Seedlip Garden 108 Flay Lay.
Seedlip Garden 108 Flay Lay.
Image: Rob Lawson

Sampling sobriety has been around since the first hangover from a fermented fruit or vegetable. Dry January, first developed in 1942 as a part of the Finnish war effort (don’t ask which side they were on) is a month to reduce alcohol consumption in a way that is not overwhelming. Numerous governments, companies and organisations have pushed this cleansing month ever since.

Saving money, losing weight and the lack of hangovers seems absolutely ideal until you’re standing empty-handed on a night out. Truman & Orange, a premium local liquor distributor, has three nonalcoholic spirits available for the SA market; Seedlip, Abstinence and Fluére, offering an alternative to alcohol or sickly-sweet soft drinks.

Rowan Leibbrandt, co-founder of Truman & Orange says, “our experience with these nonalcoholic products is that they tend to be drunk by people who are drinkers. The vast majority of folks who choose these spirits are those who enjoy two gin and tonics and don’t want to have a third. These products exist in the drinking world, just at the margin, taking some of the alcohol out of a big night, or week, of drinking.”

Nonalcoholic spirits are layered and sophisticated spirits that are distilled, like their alcoholic counterparts, and have the depth and “punch” to stand apart from tonic and mixers. Truman & Orange filled a gap in the market in 2013, becoming an African solution to the international gin boom and providing an alternative to the monopolistic staples clustering liquor shelves.

Leibbrandt says that “the gin boom encouraged many people to try spirits that had previously been limited to cocktail bars. Gin went from being your grandma’s drink to your girlfriend’s drink of choice. Nonalcoholic spirits could have only happened after this space had been created, a very natural movement following the trends of people trying to be healthier and make better choices.”

The flavours, packaging and presentation of Gin has brought the cocktail bar into the home. The movement from a whiskey and cigar, or Klippies and a braai, towards gorgeous glasses (thanks Spar for the 2019 promotion), rosemary sprigs and complex notes of juniper, has opened up our palates and wallets to other profound spirits.

Inspired by the biodiversity of the Cape Floral Kingdom, the local nonalcoholic spirit and aperitif, Abstinence, is made using a proprietary artisanal single batch distillation process similar to craft gin-making. The botanicals are extracted by maceration and infusion and distilled with the same distilling equipment used in gin making, but without alcohol for extraction. In 2021, Abstinence, with no added sweeteners or colourants, won double gold and gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2021 and the UK Spirits Business No and Low Masters 2021, respectively.

“They [non-alcoholic spirits] add diversity and more options so that when you aren’t drinking you don’t have to compromise on flavour or ingredients. Mixologists can experiment with mixers, garnish and flavour combinations to create perfectly balanced cocktails, just as they would with an alcoholic spirit. The taste and drinking experience are so comparable that it’s possible to switch between alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks easily,” says Leibbrandt.

Abstinence is available worldwide but can be purchased locally at Pick n Pay, Takealot, Yuppie Chef and Woolworths.

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