into this new frontier of the ‘sober-curious’, and as you’ll note, we like what we see.
Seedlip (Our favorite of the crop, if we must say).
The most grown up of the bunch, Seedlip launched in 2015 at London’s Selfridges Department Store. They’ve literally trademarked the clever phrase: ‘What to drink when you’re Not drinking’, and I think they’re onto something.
We purchased the Seedlip Trio, sampling all three of their flagship distilled non-alcoholic spirits, all of which are zero calories, sugar and sweetener free, with no artificial flavoring:
- Spice 94, a clove-heavy aromatic with spiced notes and a long, bitter finish
- Garden 108, clean and fresh, herb-forward with notes of hand-picked peas
- Grove 42, citrus forward with three different types of orange blends and notes of ginger and lemongrass.
The brand provides you with a bevy of 'cocktail' recipe inspiration, but we found ourselves most happy (and perhaps admittedly lazy) mixing each with some seltzer water and fresh citrus to garnish. Of the three, we’re particularly smitten with the citrus heavy Grove 42, which had such a strong flavor profile and finish compared to a lot of the flavored water products we’ve tried as of late.
Seedlip’s brand, packaging, and marketing are all top-shelf. The bottles look gorgeous on our bar, where they can store without needing refrigeration for 6 months, a leg up on some of the competition below. At $84 for the trio, this is not a budget friendly option at first glance. But then again, how much were you spending on three bottles of higher end vodka and tequila on your last BevMo run?
Ghia is a brand new entrant to the space, having launched in June. Founder Melanie Masarin launched the brand seeking to bring more intention to drinking culture, hoping to foster ‘togetherness and spirit to drinking non-alch’ beverages.
Inspired by low-ABV aperitifs -- the sub genre that skews not too sweet, often with bubbles and served ahead of mealtimes for their appetite-priming effects -- Masarin launched Ghia as a non-alcohol, one flavor product to start.
Composed of orange peel, elderflower, yuzu, ginger, rosemary, and lemon balm, Ghia has a distinctly bitter profile, so if you’re a Negroni drinker like me, this could resonate for you too. The brand is quick to point out the lemon balm -- native to the Mediterranean, where Masarin spend summers growing up -- is a natural mood-enhancer with stress relief properties.
Ghia also hits a home run with its branding, packaging, and bottle design, which has a decidedly vintage flare. We tried our hand at the "Night at the Spritz” from their handy recipe book provided with each purchase. Equal parts Ghia and sparkling water, finished with a spring of rosemary.
I think Ghia will ultimately be a polarizing option for people -- you’ll love or hate its distinct taste. The main knock for me was on value -- at $33 bottle, you need to refrigerate once opened and consume it within 7 days.
Also in the aperitif category, Haus offers a low-alcohol lineup of beverages all anchored in Chardonnay Grapes that are grown on the Sonoma County farm of owners Helena Price Hambrecht and Woody Hambrecht.
As third generation winemakers and grape farmers, the duo has sought to seize on their insider knowledge of the industry, stripping away huge liquor companies tactics, including sketchy ingredients and too much alcohol content in the product. Instead they’ve opted for a naturally fermented aperitif made with real fruits and botanicals they ship directly to the customer, focussing on a farm-to-bottle mantra that appeals to today’s discerning consumer.
Haus has anchored their line with three apertif’s to start: Citrus Flower, Bitter Clove, and Ginger Yuzu, with more flavors launching regularly. We purchased the Haus Essentials Set, a combo pack introduction to Haus best sellers Citrus Flower and Bitter Clove for $70.
We liked both -- but I was partial to the Bitter Clove -- inspired by amaro and whiskey -- for its earthy and herbaceous finish. Citrus Flower was very citrus forward and paired nicely with a dash of Prosecco over ice. You can consult their recipe guide for ideas that all seem to feature soda, tonic, or used as a spirit in a simple cocktail like a spritz.
Overall we’re quite impressed with the Haus experience. The taste of the product worked well both on its own over ice and mixed as a spritz. They recommend storing in the fridge to keep the natural ingredients fresh, but Haus is stable enough to keep around as long as you’d like without an expiration date. Perhaps most delightful of all was the speed of shipping -- our product arrived the next day via courier service to our door!
Kin positions itself as a ‘new category of nightlife beverage crafted for conscious connection’ which sounded a little Topanga Canyon for our taste, but we carried on with the test taste to learn more.
We tried the Kin Spritz -- sold in a 8 oz can for $4.99 -- a sparkling hibiscus drink with fresh citrus and ginger notes. This zero alcohol spritz has adaptogens and nootropics like GABA and 5-HTP, which have mood boosting properties that, combined with 50mg of caffeine per serving, can offer a social boost without the buzz for that Zoom work happy hour you may or may not be dreading on your calendar next Friday.
Kin also sells ‘Dream Light’, a sleep tonic they recommend mixing with your favorite milk before bed. Packed with L-theanine and passion flower to boost GABA levels, while l-tryptophan supports serotonin to regulate sleep rhythms through the night. We didn’t get our hands on this sleep aid but are curious to learn more.
In summary, Kin is creating a new category of beverage they call ‘Europhics’ -- non alcoholic nightlife beverages that balance adaptogens (herbs that help body adapt to stress), nootropics (brain enhancers), and botanics (plant based ingredients that balance flavor and function). They strongly advise against mixing their tonics with alcohol -- so their offering is meant for the strictly sober crowd.
This space -- no and low alcohol spirits -- continues to intrigue us and we’ll keep you updated on promising new entrants as they come to market. Whether you’re pregnant, watching calories, or seeking a healthier lifestyle with better sleep and quicker recovery, this trend seems primed to stay. We also love the idea of adding a bit more thoughtfulness to your party -hosting-bar for guests who abstain from alcohol for any of those above reasons. Based on our experience thus far, we’ll be around for last call as this market continues to innovate. Pull up a stool and join us, why don’t you!
Five More Reasons We’re Loving this Low and Non-Alc movement:
- Whole Foods Market named alcohol alternatives one of the Top 10 trends of 2020.
- Because Haus is an apéritif and under 24% alcohol they can legally bypass most of the federal restrictions on spirits and sell directly to your door.
- Seedlip takes six weeks to make & involves a bespoke maceration, copper pot distillation, & filtration process for each individual ingredient. It is then blended & bottled in England.
- Ghia is proud of their sustainability efforts: Their packaging uses only biodegradable or recyclable materials including the shippers that are made from 70% recycled content and water-based biodegradable inks. They recommend upcycling the glass bottles and toppers to make iced tea.
- Kin Euphorics ships free their all vegan and non allergenic products to all 50 states