ROCKLAND—This past November, Ada’s Kitchen Bar Manager, Stacy Campbell, was invited to Portland,Oregon, during Portland Cocktail Week, to learn the latest trends in Event Management and mixology.
“There were 20 purveyors of every kind of alcohol you could imagine, but at one point, I was offered a non-alcoholic Negroni,” she said. “I tried it and had to ask again, ‘is this non-alcoholic?’ It was awesome!”
(Side note: Ada’s Kitchen is sort of know for their Negronis, as our last PenBay Pilot story “What’s In That Cocktail” attests.)
While bars have always offered a non-alcoholic choice of beverage, in Maine, the non-alcoholic craft cocktail, or mocktail, trend had to originate with Vena’s Fizz House in Portland, Maine, which debuted the botanical-infused mocktail when it opened in 2013.
After Campbell got a taste of the flavorful non-alcoholic spirits in Portland, Oregon, she began to imagine its possibilities at Ada’s Kitchen.
“First of all, I have a lot of friends in AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), who would like to come out to a bar and be social, but have the option of ordering something that’s non-alcoholic and good, ” she said. “I put out a short survey on my Facebook page asking if people would be interested in mocktails and within a short period of time I had more than 100 comments saying yes.”
Apart from the typical seltzers and juices, Campbell knew, after what she’d tasted in Portland, they were going to need to up Ada’s game.
“The botanical non-alcoholic spirit in the Negroni I tasted in Portland is called Seedlip and it is different from anything out there,” she said. “It’s more complex and and you can smell and taste the natural flavors that come through the distilling process.”
Seedlip is a UK company that produces the distilled non-alcoholic spirits, based on herbal remedies published more than 300 hundred years ago by a physician named John French. The company, which produced its first batch using herbs and a copper still in 2015, became a international sensation, with iconic restaurants such as The Savoy, The Ritz and even Buckingham Palace vying for a bottle. Read more of their story here.
A bottle of Seedlip is £27 or $35 and Campbell was able to purchase several for Ada’s Kitchen and have them shipped to Rockland.
“Then I got to work, putting together a number of recipes that work best with the flavor profiles,” she said.
The Garden Tonic is Ada’s best seller on the mocktail menu. Using Seedlip’s Garden 108, made from natural botanical distillates and extracts (peas, hay, Spearmint, Rosemary, Thyme, Lemon hops), the mocktail contains jalapeno, lemon and just a splash of Brooklyn-based Fever-Tree Tonic.
“When you open the bottle, it’s this incredibly bright, fresh, smell,” she said. After she mixed the non-alcoholic spirit with the other drink’s ingredients, the visual result was like a garden in a glass with fresh basil, a long strip of cucumber and an expertly peeled coil of lemon rind swirled throughout.
Given the complexity of the mocktail and its imported ingredients, it costs just slightly under what a cocktail would be priced (around $8-9), but then again, what you’re getting is the little black dress of mocktails, not just tonic from the gun and the plop of a lime wedge.
“Right now, I’m trying to create our own version of the non-alcoholic Negroni,”said Campbell.
The discovery of Seedlip has led her down the path of searching for other fizzy mixers and high-quality ingredients.
“I found a soda from Italy that tastes just like a Campari. And now I’m working on trying to find something that approximates a Vermouth to complement that.”
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com