This article first appeared in our COP26 issue of My Green Pod Magazine, distributed with The Guardian on 05 November 2021. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox
In 2020, the closure of bars and pubs caused a 6.2% decline in global consumption of alcohol.
While the sector is expected to recover, IWSR has predicted the global low- and no-alcohol market will grow by 34% by 2024 as interest in wellness and health continues.
Sarah and Geoff Yates were on the front foot of this change; the husband-and-wife team had been running a wine bar for four years in their home town of Torquay. Like many of their customers, they wanted to live a healthier lifestyle that didn’t prevent them from socialising with friends.
‘We noticed that an increasing number of the customers in our bar were also looking for better quality alcohol-free options’, Sarah tells us. ‘They no longer wanted claggy, high-sugar soft drinks; they wanted sippable, sessionable drinks, made and presented with the same skill and sense of occasion as alcoholic drinks, using elegant glasses and quality ingredients. Thus the idea for Sea Arch was born.’
Geoff is a pastry chef and has a good understanding of flavour combinations, so he bought a still and started to experiment with a variety of botanicals. ‘We wanted to create something fresh, complex and delicious that still felt like a ‘grown-up’ drink’, Sarah explains.
The first very small batch of Sea Arch spirit was distilled in Sarah and Geoff’s kitchen, and to this day the recipe remains the basis of their Sea Arch Coastal Juniper blend – now an award-winning non-alcoholic spirit.
Bursting with seaside botanicals, Sea Arch Coastal Juniper is made using hand-harvested sugar kelp and samphire, both of which are native to the South Devon coastline where Sarah and Geoff live.
The kelp and samphire are distilled with nine other botanicals, then skilfully blended to create a deliciously crisp and complex non-alcoholic spirit.
The sea kelp and samphire deliver distinctive coastal herbal notes, conveying a truly Devon-based character through their slight saltiness and green freshness. Aromatic juniper berry and notes of sage add real depth of flavour. Coriander and grapefruit peel result in a clean, crisp feel on the palate with some peppery notes. Sweet blood orange adds complexity that blends beautifully with the lemon undertones. Cardamom spice gives a balanced, warm finish.
Sea Arch can be enjoyed as a refreshing Sea & T, served over ice with a squeeze of citrus and a premium tonic, or in a range of non-alcoholic cocktails. As well as being alcohol free it is also free from sugar, sweeteners, allergens and calories, yet still full of flavour.
The new pre-mixed range offers an easy way to enjoy the Sea Arch experience, wherever you are. The Sea & T is a double measure of the Coastal Juniper spirit mixed with a light Indian tonic, and the Rose Sea & T is a double measure of the Coastal Juniper spirit blended with a light raspberry and rose tonic. Sold in 250ml recyclable aluminium cans, they are ideal for parties and picnics.
‘Although a Sea & T is a great alcohol-free alternative to a G & T, I wouldn’t describe it as a non-alcoholic gin’, Sarah tells us. ‘Of course there are similarities because it’s a juniper-led spirit, and it can be a useful reference to help people recognise how to enjoy it if they’re not familiar with the category. But we’re not trying to mimic gin. This is a different product, providing a healthy alternative that still has all the sense of occasion you’d expect from an alcoholic drink.’
The South Devon coast is central to every element of Sea Arch – from the seaside botanicals used in the spirit and the sand patterns and coastal themes in the branding to the beautiful marine-blue bottle, which cries out to be upcycled.
‘The name Sea Arch was inspired by a striking natural sea arch just around the headland from where we live’, Sarah explains. ‘The cliff has been carved away by the sea over many years to create that stunning arch – making something natural and beautiful by taking something else away. This ties in with the Sea Arch strapline: more beautiful without.’
Preserving the coasts and protecting the environment are important themes at Sea Arch. The business will never use single-use plastic – all its eco-friendly packaging is recyclable or compostable – and the paint on the bottles is solvent free.
‘We’ve recently teamed up with The Seahorse Trust, also based in Devon, to raise awareness and funds to support the amazing work it does to protect seahorses and their habitats’, Sarah tells us. ‘We are fortunate to have such a vast range of species living in and around our shores, and we feel strongly that we have a responsibility to provide a safe and sustainable ecosystem for them.’
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