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FREE SPIRIT

Having perfected the art of a tee-total gin and tonic, the Temperance Spirit Company now has alcohol free mojitos and Pimm’s in its sights.

L ike many good ideas, the Temperance Spirit Company can trace its roots to a conversation down the pub. No one remembers the exact date, but during one of their regular get togethers friends Ian Ackroyd, Brendan Duckworth and Ian Jowett began to wonder why there wasn’t a decent, non-alcoholic alternative to their usual gin and tonic.

With Jowett and trained chemist and Duckworth and Ackroyd both established entrepreneurs – the latter brought the world the first frozen Yorkshire pudding  – the trio decided that if one didn’t exist, they might as well make their own.

That was in 2015 and 18 months later  Yorkshire’s Temperance Spirit Company  was ready to hit the market.

“It took a lot of trial and error to perfect the taste,” says Gill Venning, who is now the Temperance Spirit Company’s fourth cog. Like the best recipes exactly what goes into each bottle of the Skipton-based company’s non-boozy gin and tonic is a trade secret. However, what Gill, who has a background in marketing, will say is that much like the alcoholic version it contains more than a dozen natural botanicals and the trick is getting just the right quantities of each.

“A lot of non-alcoholic drinks rely on artificial sweeteners and you can tell that as soon as you take a sip,” she says. “We only use natural cane sugar. We make no apologies about using it and our teetotal version still only has half the calories of a regular G’n’T.”

With the lad and ladette culture of the 1990s but a distant memory, last year the non-alcoholic drinks market was worth £232m in trade sales. Add to that alcohol-free bars like London’s Redemption and Sobar in Nottingham, which have proved the night time economy doesn’t have to be about binge drinking and there is a clearly a market to be tapped.

The Temperance Spirit Company is already stocked in 700 outlets, including Harvey Nichols and in August it went into a number of John Lewis stores, including the one in Leeds’ Victoria Gate.

“More and more of us are either cutting out alcohol or at least cutting down, but we don’t want to feel like we are missing out,” says Gill. “That’s where we come in.

“Our teetotal gin and tonic looks like the real thing, it tastes like the real thing. In fact the only difference is that you can drink as many as you like and know that you won’t wake up the next morning with a fuzzy head.”

Always a little tongue in cheek, the TSC uses the face of Carrie Nation as part of its logo. A radical member of the American temperance movement back in the late 19th century she favoured direct action, attacking bars with an axe.

“We are definitely not that po-faced, but when the team here were looking for a logo her face just seemed to fit,” laughs Gill. “Ten years ago if you didn’t want to drink then pretty much your only option was a glass of coke or lemonade. The last decade has seen a real revolution in the non-alcoholic drinks market and it’s more than a passing fad.”

TSC has also perfected a non-alcoholic Cuba Libre and while it is still a relative minnow in the drinks trade, sales are growing.

“We would like to expand the range with maybe another two or three non-alcoholic versions of popular drinks,” adds Gill. “We are currently looking at teetotal Pimm’s, a mojito and a whisky and ginger.

“The latter is probably the most complicated.  There are so many different styles of whisky that pinning down the right flavour could take some time, but we like a challenge.”

For a company whose USP was first drawn out on the back of a beermat, that’s news which is definitely worth raising a glass to.

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