Seedlip Founder Ben Branson On Why Non-Alcoholic Drinks Are In

Seedlip Founder Ben Branson On Why Non-Alcoholic Drinks Are In

Seedlip, the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirit, landed in Hong Kong earlier this year with a four-day pop-up at Taste of Hong Kong. Since the brand’s launch in London in 2015, Seedlip has taken off in 16 cities around the globe: it has gained attention with Michelin-starred and luxury establishments and continues to grow momentum as more and more young people turn away from alcohol whether for work or wellness. Ben Branson, the founder of Seedlip, and one of the Daily Telegraph’s ‘Top 50 Most Influential People in Food and Drink’ and recipient of the ‘Young Achiever of The Year Award’ by The Drinks Business, chats to Compare Retreats about drinking trends and what to pair with your Seedlip drink ahead of the latest Hong Kong pop-up N o l o® by Seedlip.

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Seedlip Founder Ben Branson | Image courtesy of Seedlip

What gave you the idea for Seedlip? Seedlip didn’t begin as a business idea at all. Whilst looking into heirloom herbs and spices to grow at home, I found a book written in 1651 called ‘The Art of Distillation’ that documented distilled herbal remedies that were non-alcoholic…. and so out of sheer curiosity I bought a little copper still and began experimenting in my kitchen at home.

Three months later I was out for a meal, wasn’t drinking, and asked the waitress what non-alcoholic options they had. The pink sugary mocktail I was offered was the moment all the dots joined, and I decided to do something about it and then spent two years bringing Seedlip to launch.

What’s the ideal food pairing for Seedlip? Typically non-alcoholic options have overpowered food with their sweetness and artificial flavour, but given that Seedlip is sugar-free, artificial flavour-free and plant forward, both our spirits pair very well with food. The brightness of Seedlip Garden works perfectly with fish, salad and white meat dishes and Seedlip Spice, with its earthiness, is a great match for dark meat, stews and desserts.

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Seedlip Spice 94 | Image courtesy of Rob Lawson

Where has Seedlip been most successful? I launched Seedlip in London’s Selfridges in 2015 and the UK is still our leading market, but we are seeing exciting growth in Hong Kong, Australia and our Scandinavian markets too. We are fortunate to be championed by some of the most celebrated bartenders and Michelin starred Chefs around the globe and today are served in over 16 International cities, supported by a team of 60 employees with offices in the UK and recently Los Angeles.

When you are drinking, what do you go for? I don’t drink alcohol but a recent favourite we made with Seedlip consisted of Seedlip Spice 94 and homemade Black Cardamom and Vanilla Soda, a great balance of smoke, sweetness and spice!

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Seedlip Founder Ben Branson is passionate about drink design and nature | Image courtesy of Brian Whar

Why do you think more people are turning to alcohol-free options on a night out? Trend-wise, there is definitely a growing acceptance that better non-alcoholic options need to be considered and offered but it’s still such early days. Globally we are at the beginning of a paradigm shift in the role drinks play in people’s lives with a number of bigger cultural forces at work that means the timing and need for quality, adult non-alcoholic options have certainly never been more relevant.

“A 2017 research survey by EventBrite found that 7 out of 10 millennials would rather brag about how long it’s been since their last drink than about how much they last drunk.”

People are increasingly mindful of what they put in their bodies, where their food and drink comes from, and the curation of their social media “public” profiles. These are all societal shifts at work that impact whether we want to drink alcohol or not and are resulting in us drinking less, but drinking better, favouring more meaningful experiences over functional “let’s go out to drink” evenings which do force a recalibration of our relationship with alcohol.

Where can people buy Seedlip in Hong Kong? PDT, Meats, Potato Head, The Pawn, The Old Man, COA, VEA, Otto E Mezzo, Beet, and Employees Only all serve brilliant Seedlip cocktails. You can also buy bottles to enjoy at home at The HK Liquor Store, The Bottle Shop, Kapok and Oliver’s.

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Seedlip N o l o Cocktail Bar – African Safari | Image courtesy of Seedlip

What’s next for Seedlip? We have a lot of exciting projects in the pipeline for the rest of this year. On Monday 23rd July 2018, we are launching the third Spirit in the Seedlip family in the UK. Grove 42 is a celebration of the Orange; an adult, citrus blend of copper-pot distillates including Bitter Orange, Mandarin, Blood Orange, Lemongrass, Ginger and Lemon.

The launch of Grove 42 follows a string of innovation within the non-alcoholic category from Seedlip,including a limited edition dark Seedlip Spirit for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards, the world’s first ever NOgroni® made with 22 different ingredients, and a ground-breaking and inclusive global bar concept, N o l o® by Seedlip, which focuses on the ingredients & flavour of a cocktail rather than the alcohol content.

We are two years old now and I’m in awe of what we have achieved so where we’ll be in another two years… I’m ready to be amazed and just so grateful to be working with such a wonderfully driven team who are committed to changing the way the world drinks.

Find out more about Seedlip on seedlipdrinks.com and sample their mocktails for yourself at the N o l o® by Seedlip pop-up at The Old Man Hong Kong on the evenings of Tuesday 24th and Wednesday 25th July.

Rebecca Cairns

Editor & CCO

Hong Kong-based writer and editor Rebecca Cairns helped develop Compare Retreats from concept to creation as founding editor and has formerly written on travel and wellness with Hong Kong Tatler and The Culture Trip. Her editorial work has taken her all around the world and she is a qualified NASM personal trainer and an avid runner. When she's not travelling, she's planning her next trip, taking hikes to the beach or scribbling away in boutique coffee shops. You can follow her travels on Instagram @jetsetcreate.

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