Aimed at those who eschew alcohol out of choice, for medical reasons, or because they have been lumbered with the chore of being the designated driver, the no or low alcohol (NoLo) drinks are fast becoming the hottest sector in the drinks market. Wetherby-based Bax Botanics, the brainchild of Chris and Rose Bax, is a company that is looking to demonstrate that just because a drink is alcohol-free, it does not mean that it cannot be as tasty, complex, and versatile as its alcoholic competitors.
Chris and Rose have used their experience of thirty years or so in the food industry focussing on discovering on delicious and exciting ways to use wild ingredients and culinary herbs to good effect. Now branching out on their own, they use organic and ethically sourced wild herbs, roots, and berries in recipes developed to bring out not only the best of their chosen ingredients but also to produce a drink that is complex and one that can be drunk neat, with a mixer or as part of a cocktail. To ensure that they maximise their environmentally friendly, sustainable credentials, they use recyclable and recycled packaging, and their labelling is made from a by-product of the sugar industry.
The bottles (50cl) are made of clear glass, circular, with a rounded shoulder leading to a short neck, and a wooden cap with a synthetic stopper. The labels make use of gloriously colourful and slightly abstract photographs of the cells of their range’s principal botanicals as seen through a scientific microscope and carry the colour scheme, green for Bax Botanics Verbena and orange for Bax Botanic Sea Buckthorn, to the top so they can be easily distinguished. There is no need to refrigerate the drink, although it is recommended that it is stored in a cool place and consumed within six months of opening. For those who want to dip their toes in the Bax Botanics’ waters, they also produce a 250ml can with a pre-mixed serving for each of their range. The added bonus is that they contain just 48 calories.
Lemon verbena is a wonderfully citric herb, used to flavour fish and poultry, and medicinally to help ease digestive disorders. I was looking for a zesty, refreshing drink and I was not disappointed. Opening the bottle for the first time, I felt that I had stepped into a herb garden, surrounded by the aromas of mint, fennel, and lemon. In the glass it is clear and complex, a soothing mix of citrus, fennel, mint, and summer herbs and with a slightly liquorice-like aftertaste to finish. It is not recommended that it be drunk neat and the addition of a premium tonic – the suggested serving ratio is 3 parts tonic to 1 part of the drink – seemed to enhance the taste of the botanicals, giving them a new lease of life and adding another layer of complexity to the drink.
A favourite of Pegasus and used in many horse supplements, the vibrantly orange-coloured sea buckthorn berries, sour and tart to taste with a hint of sweetness, are packed full of vitamins and antioxidants, and, medicinally, has been used in skin care and as an anti-ageing agent. Bax Botanics’ Sea Buckthorn is almost the antithesis of their Verbena, replacing bright and crisp with bittersweet, as the tartness of the Buckthorn is complemented with the bittersweet taste of Seville oranges, supported by herbs such as Rosemary and Thyme, leaving a slightly dry and almost peppery aftertaste.
Initially, I was not sure about the Sea Buckthorn, but after a second glass, I realised that it was a subtler, more sophisticated drink than the more overtly pleasing Verbena, one whose complexities take time to appreciate. Both are welcome additions to the burgeoning Nolo market and for distilled alcohol-free infusions, their price point, at a tad under £20, is attractive enough to encourage those who want to see what all the fuss is about.
Until the next time, cheers!