No matter how you feel about Dry January, non-alcoholic drinks are well and truly here to stay. And they’ve earned their place: brands are devoting more time and energy on creating complex liquids to rival our favourite booze.
Everleaf, a non-alcoholic aperitif from Paul Mathew, founder of Hide bar in Bermondsey, is garnering attention from some of London’s best bartenders for its depth of flavour, mouthfeel and its versatility – not to mention Mathew and his team’s dedication to ethical sourcing.
Mathew tells us how his background as a conservation biologist shaped the way he makes Everleaf, and why non-alcoholic aperitifs are better than soft drinks.
How did you create Everleaf’s distinctive flavour profile?
I thought about all the flavours I love – aromatic, complex, bittersweet – and built it from there. There were a few key botanicals that were important for me to include (saffron and orris root in particular, as my father, a botanist, wrote about them), but after that, it was a case of (informed) trial and error.
What’s the difference between a non-alcoholic aperitif like Everleaf and a soft drink?
Everleaf is inspired by traditional botanical aperitifs and has a similar bittersweet flavour profile, the only thing that’s different is the alcohol level. If you divide drinks into alcoholic and non-alcoholic, then Everleaf is the latter; but if you look at drinks in terms of ingredients, production, flavour and complexity, the most similar category would be aperitifs.
How do you drink Everleaf?
A simple Everleaf Spritz (1 part Everleaf, 3 parts light tonic, slice of orange and lots of ice) is always my go-to.
There are some amazing drinks though, from Fam Bar’s creation with fresh carrot juice, through to Cub’s late night sipper made with discarded cacao husk. [Author’s note: I sometimes drink Everleaf simply over ice with a slice of orange].
What’s in Everleaf?
We use 17 different plants to give flavour, colour, aroma and, importantly, texture.
Texture comes from voodoo lily (an Asian arum plant) and gum acacia, sustainably harvested from acacia tree sap across the Sahel. The colour is mostly from Spanish saffron, which also gives wonderful flavours, while the aromas are strongly influenced by vetiver, a grass from Haiti, and orange blossom. Bitterness comes from European gentian root, and the rich mid-palate is based around Madagascan vanilla and cassia bark. The other botanicals help the whole thing to hold together, and include things like liquorice, chamomile, angelica root and coriander seed.
I decided to sweeten with unrefined organic cane sugar as it’s fully traceable, Fairtrade certified and adds a lovely molasses note.There are alternatives, but for example agave sugars are unsustainable due to the length of time it takes for agave to grow (not to mention the sugars are processed quite intensively), while honey is unsuitable for vegans.
I only sweeten a little though, Everleaf has around a quarter of the sugar of many cordials.
“The things we make should be as complex and fascinating as the ecosystems they come from.”
Who makes Everleaf and who farms the ingredients?
We trace all our ingredients to get them from the best sources we can. With some, that’s quite well advanced, but with others, it’s still a work in progress. For example our vanilla comes from north-eastern Madagascar, from a project that works directly with small-scale famers to ensure they get the best price for their crop, as well as proving wider community based education.
We source the vetiver from a project in Haiti that works with communities to protect their livelihoods through reforestation, food security and the empowerment of local women, while the gum acacia comes from a company that works with producing communities to protect the acacia woods and improve local livelihoods.
In what ways are you committed to sustainable sourcing and supporting local communities?
We are currently working on our policies with a view to having independent verification to the best standards, but in short, through our sourcing we aim to have a positive impact on biodiversity, positive impact on community and leave a positive carbon footprint as a business. We’ve only been going for a year though, and recognise this will all take time!
At the moment we support grassroots communities through our choice of suppliers and partners, but we hope to be able to support wide projects as we grow. I’m still in touch with conservation organisations I used to work for, and would love to be supporting some of their work, for example Fauna & Flora International’s Global Trees Campaign.
How has your background as a conservation biologist influenced the way you make Everleaf?
Rather than just looking at botanicals as ingredients that impart certain characteristics, I look at them as plants that grow in ecosystems and are harvested by communities. It’s such a complex web, rich with stories. I’m working on new products now that will hopefully tell some of those stories and conjure up some of the ecosystems. My principle here is that the things we make should be as complex and fascinating as the ecosystems they come from.
Find Everleaf in around 300 bars and restaurants, or buy it at larger Sainsbury’s superstores, Amazon and online specialist drinks retailers; everleafdrinks.com