A new, locally-produced non-alcoholic botanical spirit has recently been released in Melbourne, hoping to capitalise on a growing movement towards low- or no-alcohol options in the on-premise market.
Brunswick Aces is the brainchild of a group of six friends and neighbours, who were initially brought together – as many of us are – by a love of all things food and drink.
As one of the six founders, Stephen Lawrence, told BARS&clubs, dinner parties and tastings soon led to beer brewing, before the group dipped their toes into traditional (alcoholic) gin distilling. The non-alcoholic spirit – which they’ve taken to market – came about almost by accident.
“The chief protagonist for developing our recipes, Doug – who’s a food scientist by trade – is also a really keen marathon runner,” explained Lawrence. “Often when we were having tastings to develop our recipes, he couldn’t partake because he couldn’t drink the night before training.
“Being an engineer, I like a challenge and I ended up tweaking the traditional gin making process to get the same flavours without the alcohol. Initially this was just so we could taste the flavours, because when you’re developing a recipe that’s what it’s all about.
“So I developed a non-alcoholic version for tasting, thinking we had a recipe to play with – and we can chuck the alcohol back in when we’ve finished it. But through that process we realised it was a fantastic product in and of itself.”
Of course, it didn’t take long for the Brunswick Aces team to come across Seedlip –“we’d managed to make the same product almost by mistake,” says Lawrence – but they could also see a gap in the market for a similar, Australian-made version, highlighting native ingredients where appropriate.
So how is Brunswick Aces actually crafted? According to Lawrence, the method he stumbled upon independently is largely similar to its Diageo-backed cousin.
“In terms of the distillation there’s essentially no difference [compared to regular gin] – it’s actually simpler because you don’t need to worry about purifying the alcohol,” explains Lawrence. “The process of getting the flavours to infuse into the end liquid is exactly the same.
“The main difference is we don’t need to do any fermentation… we basically start off with the purest possible water we can get, and we’re actually playing around with the difference between a glacial spring water and a distilled water, just to make sure it’s as clean as possible.”
For now, the Brunswick Aces range is made up of two flavours, ‘Spades’ and ‘Hearts’, with a medium-term plan to complete the deck with ‘Diamonds’ and ‘Clubs’.
Spades is the distillery’s first creation, combining green cardamom, lime, lemon myrtle, parsley and coriander – all tied together with “beautiful, smooth” pink grapefruit notes.
“The green cardamom is the hero of the drink, which is the third most expensive spice by weight in the world,” explains Lawrence. “It’s such a beautiful flavour and we wanted to make it the champion, surrounded by Australian natives like lemon myrtle.”
Hearts, on the other hand, came about as the group were officially incorporating as a company at Christmas, with thoughts naturally turning to a nostalgic, warming Christmas blend.
“We started looking at those traditional warm spices – ginger, the star anise – and also went for cassia bark instead of cinnamon because it’s got a richer, stronger flavour.”
While Lawrence encourages bartenders to experiment with his creation, an “Ace and tonic” is the obvious entry-point into the Brunswick Aces world.
“It’s a very different, incredibly refreshing experience to drink it neat or on the rocks… but when you combine it with a tonic – the sharpness of the quinine, that little bit of sugar and the bubbles – you suddenly do get a mouthfeel to combine with the bouquet, and it all makes sense and comes together amazingly,” says Lawrence.
“We initially started by telling people to use our product however they would usually use a gin, but there’s a bit more to it – adding it into cocktails brings this fantastic aroma to many traditional cocktails, that you can make as low-alcohol alternatives, or non-alcoholic drinks in their own right.
“Mocktails are incredibly sweet on the whole and so what we’re trying to bring to cocktail menus and mixologists is that you can now add these beautiful flavours without chucking sugar in.”
With the rise of lower-alcohol alternatives, Lawrence says he hopes Brunswick Aces will “become the go-to alternative spirit in Australia.”
“When someone goes to the bar and says they’re driving, or working out in the morning – or whatever it is that’s restricting them from a normal drink – we want them to enjoy the same flavours without sacrificing the experience and ceremony of having a drink with their friends.”
Images courtesy The Urban List Melbourne