The non-alcoholic spirit is designed as a base for non-alcoholic cocktails with ‘all the taste and theatre of alcoholic ones’.
From vodka jelly to non-alcoholic spirits
Founder Tom Tuke-Hastings started off in food: writing cookery books, presenting food TV, and even devoting himself to a whole book on ‘The Art of the Vodka Jelly’.
But having ‘grown up a bit’ he found himself in the increasingly large group of consumers who still love entertaining and celebrating, but hate having hangovers the next morning.
Borrago – named after the blue-purple flower borage – launched in February 2018 with its #47 Paloma blend. It’s now available in pubs, bars, and Michelin starred restaurants in the UK, as well as in stores including Daylesford organic, Harvey Nichols and Majestic Wines. It also quickly started exploring international markets, such as Canada, Norway and the Czech Republic.
Borrago’s launch into Dubai, however, provides the first step into the UAE.
“Dubai is not out first international market, but we see it as a very important one,” Tuke-Hastings told BeverageDaily. “It is our first step into the UAE and the Arab world in general. We see dry and semi dry countries as an important marketplace.”
For entering such markets, he realised that a 0.0% alcohol content was going to be important.
“Alcohol content was a key thing to get right,” explained Tuke-Hastings. “In the UK, under 0.5% is legally non-alcoholic, but for Halal it needs to be under 0.3% and for some Arab countries it has to be true zero.
“With our steam distillation process, we are 0.0% so that was spot on. Steam distillation uses water rather than alcohol as a base to extract flavor and scent from botanicals. We use it as it allows us to have an absolute no-alcohol-in and no-alcohol-out product.
“The de-alcoholisation process can muddy and weaken flavors, whereas this gives us crisp strong flavors and allows us to have a product where we recommend a single rather than the double shot our competitors use.
"So the bottle goes further and the flavours hold their own in cocktails.”
The brand also had to look at other considerations when it came to packaging and marketing.
“We have had to change labels as well as there are various in-country requirements and marketing materials are harder as we can’t talk about cocktails,” he added.
‘Sometimes you just get lucky!’
While the brand had been consciously expanding internationally, its entry in Dubai came off the back of demand from its fans.
“We had a rather fairytale entry,” said Tuke-Hastings. “Dubai radio was doing a piece in what people were bringing back to Dubai after the summer break and Borrago was on the list.
"The buyer at Spinneys heard this and reached out to us and we went from there. Sometimes you just get lucky!”
Borrago #47 Paloma Blend uses six botanicals, which are individually steam-distilled to keen their unique properties; and then blended and bottled.
While it is called a non-alcoholic spirit because it is used like gin or vodka for a base, it does not try to mimic these alcoholic spirits: instead using cardamom, lemon verbena, basil, rosemary, peppermint and lemongrass to build up a drink that is ‘complex, layered and smooth’.
- Tasting notes: “deliciously dry, with sweet floral notes on the nose, a layered and textured middle, with a long clean finish. The cardamom gives a floral yet spicy nose, rosemary is the backbone of the drink and the peppermint gives a clean finish On the palate, it is fairly big and chewy, a drink to be sipped and savoured. Full of citrus, spice and pepper, it has a long cool, clean finish.”
- Vegan and vegetarian friendly; gluten-free. Free from calories and sugar and sweeteners.