Seedlip's Guide to the best non-alcoholic bars in London
In a city like London, where pubs are around every corner and everyone seems to be finding every excuse to indulge in a little Tipple - where can a non-drinking adult go for a drink? This dilemma, along with a fateful combination of farming heritage and natural alchemy, is what led Ben Branson to create Seedlip - with the mission of using the natural world to change the way we drink.
What started with series of experiments in Ben’s home kitchen, using only a small copper still & his very own garden herbs, has now become a worldwide revolution for the way we drink — with Ben Branson and Seedlip at the forefront of it all. Stocked in over 25 countries and in some of the world’s leading restaurants, bars, and hotels — it seems that Seedlip is leading a paradigm shift in how we, as a society, are consuming alcohol. Dry January may be coming to an end, but if you’re planning to turn Dry January into Dry rest of the year — then let Ben Branson and Seedlip show you how.
How did the idea for Seedlip come to be? (We heard it had something to do with alchemy, a book from 1651, and a farm in Lincolnshire?)
All of the above!
The idea for Seedlip came as a combination of wanting to continue my family’s 300 year old legacy of working with the land, my love of old books and natural history, finding old book online written in 1651 that detailed non-alcoholic herbal remedies, and my disappointment at what was on offer in terms of non-alcoholic drinks!
Your ethos is all about “working with the natural world to change the way the world drinks!” - Do you think that non-alcoholic drinks are the future?
Trend wise, there is definitely a growing acceptance that better non-alcoholic options need to be offered. Seedlip is just three years old and the signs have been really positive so far. We now work in some of the best bars, restaurants, hotels, and retailers in over 25 countries. Globally, I think we are at the beginning of a paradigm shift in how people drink, with bigger cultural forces at work making non-alcoholic options are more relevant than ever.
Tell us about Spice 94, Garden 108, and Grove 42 - what makes each one unique and do you have a favourite?
There are three products in the range that all pair beautifully with Fever Tree tonic water, especially when served over ice & a good garnish! My favourite? It changes depending on my mood. Today, it’s Seedlip Grove 42 and Fever Tree’s Clementine tonic.
Seedlip Spice 94 is aromatic and woody with a great warm spice and citrus character. Seedlip Garden 108 is bright and fresh using English peas from my farm, and Seedlip Grove 42 is zesty and complex, with three kinds of orange, lemongrass, ginger and Japanese sansho peppercorns.
You grew up in your family farm in Lincolnshire, and a lot of your ingredients for Seedlip is sourced there. Are there any Less Ordinary inns or hotels in Lincolnshire that you could recommend for our readers?
The peas and hay that we use in Seedlip Garden 108 come from our own farm. Our team do an annual pea pick there every year - 12 hours on hands and knees but well worth it!
Winteringham Fields is an amazing restaurant from Colin Mcgurran, as is Jews House in Lincoln. It is a 900 year old Grade I listed structure, dating back to around 1150; and is thought to be the oldest dwelling house in Europe.
Seedlip has loads of lovely Stockists all over London. Where do you recommend we go for non-alcoholic drinks in London?
Great question. Here are my top ten: Dandelyan, The American Bar at The Savoy, Petersham Nurseries, Nightjar, The Clove Club, Kym’s Restaurant, Daylesford, The Coral Room, The NED, Kerridge’s Bar & Grill
Are there any London hidden gems that you’ve discovered recently that you’d like to share with us?
Chelsea Physic Garden holds a pretty special significance to me. It was opened in 1673, just 22 years after The Art of Distillation was published in London. It was the book that I found detailing how apothecaries distilled non-alcoholic remedies, which eventually gave birth to Seedlip. We held the launch event for Seedlip at the Chelsea Physic Garden back in 2015 serving non-alcoholic martinis to bartenders at 9am! It’s a gem.
Are there any places in London that are in your hit-list that you haven’t had a chance to check out yet?
There are so many, but here’s a few that spring to mind: Fam Bar, Mint Gun Club, Brat, A Wong, and Gunpowder. I still am yet to go to iconic places like the River Café!
Whats your favourite city that you’ve travelled to and why? Could you name either a hotel/bar/restaurant that’s made an impact?
I’m gonna go for San Francisco & the incredible work of Kyle and Katina Connaughton. They were one of our first stockists in the US and have created the most amazing experience at their restaurant and farm Single Thread. They also share an unadulterated love of peas like me! Their Seedlip non-alcoholic pairing menu blew my mind!
Seedlip is such a disruptive concept and you’ve certainly made waves in such a short amount of time too. Now what’s next?
When you’re a one man band hand labelling bottles in your kitchen, packing them into boxes and then putting them in the back of your car, delivering them, then standing in a shop as I did in Selfridges in London for four hours each day, then serving Seedlip cocktails at events in the evening, and then going home and doing it all again…It’s both bloody hard and exhilarating!
I never dreamt that 3 years later, Seedlip would be in over 25 countries. It’s just been surreal and further proof of the need for high quality non-alcoholic options! We have an incredibly exciting year ahead and I still feel like we are just scratching the surface. We want to continue to lead and expand the category and will be launching a sister brand to Seedlip called Æcorn Aperitifs in the spring. We are also building an apothecary laboratory and experimental plant nursery on my farm, which will be run by our Head of Horticulture.
Interview by Hannah Tan-Gillies
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