Try an alcohol-free cocktail, because not every drink has to pack a 3-oz punch

By / Wine + Drinks / February 20th, 2018 / 1

Even if few of us follow through on every single New Year’s resolution, it’s still a great time of year to nudge our habits in the direction of moderation. Not every meal needs to be a T-bone. And not every drink has to pack a three-ounce punch.

Problem is, though, a lot of people have gotten used to the taste of potent, spirit-forward cocktails. It’s hard to replace that with a cran soda. But we may not have to endure that for much longer, thanks to a legion of bartenders who are taking on the challenge of creating tasty non-alcoholic cocktails, as well as products for the home consumer, such as Seedlip, the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic “spirit.”

Seedlip is closer to gin or aquavit than whisky, so the first instinct for many of us will be to use it in a mock G&T. But that’s child’s play. We asked Katherine Boushel of Montreal’s Atwater Cocktail Club to explain what it is and help us come up with a more interesting application for this “spirit.”

“I was lucky enough to meet the founder of Seedlip, Ben Branson, at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans,” says Boushel. “Since he doesn’t drink, he was frustrated by the lack of good non-alcoholic options at restaurants, so he set out to make his own. You know, something that resembles a classic cocktail with all its complexity but without the alcohol.”

Boushel explains that Seedlip comes in two flavours, Garden 108 and Spice 94, which are, as you would expect, herbaceous and spicy, respectively. Its success in the United Kingdom, where it was first launched, is the stuff of legend (the third release sold out in under an hour). It’s got a good following in Canada, too, following a fall release. It’s even on the back bar at a few cocktail joints these days, in response to bartender enthusiasm for interesting alternatives to the much-derided mocktail. “I think the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Nacarat has it behind the bar,” Boushel says.

She notes that customer demand for this type of drink is definitely on the rise. “Last night, I had a table of three, and two of them were just drinking non-alcoholic drinks,” says Bushel. “And sometimes it’s just that it’s the end of the night and you want to join in on one last round but you know you shouldn’t.”

Add to this pregnancy, religion and driving, plus personal and health reasons, and it’s easy to see that bars have been making a mistake by not paying more attention to this burgeoning market. Especially in months like January and February, when even the most enthusiastic drinkers often take a break. Boushel points out that there are several “Sober February” campaigns, including a very popular one in Quebec. Now that’s a thought.

Garfunkel’s Twist

Boushel advises using Fee Brothers bitters for non-alcoholic cocktails because the entire line is alcohol-free.

2 oz Seedlip Garden 108
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz lavender-cranberry syrup (see below)
1 egg white
3 dashes Fee Brothers Black Walnut bitters

Add first four ingredients to an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake well for 45 seconds. Fine strain into a chilled coupe glass, then add the bitters.

lavender-cranberry syrup

To make this syrup, combine in a saucepan 1 cup sugar with 1 cup organic cranberry juice and 2 tbsp dried lavender flowers. Gently bring to a slow simmer, heating until the sugar is dissolved. Cool for 1 hour, then strain, bottle and refrigerate for up to 1 month.


Christine Sismondo is a National Magazine Award-Winning drinks columnist and the author of Mondo Cocktail: A Shaken and Stirred History as well as America Walks into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops.

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