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Q&A: the founder of Seedlip

What was the origin of Seedlip?

My family have been farmers in Lincolnshire, England, for 320 years and I grew up around nature. I was always into herbs and vegetables but wanted to grow something more interesting than rosemary, so I searched the internet and came across a medicinal recipe book for apothecaries called The Art of Distillation by John French. Ever the tinkerer, I bought a copper still [an apparatus used to distill liquid mixtures] and started playing around with distillation in my kitchen.

A few months later, I was out in London one night not drinking and was offered a monstrosity of a fruity, pink, sugary mocktail. It didn’t go with the amazing food or fit the occasion. I thought that if I was disappointed in the options available if you’re not drinking alcohol, then other people must be too. [I thought] that maybe there was something I could make from the distilling I was doing that would combine my farming heritage and my dad’s design and branding business [Pearlfisher], so I began experimenting with different ingredients.

How long did it take to go from a hobby to launching the company?

In my naïve bliss of never having launched a product before, I thought I could do it in six months. That turned into two years of hard work building extraction and filtration processes, plus sourcing all the ingredients. When we finally launched in [British department store] Selfridges, I was incredibly tired and had no idea what was going to happen—but then the first thousand bottles sold out in three weeks. Suddenly all these amazing bars, restaurants, and hotels were calling—we even got invited to make cocktails at Buckingham Palace.

Why do you think there is a demand for nonalcoholic drinks right now?

There’s been this shift in attitude and behavior all across the world [about] how we are living our lives. We have unprecedented access to information that’s led to a significant rise in health and wellness awareness, and trends have skyrocketed from that.

How does that relate back to Seedlip?

Seedlip is aimed at someone who drinks but is not drinking that day, week, or month so you really do get to this ‘what do I drink when I’m not drinking?’ dilemma. It is about offering great choice without attaching any stigma to why you’re not drinking.

What is Seedlip made of?

We have three varieties: Spice 94, which is very aromatic with Jamaican allspice berries, cardamom, and grapefruit peel; Garden 108 has a lot of plants from my farm like spearmint, rosemary, and thyme; and Grove 42, which is a celebration of citrus—bitter orange, mandarin, blood orange, lemongrass, ginger, and lemon. None of them contain sugar, sweetener, artificial flavors, or calories.

What are your own wellness habits like?

I hardly drink alcohol or eat meat, but I don’t classify myself as teetotal or vegetarian. I’m a big fan of uncomplicated cooking—celebrating great ingredients where good food is simply put together really well. I do a lot of walking when I’m in the U.K. as I have two dogs and it’s the best excuse to see as much of the English countryside as possible. I also practice some mediation and yoga.

What’s next for Seedlip?

I’m building an experimental plant nursery and research laboratory in a 19th-century grain store on my farm, which is set to open later this year. Once the project is complete, it will boast a drinks lab, tasting room, and a walled garden allowing us to create our own microclimate. We’ll explore a range of plants from the forgotten fruits of the Medlar Mespilus germanica to apple varieties dating back to the 17th century such as Ashmeads Kernel. By starting from the soil up and using regenerative agricultural methods, we expect to see an improvement in not only flavor but also an increase in the nutrient uptake.

Then, we have a line of nonalcoholic apéritifs launching to give bartenders and people at home more exciting options to work with. We’ve also partnered with the Mercedes-Benz Formula 1 team to promote what to drink when you are driving, so Seedlip cocktails will be served at all 21 Grand Prix races.

This interview has been edited for publication.