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Non-alcoholic cocktails, sometimes referred to as “mocktails,” have been around for a long, long time. Usually, these are overly sweet concoctions like the Shirley Temple, the Roy Rogers, and the Arnold Plamer, served to children and non-drinking guests at parties.
But, as indicated by the fact they’re all named after dead celebrities, these drinks are a tad outdated. Numbers are still inconclusive in the United States, but alcohol consumption in the western world, especially among people in their 20s and 30s, is on the decline. According to a 2018 report by TIME, drinking in Australia is at its lowest point since the 1960s, and the U.K. and Germany have also both seen dramatic drop-offs. These people (many of whom are seeking to drink less alcohol as opposed to none at all) are opening up a whole market for beverage makers seeking to fill the void with cocktails that have a little more sophistication and a little less sugar.
Seedlip, an English company that launched in 2015, is leading the pack. The company offers what it claims are “The World’s First Distilled Non-Alcoholic Spirits,” and it’s products certainly sound fancy.
There’s the Spice 94, which the company describes as a “complex blend of aromatic Jamaican Allspice berry & Cardamom distillates with two barks & a bright citrus finish.”
And then there’s the Garden 108, a “floral blend of hand-picked Peas & homegrown Hay from founder Ben Branson’s Farm, with traditional garden herb distillates in celebration of the English countryside.”
Just like gin or vodka, Seedlips products are meant to be mixed with other things, and if you’re at a loss, the company is happy to offer some suggestions. Its website is full of recipes for cocktails with names like the “Marit-No” and the “Minosa”.
The concoctions even have prices that mimic their boozy counterparts. A 24-ounce bottle of any of their products will set you back $36. Compare that to the $10 you might spend on an entire 12-pack of seltzer water, and it’s easy to see the company is banking heavily on its clientele wanting something newer and more complex.
It’s a gamble that seems to be paying off. Since partnering with Diageo (the company that produces Crown Royal, Johnnie Walker, and Captian Morgan to name a few), Seedlip has sold more than a million bottles, many of them to bars and restaurants looking to cater to adults who choose not to drink.
The idea of paying for expensive non-alcoholic cocktails, when you could simply order a soft drink (which many bars will give you for free) might seem odd to people who have spent years sipping Diet Coke on nights it was their turn to be the designated driver, but it appears to be catching on.
Getaway, New York City’s first permanent non-alcoholic bar, recently opened in Brooklyn, and by all reports is doing well.
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And a quick Twitter search for “Seedlip” returns mainly positive results.
Yeah I’ve had a few of the no alcohol “spirits” like Seedlip and so on and they’re nice but I think the main plus is that I don’t feel left out at a bar just sipping a flat coke lol— Olie (@RoliePolieeOlie) June 7, 2019
I love Seedlip, and I LOVE g&ts! Can’t drink much b/c of migraines and Seedlip has been a really nice substitute. I will say that Garden isn’t my favorite flavor. Try Grove or Spice!— Lauren (@laurenlkeim) June 8, 2019
I did a lot of that last year whilst pregnant. Did enjoy the odd alc-free Erdinger and do love a Seedlip for its bitterness. But you're right, generally I had sparkling water or tonic water, especially when out and about. This is for a friend...— Beth Upton (@Beth_Upton) June 5, 2019
Although some people have balked at the price tag.
Love the idea behind alcohol free botanical spirits but the pricing is deterring me from trying. I understand they're pitching themselves against craft gin, but they don't need to absorb a tenner of duty! I'd maybe give Seedlip a whirl at £10-15, but nearly £30?!?— Chris Rowland (@chrisrowlanduk) June 2, 2019
Really don't understand the Seedlip thing. £24 for non-alcoholic gin? I thought the price of spirits was inflated by excise duty etc.— Ruairidh Greig (@Argee48) June 10, 2019
Clearly, there’s a growing market for non-alcoholic drinks. Even old staples like O’Douls have seen a rise in sales in the past few years. It’s not surprising that companies like Diageo have gotten on board.
“For us, it’s not so much about abstaining or changing. It’s more that people are demanding choices in everything they do,” Heidi Dillon Otto, a representative for Distills Ventures, the branch of Diageo that funded Seedlip, told TIME. “[The future] is going to be, ‘I bought my $50 bottle of gin and my $40 aperitif that doesn’t have alcohol in it.’ It will be very normalized in that way.”
It also strikes us that some of that Garden 108 would go really well with a shot of tequila and a splash of hot sauce. Now that is what consumer decision making is really all about.
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David Britton is a writer and comedian based in Rhinebeck, New York who focuses on internet culture, memes, and viral news stories. He also writes for the Hard Times and is the creator of StoriesAboutWizards.com.