Review & Recipes for NA Spirits & Botanical Elixirs


The world of NA Spirits and Botanical Elixirs can be a little overwhelming to navigate, to say the least. It feels like a new one enters the market everyday.


The following are my personal tasting notes and reviews on the many I've tried thus far, along with some application and recipes, as appropriate. As a consultant and mixologist, I wanted to provide my two cents on how best to use them.


SEEDLIP

The NA Spirit that sparked a global trend. Originating in London, this has made its way through the London Bar scene over the last 4-5 years. It finally made its way into the US market a couple of years ago and is now gaining a lot of steam. Purchased by Diageo, I expect this product to continue to gain momentum, being able to take advantage of the distribution it already has in place with their spirit portfolio.


Seedlip is not trying to “mimic” a particular spirit category, rather, their products are more botanical focused. For bartenders that haven’t used it before, they may not quite know what to do with it until they start to mix with it or are given a little guidance.


Seedlip Garden

Made from peas, hay, rosemary and thyme. The nose is pretty aromatic with notes of pine, black pepper, mint and rosemary.

How to use: Mimics some botanicals in gin. Great in savory drinks.

Recommended Mocktails: Bloody Mary, Tonic Water, Southside, Muddled herb & cucumber drinks


Celery Cucumber Gimlet

1.5 oz Seedlip Garden

0.75 oz lime juice

0.75 oz simple syrup

4 cucumber slices

Half a celery stalk, cut into slices

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the celery and cucumber with the lime juice and simple syrup. Add the Seedlip Garden. Top with ice and shake vigorously. Double strain into a salted rimmed glass (optional celery salt).


Seedlip Grove

Made from orange, lemon, lemongrass and ginger. Aromatics of blood orange, ginger and lemon peel.

How to use: Citrus-forward drinks. Highballs & Sours.

Recommended Mocktails: Tonic, Ginger Ale / Ginger Beer, Cosmo


Citrus Crush Cosmo

2 oz Seedlip Grove

2 navel orange chunks

0.75 oz lemon juice

0.75 oz simple syrup

1 oz cranberry juice

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the orange chunks with the lemon juice and simple syrup. Add the Seedlip Grove and cranberry juice. Top with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into cocktail glass.




Seedlip Spice

Made from a blend of allspice, cardamom, subtle grapefruit. Aromatics are over-the-top allspice.

How to use: Tropical drinks, Creamy drinks (i.e. nogs, coladas), Highballs, Coffee

Recommended Drinks: Mai Tai, Pina Colada, Cold Brew Old Fashioned


Cold Brew No Fashioned

1.5 oz Seedlip Spice

2 oz cold brew coffee

0.5 oz simple syrup

3 dashes Angostura biters

In mixing glass, combine all the ingredients with ice. Stir well. Strain over a large format ice cube. Garnish with star anise.


FREE SPIRIT

Based in California, they’ve really tried to mimic specific spirit categories by isolating some of the common flavors and botanicals in them. They recommend using it as a direct substitute or even a 50/50 spilt with their brand and an alcohol brand for a low ABV version. Another differentiating factor is that they’ve also added some vitamins, B3 and B6 as well as taurine for elevated energy.


Free Spirit “Gin”

Distilled from juniper, citrus, coriander and cardamom. Nice aromatics. Nice “heat”

How to use: Good with tropical flavors, Highballs

Recommended Drinks:: Gimlet, Sweet Heat drinks


Pineapple Paprika Cocktail

2 oz Free Spirits “Gin”

1 oz lemon juice

1 oz simple syrup

0.5 oz RE’AL pineapple syrup

2 dashes smoked paprika

Garnish Dried lemon wheel + Fresh Origins Habanero Sugar Crystals


Free Spirit “Tequila”

Liken it to a Reposado tequila. Oaky with some red pepper spice. Nice mouthfeel.

How to use: Works best as a Low ABV cocktail with a split base of 1 part blanco tequila and 1 part Free Spirit.

Recommended Drinks: Sour drinks w/ slit base (Low ABV)


Low Flame Margarita

1 oz Free Spirit “Tequila”

1 oz blanco tequila

1 oz lime juice

0.75 oz simple syrup

0.5 oz RE’AL passionfruit syrup

Dash of orange bitters

Garnish: Dried orange wheel



Free Spirit “Bourbon”

Oaky. Toffee and vanilla followed by a lingering heat right on the front.

How to use: Good with tea, sours and lemonade style drinks.

Recommended Drinks: Lemonade, Sours. Also, split-base with other bourbons for Low ABV cocktails.


Free-Dom Lemonade

1.5 oz Free Spirit Bourbon

1 oz lemon juice

1 oz simple syrup

0.5 oz RE’AL peach syrup

Dash of peach bitters

2 oz club soda

Garnish: mint sprig








Hooghoup “Gin”

From the Netherlands. Distilled with juniper, elderflower and lavender. Light and floral.

How to use: Straight up drinks. The lighter floral notes may get lost in a standard “gin & tonic”. I would recommend something more floral like an Elderflower or Indian tonic.

Recommended Drinks: Gin & Toniic w/ Elderflower tonic, Floral cocktails, Aviation, Honey Lavender Gimlet


Blueberry Lavender Martini

2 oz Hooghoup Gin Alternative

0.5 oz Monin Lavender

0.5 oz simple syrup

1 oz lemon juice

1 barspoon RE’AL Blueberry syrup

Garnish: Lavender strand



Ritual “Gin” Alternative

Beautiful aromatics of lemongrass, pine, coriander and cucumber. Nice heat.

How to use: Good with “fresh” cocktails and ingredients such as cucumber, mint, basil, white vermouths

Recommended Drinks:: Gimlet, Southside


Cucumber Basil Smash

2 oz Ritual “Gin”

1 oz lemon juice

1 oz simple syrup

4 cucumber slices

2 basil slices

Garnish cucumber snake + basil leaf



Ritual “Tequila” Alternative

Nice peppery mouthfeel. Slight saline quality to it.

How to use: The spiciness of the aromatics and mouthfeel play well into sweet heat drinks. I would highly recommend using it that capacity. It really shines here, especially mixed with tropical flavors.

Recommended Drinks: Sweet Heat cocktails, Riffs on the Margarita & Paloma


Pineapple Paprika Cocktail

2 oz Free Spirits “Gin”

1 oz lemon juice

1 oz simple syrup

0.5 oz RE’AL pineapple syrup

2 dashes smoked paprika

Garnish Dried lemon wheel + Fresh Origins Habanero Sugar Crystals


Ritual “Bourbon” Alternative

Charred oak, caramel, toffee in the nose. Warm and peppery mouthfeel with lingering oak.

How to use: Highballs, Stirred cocktails and sours

Recommended Drinks: Whiskey Sour, Spiced Old Fashioned


Chai Old Fashioned

2 oz Ritual “Bourbon” Alternative

0.5 oz maple syrup

1 oz chai tea

Garnish: star anise


Monday “Gin” Alternative

Some top note citrus and pine aromatics. It doesn’t have the same “fiery” mouthfeel that some of the others do, rather, it has a bitter aftertaste, like juniper. Lovely.

How to use: Tall drinks, sour drinks, stirred drinks. Because of it’s bitterness, tonic water actually pushes those bitter tones even more forward than the others.

Recommended Drinks: Collins, Bee’s Knees


Lemon Honey Collins

2 oz Monday Gin

1 oz orange blossom honey water

0.75 oz lemon juice

1.5 oz club soda


Garnish: Dried lemon wheel



Lyre “Bitter Orange”

Aromatics of fresh cut orange (including the pith), blood orange. This is their version of an Italian aperitif like Campari or Aperol. Much sweeter than the alcoholic alternatives and missing that bitter bite we know of Campari and Aperol so well.

How to use: This would be a great split base with a Campari or Aperol for a Low ABV bitter cocktail. It also really benefits with the addition of tonic water (which adds more bitterness.)

Recommended Drinks: Americano (with tonic water), Paloma styled drink with tonic water.


Lite Paloma

1.5 oz Lyre’s Bitter Orange

1 oz lime sour

2 oz grapefruit soda

2 oz tonic water

Garnish: salt rim + grapefruit slice


Lyre’s White Cane Rum

Over the top vanilla, sugar cane – just what a white rum is supposed to have. Slight orange peel. Flavor definitely mimics a lightly aged white rum. Good mouthfeel.

How to use: Works great in simple mixed drinks – like Cola – or in simple sour cocktails. Also good in a rum punch.

Recommended Cocktails: Classic Daiquiri (can really taste the sugar cane), Mojito


Diddly Daiquiri

2 oz Lyre’s White Cane syrup

1 oz lime juice

1 oz simple syrup

Garnish: Dried lime wheel


CURIOUS ELIXIRS

These are elixirs that come in 12oz glass bottles and are inspired by specific cocktails with added vitamins and no sugar. They recommend just serving them on the rocks or with a simple mixer, like a soda or juice. I found most of them to be quite tart. I didn’t get quite the same satisfaction of sipping on one by itself as I did when mixing it with other elements. Also, I understand the need to do away with the sugar, but the flavors and overall experience could benefit from the addition of other alternative sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup or even stevia. The end result was a rather dry, tart, herbal concoction. They have a total of 5 different botanical elixirs, each inspired by a different cocktail.


Curious Elixir No. 1

Their version of an NA Negroni. Flavors of pomegranate, gentian orange peel. For it to be compared to a Negroni though, I wanted it to be more bitter. But for someone that has never had a Negroni before, this is a great start. Fruity, bit tart, semi-bitter.

How to use: Definitely benefits from adding a sweetened carbonated beverage, like Sprite or Ginger Beer.

Recommended Drinks: Nogroni, tall with Ginger Beer or Sprite


Bitter Orange Highball

2-3 oz No. 1 Elixir

3-4 oz Q Ginger Beer

Garnish: Dried citrus wheel


Curious Elixir No. 2

Ginger, Pineapple and Lemon are the main flavors here. Slight heat. It does have that signature “pasteurized lemon juice” taste to it which can overpower the delicate botanicals.

How to use: By itself, it’s a little dry and tart. Definitely needs some body. A little sugar goes a long way. I would recommend it with a sweetened carbonated beverage (i.e. Sprite, Ginger Beer). Or, if making a mocktail with it, some honey syrup, fresh pineapple and sage.

Recommended Drinks:: Simple mixer tall or as an ingredient in a mocktail.


Ginger Pineapple

2 oz Curious Elixir No. 2

0.5 oz honey syrup

0.5 oz pineapple juice


Curious Elixir No. 3

This was inspired by the Cucumber Collins that also includes bitter alpine elements. If you’re looking or something cool and refreshing, this is way too bitter.

How to use: By itself, it’s a little dry, tart and pretty bitter. I would recommend muddling some fresh fruit, like watermelon or cucumber and stretching it out by shaking and adding a touch of simple syrup.

Recommended Drinks:: Lemonade-style drink with fresh muddled fruit. Pinch of salt and sugar.

Bitter Melon

½ cup muddled watermelon

3 slices fresh cucumber, muddled

3 oz Elixir No. 3

0.5 oz simple syrup

Sprinkle of pink salt




Three Spirit Elixirs

Overall, these were very well balanced and delicious. They all reminded me red vermouths – the right amount of sweetness, tang and bitterness with a long finish. But each of them have their own unique characteristics.


Three Spirit: Social Elixir

Described as Euphoric, Bittersweet and Herbal. A little tang and tannic, lightly sweet with some bitter aromatics and flavors.

How to use: Use it like a red vermouth – for an NA Manhattan or Negroni.

Recommended Drinks: Great mixed with cold brew coffee.


Three Spirit: Livener

A balanced elixir with flavors of tropical guava, berry with some subtle heat.

How to use: Great mixed with tropical flavors, melon or berries where you might want some subtle heat.

Recommended Drinks: Watermelon “Margarita”, Jungle Bird type cocktail


Chile Watermelon Sour

3 oz No. 1 Elixir

¼ cup muddled watermelon

1 oz lime sour

Kosher salt rim



Three Spirit: Night Cap

A balanced elixir with flavors of orange peel, oak, cocoa

How to use: Great in a sweeter styled after-dinner drink.

Recommended Drinks: Espresso Martini, Irish Coffee


2 oz No. 1 Elixir

1 oz espresso

0.5 oz simple syrup

Garnish: coffee/ espresso bean





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