Seedlip is a brand of distilled, non-alcoholic botanical spirit, like gin¹ but without the alcohol and juniper. Did I hear you exclaim ‘What!’? Quite!
I chose Seedlip Spice 94 as an alternative last time I was offered alcohol on a flight well before my idea of lunch time. ‘A complex blend of spice and citrus’ sounded just up my street and it’s sugar- and sweetener-free too. When asked what I wanted to drink with it², I confessed my ignorance and was handed a can of Fevertree tonic.
Curious, I sipped the Seedlip neat. That’s not what we are supposed to do and if you try it, you’ll see why. My first thought was clove.³
Gradually I poured in all the tonic, but the overwhelming taste was still clove – a serious taste: hefty but medicinal. All-but-forgotten memories of oil of cloves being administered for a sore tooth drifted into mind.
Cadging another tonic, I continued to dilute it until the spice did not predominate. It didn’t need too much more.
The trouble is, when the spice is dialled right back, the taste is subtle. Essentially, you’re drinking a flavoured tonic you can make more or less spicy to taste. It does have a bit more weight than tonic alone and, with time on my hands, I felt inclined to wonder over it. I could taste the acidity but felt it was more chemical than fruity. With a magic wand, I’d have taken out the acid and added rhubarb, or a good squeeze of lime. As it was, mashing up the slice of lemon released its flavour.
So is Seedlip worth its luxury price tag of around £28 per full sized bottle? I’d love to say a wholehearted ‘Yes!’ as a really interesting, tasty, grown up, non-alcoholic option would help the world go round in the right way. But for me, the answer is no. Not at all.
Seedlip Spice 94 lacks the radiance, resonance and heft that you’re probably hoping for when trying out a spirit replacement. It has none of the warming, animating power that brings an extra dimension to a drink made with a spirit.
If you don’t like to drink alcohol, I’d be surprised if you want it. If you do like an alcoholic drink, it’s a gesture in that direction – an indulgence. Part treat, part trick.
Diluted right down, I found it not unpleasant, but not much better than drinking tonic. It’s only fair to say I was in the air where our taste buds are not on top form: perhaps Seedlip would be more exciting on the ground.
But my quest for an interesting, non-alcoholic, grown up evening drink (one that does not break the bank and is not loaded with sugar or sugar substitutes) continues. If you have any favourites, or if you think I’ve been unfair to Seedlip, let me know your perspective.
During lockdown, like many, I decided that alcohol was strictly speaking, a luxury, not an essential, which is why my attention turned to substitutes. While I’m waiting for a rash moment to experiment, my current favourite evening treat is sparkling water with frozen raspberries, that can be jazzed up with a sprig of herbs, stem ginger or lime. Still water works fine too. It’s a pink drink that makes me feel good.
¹ On Amazon, Seedlip comments: ‘We do not liken ourselves to a gin as often this leads to confusion and disappointment.’ The term ‘spirit’, which they do use, is the issue. ‘Spirit’ is defined as ‘a strong distilled alcoholic drink’, which makes ‘distilled non-alcoholic spirit’ a weird mix of tautology and oxymoron. Seedlip seem to be relying on an archaic use: ‘a solution of volatile components extracted from something’.
² The recommended way to serve Seedlip is:
50ml Seedlip Spice 94
125 ml of Fever-Tree Indian tonic or Fever-Tree Ginger Ale
Garnish with a twist of pink grapefruit peel
I suggest adding a good squeeze of citrus.
³ Surprisingly, the ingredient list does not include clove:
Seedlip Spice 94 is blend of allspice berries, cardamom, grapefruit and lemon peel, American oak & cascarilla bark. (I’ve seen pimento berries from Jamaica listed too.)