Whether it be a personal lifestyle choice or a health requirement, often not drinking alcohol at ocassions can be difficult when the drinks on offer are just soft drinks or non-alcoholic beers. However, in the last decade, drinks companies have listened up and there has been a rise in the number of alcohol-free beverages in supermarkets, bars and restaurants.
Seeing a gap in the market, husband and wife duo Andrew and Tracy Oates created their non-alcoholic gin, Silk Tree Botanics, as a delicious alternative to the classic spirit. Silk Tree was born when founders Andrew and Tracy realised their love affair with gin and tonic has run its course. They joined an ever-expanding social movement of like-minded people who wanted to take a break from drink to lead a more active and healthy lifestyle. We chatted to Andrew and Tracy to get to know a little bit more about Silk Tree Botanics and the people behind the brand.
Tell us about the brand and your background?
Andrew and I first met in 1st year in Secondary School in Carrick-on-Shannon. After the Leaving Cert Andrew went on to build a career in Sales and Business development and I specialised in marketing. I lived and worked in Paris during the 90’s and after taking a year out to travel the world returned to Ireland and hooked up with Andrew again. We have been partners ever since, travelled the world, got married and now have 3 beautiful children. We both worked for various companies in various sectors developing brands and businesses but always had it in the back of our mind to do something for ourselves. Just finding the idea for an interesting and innvoative idea was the problem.
What inspired you to create this product?
The opportunity arose, however, when we least expected it. We decided we needed to take a break from alcohol. We liked to work hard and play hard. We’d always loved the party lifestyle and alcohol was ingrained in everything we did from those early days of our Leaving Cert party. However, we just became tired of waking up every Monday morning feeling hugover and lethargic. We didn’t think we had a problem, we were just like any normal Irish couple right? Enjoying a few bottles of wine and beers over the weekend as a reward for a busy week. We did a few sober sprints and really enjoyed the benefit of these but actually they always ended with a good old booze up to celebrate and before we knew it, we were back to our usual routine.
We then discovered One Year No Beer and joined a group of like minded people who were questioning their relationship with alcohol. We signed up for a 90 day challenge and that was almost two years ago. One of the great tips we learnt from OYNB was alcohol-free alternatives, it had never occurred to us before to even drink an alcohol-free beer when we were off the booze, we actually just sat in and white knuckled out the month. We discovered that giving up the booze was not about deprivation it is about exploration and doing all the other stuff a booze free life now gave us time and extra energy to do.
We sampled an alcohol-free alternatives that were already on the market but it just didn’t hit the mark for us. This is where we came up with the idea to try and create our own gin alternative. We investigated how gin was made and tried to mimic this process without the use of alcohol. We experimented with all sorts of herbs and botanicals and bought our own little distiller. So now our wine drinking evenings were replaced with alchemy, we spent months trialling and testing until we came up with a formula that satisfied our needs.
Cocktail recipes to try with Silk Tree Botanics non-alcoholic gin:
50ml Silk Tree
2 tbsp of simple sirop
1/2 cup of soda water
good dash of bitters
See below for more recipes.
What was the inspiration behind the name ‘Silk Tree’?
Feedback we were getting back from consumer testing was how smooth our liquid was as it passed down the throat, smooth as silk. We then followed the Silk idea and came upon the definition for the Silk Tree. Silk tree mimosa growing can be a rewarding treat once the silky blooms and fringe-like foliage grace the landscape. Silk Tree feathery flowers add a burst of colour to evergreen landscapes. Silk Tree is a treat, it is a treat when you’re out socialisng or winding down after a busy day and you deserve a rewarding, delicious adult drink.
What is in Silk Tree Botanics?
Silk Tree Botanics offer a blend of carefully selected botanicals and spices distilled the traditional way in a copper still producing a full bodied extravaganza for the taste buds. Silk Tree enables you to socialize confidentally alcohol free.
Do you think there is a bigger demand these days for quality non-alcoholic drinks? If so, why?
Without a doubt. More and more people are cutting down on their alcohol intake in recent years. 1 in 4 people in Ireland now do not drink alcohol. Concerns about health and wellness, tighter dietary regulations and zero tolerance are fuelling healthier and more moderate drinking habits. Quality non-alcoholic drinks pull wellness and indulgence together into one intoxicating mix. Non-alcoholic drink producers like ourselves are taking taste and visual cues from the alcohol industry and offering the same level of sophisticated indulgence to non-drinkers.
What has the response to Silk Tree gin been like so far?
We have had nothing but a positive response to Silk Tree since we first broached the idea. We first launched it at a gin festival last summer and to tell you the truth we were expecting a bit of a backlash. This is the first time we came face to face with our Moderate Millenial Consumer and they absolutley loved the idea and loved Silk Tree. We were overwhelmed actually on our first day out and knew we were on to something. We have come across the Sceptical Consumer, the seasoned G&T drinkers and it always give me great pleasure when they come back for a second helping. Being named by BBCGoodFood as best tasting alcohol-free drink in the botanical category was really encouraging. People like it because it is warming, smooth as silk and holds it favour when mixed.
What’s your favourite cocktails to make with Silk Tree?
My favourite is Silk Tree and a good fiery ginger ale like Pimento. House on Leeson Street have created some amazing cocktails, my favourite being their Silk Tree Sour which is a blend of Blackberries and strawberries, anise and hibicus cordial made sour with a dash of lemon juice and black pepper, topped of with egg white.
What’s next for your business?
We have just been accepted onto the Bord Bia Foodworks programme which is a very exciting next phase in the journey for us. This programme with input from Teagasc and Enterprise Ireland will help us grow our business and accelerate our export potential. We have lots of various flavours mulling around in our heads that we are working on. Our goal is to make delicious tasty alcohol free drinks that help promote mindful drinking and ensure non drinkers are catered for when a good drink is called for!
Silk Tree Botantics (€35) is available from a range of stocklists nationwide.
More cocktail recipes to try:
50ml Silk Tree
20ml Kahlua coffee liqeur
15ml Raisin infused honey
50 cl Silk Tree
20 oz. honey or agave
1 oz. limeade concentrate
1 oz. fresh lime juice
1/2 oz. grapefruit juice
2 drops almond extract (optional)
1/4 tsp orange extract or bitters
3/4 cup ice
1 tbsp flake salt
1 tsp chilli powder
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