Mixology Talk Podcast, Episode #177
Welcome back! We’re continuing with our exploration of non-alcoholic cocktails for the month of May. Maybe you’ve indulged a little too much during quarantine and need an alternative or you’re looking to launch a new NA program as your business reopens. Either way, we have you covered!
Today, Chris is talking with Laura Lashley, brand ambassador for Seedlip, a non-alcoholic distilled spirit company. Yes, you read that correctly: a non-alcoholic spirit. Note: this is not a sponsored post but Seedlip did send us some product to taste test. I was just glad to have Laura join us to explain what a “non alcoholic spirit” is and share her advice for approaching alcohol-free cocktails.
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- 2:00– History of Seedlip (Laura’s background at 8:55)
- 5:00– Mentality of non-alcoholic as an “afterthought”
- 11:57– Common questions and push back
- 13:12– Biggest challenges with NA cocktails
- 20:39– Managing extractions without alcohol
- 18:14– Seedlip catalogue & alcoholic counterparts (or lack thereof!)
- 22:57– Low ABV cocktails
- 24:00– Drink recommendations (and tips for using Seedlip at min 27:00)
- 29:51– Laura’s biggest advice
- 31:44– Promotions & things to come!
Laura Lashley is the National Education manager for Seedlip where she leads the brand’s training & advocacy programs in the US. Laura began her career in drinks working in New York City bars, notably as the head bartender and bar manager at Avroko’s Madam Geneva, as well as bar manager at The Breslin and Ace Hotel Lobby Bar. She has been ‘sowing the seeds’ with the Seedlip team in the States for nearly three years and enjoys using her bartending experience & love of the industry to bring the non-alcoholic category to the forefront. She is always on the move but currently calls sunny Los Angeles home.
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Non-Alcoholic as an Afterthought
Let’s be honest: For most bartenders (and guests), non-alcoholic cocktails are often an afterthought. If you order an alcohol-free drink, your options are typically an overly-sweet kid’s drink like a Shirley Temple or a plain soda water. It’s difficult to make a complex, interesting cocktail without booze, as Laura points out:
“My technique was always to draw inspiration from the spirit base and then go from there […] It’s hard when you take that alcohol away, you’re like, ‘OK, where do I start and how do I make it interesting, and how do I make it balanced?’”
Enter: the alcohol-free base, like Seedlip, providing a starting point to play with. But even if you don’t use a Seedlip product, this is great advice when reframing your thinking about NA cocktails, at home or at a bar.
What the Heck is a Non-Alcoholic Spirit, Anyway?
So, if there is no alcohol in it, how can Seedlip be called a spirit? It’s not quite as confusing as it seems at first:
“We want people to understand that it is the base of the drink […] it’s not a mixer, it’s not a modifier. […] And also to just pay homage to the fact that there is distillation in our process of making the liquid. […] We are distilling, we’re using really quality ingredients, it takes a lot of time, there’s a lot of care that goes into the liquid itself.” — Laura Lashley
The Bottom line: It’s a distilled, complex base spirit without the alcohol content.
Changing The Conversation
With the rise in popularity of non-alcoholic cocktails (I can’t really call them “spirit-free” if Seedlip is a spirit, right?), bartenders, bars, restaurants, and consumers definitely have to start rethinking their approach. No matter the ingredients you’re using, Laura offers great advice about how to tackle the daunting task of making a delicious, sophisticated booze-free cocktail for adults:
“Thinking about what people like in their drinks, not just thinking about if it’s going to get them drunk, I think the same principles apply. So really using unusual flavors for inspiration or flavors that you’re passionate about for inspiration and then paying attention to all the little details of the guest experience I think really makes people feel special […] being able to extend that hospitality to people that aren’t drinking and really make them feel welcome and feel that they just got as much of an expression of your craft and your bar program as anyone else would have.”
Remember, just because a guest isn’t drinking alcohol doesn’t mean they shouldn’t receive the full experience of your bar! And the same goes for at-home enthusiasts who want a little break from the booze. Here are a few other tips that Laura has to offer about creating an NA drink menu:
Tips for Creating a Non Alcoholic Drink Menu
- Use beautiful glasswares that complement the cocktail, just as you would with alcoholic drinks.
- Don’t just shove the non-alcoholic drink options in the back of your menu with the “kiddie” section. This really affects customer (and staff) psychology.
Side note: I know I’ve mentioned them before, but we dined at Jeune et Jolie in Carlsbad back in January, and they present their “sans spirit” cocktails at the very beginning of their menu– and they feature Seedlip! It actually encouraged a few people in our party to order these options instead of alcoholic drinks because they were so prominently featured.
- However you’re creating your non-alcoholic cocktails, be thoughtful in considering what you’re guests will enjoy and put the love and pride you would into an alcoholic version.
If you are going to feature Seedlip products in your beverage program, I must say that it is a really cool option for sparking creativity because a Seedlip base is just as intricate (if not more so in some cases!) as an alcoholic spirit.
Seedlip offers three varieties of spirits– but don’t ask what alcohols they compare to! The creators of Seedlip don’t like to categorize them as “the gin one” or the “whiskey one” because ( as Laura points out) any time you call something a faux version of something else, you’re setting yourself up for customers to be disappointed. But if you really must know how they compare, listen to minute 18:14 for Laura’s somewhat reluctant explanation of where they fall in the alcohol families.
- Garden 108: Containing peas, hay, rosemary, spearmint, thyme, hops, Garden offers a savory flavor that pairs well with a variety of ingredients, including sweeter options to berries and mint.
- Grove 42: This light, citrus option includes blood orange, bitter orange, mandarin orange, lemon, lemongrass, and ginger (Seedlip only uses the peels of the citrus, so this gives an earthy quality, not a juicy one).
- Spice 94: This aromatic spirit gets its warm, earthy elements from Jamacian allspice berries, green cardamom, lemon, grapefruit, american oakbark, and cascarilla bark.
While Seedlip’s primary goal is to provide non-alcoholic options with their bases, Laura finds that a lot of bartenders are using them to also create low-ABV cocktails. The really cool thing about Seedlip is that they are all sugar-free, so you can layer other ingredients on top (like vermouth or sherry) without adding more sugar! Check out Laura’s tips on how to use Seedlip and her favorite drink suggestions at 24:00 and 27:00.
Don’t Forget That Non-Alcoholic Cocktails are Viable!
I think the biggest takeaway from Laura’s interview is that, no matter what products you use or how you do it, approach alcohol-free cocktails with respect and creativity, just as you would any other cocktail in your beverage program or that you’d make at home:
“Just because you’re not drinking doesn’t mean you don’t want that 5 pm end of workday drink, that aperitif, or that before-dinner drink or after-dinner drink. So we’re really trying to kind of bring some new tools or new occasions into the conversation so that there’s just more fun stuff to play with.” –Laura Lashley
And if you do want to try incorporating Seedlip into your cocktails, they have some top-secret things coming our way, so definitely stay tuned for those announcements. They are also launching a sister company called Aecorn, a line of grape-based, non-alcoholic aperitifs (I can’t wait to try this!).
I can’t wait to hear what booze-free cocktails you’re serving up these days, whether you’re using Seedlip or not– come join us over in our Facebook group for great conversation and inspiration. And then head over to our shop to grab any tools you need for making your delicious concoctions, boozy or otherwise!
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