Meet the People: Ben Branson, Founder of Seedlip

Back in 2015, Cocktails & Bars brought you the news about a new non-alcoholic spirit from the UK which was set to revolutionise drinking by providing a solution to “what to drink when you’re not drinking”. Seedlip, the world’s first non-alcoholic distilled spirit is now available in Australia.

Ben Branson Seedlip

During his visit to Sydney, we caught up with Seedlip Founder, Ben Branson to talk about a unique spirit that has already caught international attention and has taken a coveted spot at some of the world’s best bars.

Tell us a little about yourself and how/why you started Seedlip.

My name is Ben, I’m the Founder of Seedlip.

Seedlip’s story actually begins in the 17th century when apothecaries were distilling both alcoholic and non-alcoholic herbal remedies. In 2013 whilst researching herbs to grow at home, I came across a book written in 1651 called The Art of Distillation that documented these remedies. Out of curiosity I began experimenting with a little copper still in my kitchen and two years later hand-bottled and hand-labelled 1000 bottles and they sold out in just 3 weeks!

Starting Seedlip was the perfect opportunity to bring together my mother’s 300 year farming heritage and my father’s brand design expertise to solve the dilemma of what to drink when you’re not drinking and rid the world of poor, fruity and sweet mocktails.

Seedlip is the world’s first non-alcoholic distilled spirit that’s calorie free, sugar and sweetener free. Can you explain how a spirit can be non-alcoholic.

It takes 6 weeks to make a bottle of Seedlip Garden 108 or Seedlip Spice 94. We have developed a coveted, bespoke process for each individual plant we work with to capture its true character. This begins with sourcing the best produce some of which comes directly from my farm, through to a cold extraction by macerating the plants individually in specific ratios of neutral grain spirit and water for just the right amount of time before the individual mash is distilled in a copper pot still, the alcohol content removed and the distillate of the plant collected. The 6 individual distillates are then cold compound blended, filtered and bottled.

How is Seedlip crafted?

I love peas. We have been growing them as a family since Clarence Birdseye invented the freezer in the 1920’s and are now handpicking our pods each harvest that go from field to freezer in 90 minutes before they are then distilled and used in Seedlip Garden 108. It takes on average 108 days to sow grow and pick our peas before they even see a still and as I write this, I am preparing to visit our All-Spice farmer in Jamaica for the harvest there.

How has the product been received since you launched in London in November 2015?

From hand labelling as a one man company to now selling Seedlip in 10 of the most dynamic food and drink cities in the world, being served in over 80 Michelin star restaurants, the three best cocktail bars in the world and now being available in Australia in a prestigious retailer like David Jones, it’s nothing short of surreal!

Seedlip currently has 2 product lines in the range, Seedlip Spice 94 and Seedlip Garden 108. Can you describe their flavour profiles and how they can best be used in non-alcoholic drinks aside from the signature serve with tonic water.

Seedlip Garden 108 is a herbal blend of pea & hay distillates from my farm combined with rosemary and thyme, spearmint and hops. Green, vegetal and best mixed. With its bright green character, Garden 108 makes great Sour or Collins style drinks.

Seedlip Spice 94 is an aromatic blend of Jamaican all-spice berry, cardamom, citrus peel and two bark [oak & cascarilla] distillates. Warm, woody and best mixed. Spice 94 makes great martini style serves using shrubs and verjus and works well with kombucha as a mixer.

Our approach is to seek out the more interesting ingredient options beyond juices and are finding that brines, teas, vinegars and salts all can play their part in creating complex and adult flavour profiles.

With the growing trend of low ABV drinks, where do you see Seedlip positioned? 

The trend for low and no is certainly picking up pace and I think whether you aren’t drinking alcohol for whatever reason or you are wanting to drink a little less then there is a place for high quality options of both no & low drinks.

The Ritz Hotel in London actually serve a Seedlip NA cocktail and a different Seedlip Low ABV cocktail.

What are some of the more inventive drinks that bartenders around the world have created with Seedlip?

The American Bar at The Savoy has 5 Seedlip cocktails on their new menu. Their ‘Sherwood Forest’ cocktail includes Lemon-infused Seedlip Garden, Kefir, Gooseberry Jam, Egg white and Sorrel.

Dandelyan was one of our first champions and their Million Dollar Smile uses Seedlip Spice, roasted sweet potato, off-cut cordial and grass. And Alex Kratena presented an amazing Seedlip Garden in celebration of Great British Pea Week – SNAP – Seedlip Garden, Buttermilk Shrub, Sugar Snap Syrup and Timut Peppercorns.

And I have been working on the ultimate NOgroni now for 6 months!

Have there been any challenges in working with a non-alcoholic spirit?

Can we change the way the world drinks by creating a revolutionary product that has no alcohol, no sugar or sweetener, uses real ingredients and sits on the back bar not in the fridge? A scary dream that took two years working the distillers, botanists and historians with many challenges on the way.

“What’s the point?”

“You’re crazy.”

“Our minimum runs are 50,000 bottles.”

“I would stick to your day job – this will never sell a bottle.”

You name it. I’ve probably heard it or thought it!

Are there any future plans for Seedlip that you can share with us.

My team are an incredible group of people and the capacity we now have as a business to drive Seedlip forward means there are so many upcoming exciting things. To name a few, we have two new products in the pipeline, we recently announced our partnership with World’s 50 Best Bars and World’s 50 Best Restaurants and I am really excited about coming back to Australia in October to hold launch events in Melbourne and Sydney!

Seedlip is available in 700 ml bottles through David Jones and online at a RRP $49.95.

In partnership with Think Spirits, distributors of Seedlip in Australia.

Photo Credit: Supplied

Meet the People: Ben Branson, Founder of Seedlip was last modified: September 14th, 2017 by Corinne Mossati
Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of Cocktails & Bars and popular online magazine Gourmantic. She is named in the Australian Bartender Magazine Top 100 Most Influential List since 2013, is a member of The World’s 50 Best Bars Academy who judges the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions. Read the full bio here.