Abstinence, a local non-alcoholic spirits brand inspired by the biodiversity of the Cape Floral Kingdom, attracted global recognition at the international Low- and No-Alcohol Masters Competition of 2021.
The inaugural competition, launched by The Spirits Business
, celebrates the best low-ABV and alcohol-free products on the market, as the burgeoning category takes off. Following blind tastings in the UK by an expert panel of spirits professionals – first neat and then with the suggested mixer pairing – Abstinence secured three Gold medals and One silver.
The homegrown brand competed with over 50 entries in the White Spirits Category (0.5% ABV and Under), taking home two Gold medals for Abstinence Cape Citrus and Cape Spice, and a Silver medal for the newly-launched Cape Fynbos. Meanwhile, Abstinence Blood Orange Apéritif competed against 27 entrants in the Non‐Alcoholic Apéritifs Category (0.5% ABV and Under) and scooped Gold.
Curated Beverages, the Cape Town-based startup behind the Abstinence range, is also celebrating being named a Pick n Pay Small Supplier of the Year in recognition of the company's dedication and achievements in building the non-alcoholic category in 2020.
Focus on flavour
Commenting on the Low- and No Alcohol Masters Competition win, Pierre Strydom, Curated Beverages co-founder and operations director, says, "We’re so proud to receive global recognition for the effort that goes into producing a spirit that wins based on flavour and contains no sugar, no alcohol and no colourants, as that’s no easy feat.
"Abstinence is made through hydro distillation – we extract the botanicals maceration and infusion and then we distill. Without alcohol, we have to add a lot more of each indigenous hero botanical – citrus, honeybush, rose geranium and buchu – to achieve the flavour profile we are looking for. We also use an array of spices including coriander, juniper, angelica root, cardamom and cassia.”
Here, Strydom chats more about the Abstinence range and the steady growth of the non-alcoholic beverages segment.
The Abstinence range incorporates a bevy of indigenous botanicals. Why was it important to you to have these local flavours form part of the Abstinence offering?
Abstinence showcases the rich biodiversity of the smallest, yet most diverse floral kingdom in the world. This provides an unmistakeable South African authenticity to each expression of Abstinence.
Inspired by the incredible biodiversity of the Cape Floral Kingdom the Cape Fynbos variant showcases rose geranium as the hero, the Cape Citrus hero ingredients are buchu and Western Cape citrus and the Cape Spice expression has a medley of spices and honeybush at its heart. The Blood Orange Aperitif includes African wormwood while our Lemon Aperitif features buchu, aloe and rooibos.
The non-alcoholic and low-alcohol drinks space was gaining popularity long before the Covid-19 lockdown and related alcohol bans. What factors are driving consumer uptake within this category, and how do you think the lockdown is influencing its growth?
The pandemic has definitely accelerated the consumer shift to low- and no-alcohol drink options. People are increasingly reprioritising health and wellness and a more mindful way of life as they navigate these uncertain times, which is also fuelling the growth of the non-alcoholic category.
Having to stay at home for months on end has resulted in many people reassessing their relationship with alcohol and the way they shop. That doesn’t mean that people are stopping drinking altogether, but rather many are drinking in moderation and these people are the key drivers that will continue to fuel interest in low- and no-alcohol products.
Brands like Abstinence enable people to switch between premium alcohol and non-alcoholic spirits seamlessly given the similarity of the flavours, mouthfeel and drinking experience.
Do you feel there are there any unique challenges that come with developing a great-tasting non-alcoholic spirit?
Most definitely. Liquid excellence is our first priority and one of our core values as a company. The biggest challenge was achieving flavour and mouthfeel without alcohol or sugar. We believe we have found a very unique distilling technique and base medium to extract maximum flavour from our botanicals, but it is imperative to use a mixer to let our botanicals really shine.
Treat it like you would an alcoholic spirit. We recommend tonic water, ginger ale, fruit juices, kombucha or soda. Abstinence also shines in cocktails.
On the back of the medal wins at the Low- and No-Alcohol Masters Competition, will Curated Beverages be looking to expand distribution of Abstinence abroad?
Certainly; we are already present in six countries throughout the world, and that number should expand exponentially as we start gaining traction and finalising negotiations. Finding the right partners (like Truman & Orange here in SA) is critical to realising our vision of becoming a globally respected brand, born, bred and inspired by the beautifully diverse Cape.Click here to view the full list of Low- and No-Alcohol Masters Competition 2021 winners.