Some epicures may have encountered sophisticated mocktail mixology on high-end menus, but typically, the mention of cocktails sans alcohol conjures up images of virgin Strawberry Daiquiris from childhood. Beyond opting for water or the slightly more inconspicuous club soda with lime, there haven’t been many good ways for the adult palate to stay sober in social settings in the past.
Two interesting new products now offer a solution by bringing cocktail culture to the world of the mocktail. There’s Curious Elixirs—a complex, savory drink in an adorable brown bottle recently kick started through the online crowd-funding service—and Seedlip, a distilled spirit with no alcohol content currently making its way across the pond from the U.K. Both concoctions are only available in the U.S. by ordering online right now, but the minds behind both companies see sophisticated, complex non-alcoholic options in bars as part of an impending and inevitable future.
Seedlip, which mimics gin in that it is distilled in a copper still and is best served mixed with tonic, is already on menus at numerous high-end cocktail bars, restaurants and hotels in England. “It’s a fundamental human need to want to belong, to feel part of, which if you’re not drinking and others are, can often leave you feeling left out and with a drink that is simply sweet and fruity,” says Seedlip founder Ben Branson. “Seedlip offers the same rituals as a spirit/mixer or cocktail without the alcohol but with more appropriate and adult flavours than juice or soda.”
Branson says he didn’t initially set out to create an alternative for sober people or even a business. “Whilst looking into heirloom herbs and spices to grow at home, I found a book written in 1651 that documented distilled herbal remedies that were non-alcoholic and out of sheer curiosity bought a little copper still and began experimenting in my kitchen,” he says. Clearly, though, this tinkering with archaic methods produced something viable for the modern world.
Curious Elixirs co-founder Ashley Simon echoed his sentiment about the need for those abstaining from alcohol to have a mature, tasty replacement for cocktails. “I can really relate to the experience and wanting to be out and be social at these networking events, but not necessarily wanting to drink or wanting to drink very much. And just sort of just wanting something to have in your hands and wanting something that actually tastes really good and is delicious and feels like a nightlife drink and not water,” she says. Her enthusiasm for the idea led her to join forces with bar owner John Wiseman, who had the initial idea for Curious Elixirs after his mocktails gained popularity among friends at his parties.
As far as the future of products like these, it’s hard to say just yet how popular they will become, but Branson and Simon both cite a host of positive responses as an indicator that people who want to stay sober—whether for life or for one night only—are a neglected market.
“We’ve received countless messages through Kickstarter from people just saying how excited they are about it, whether they’re sober or their spouse is sober or they’re pregnant, or whatever the case may be, there’s just been a lot of really positive responses from people saying, ‘I’m so glad someone has finally done this,’” says Simon.