Hackney-based Square Root Soda has introduced a non-alcoholic Gin & Tonic RTD, looking for a point of difference in the increasingly crowded craft-soda category.
The company already collaborates with craft brewers to create limited-edition alcohol-free shandies. It also developed Christmas 'cocktail' packs of Margarita and Negroni sodas, which it sold direct to customers through its website. However, this marks its first on-trade push into the 'spirit-alternatives' category.
Imbibe found the Non-Alcoholic Gin & Tonic offered notes of sugared lemon peel and a slight salinity on the nose, with a hint of juniper to taste. The sugar is nicely balanced out by the bitter lemon.
Twelve months in development, the product uses perfume distilling methods and incorporates juniper, coriander, Persian limes and other botanicals, blended with Square Root Tonic Water.
‘Alcohol is an amplifier of flavour and it's also a solvent, so you get a slightly different effect when you distil with steam and need to work with a different balance of botanicals,’ co-founder Ed Taylor told Imbibe.
‘At Square Root, we employ different methods to get the flavours out of the ingredients, then blend very carefully to get the profile we want. For example, we directly import fresh lemons from Sicily and extract the lemon peel into a light sugar syrup as you would in a cocktail bar, but on a much larger scale, and that really lends to the flavour.’
The company has an ongoing focus on keeping sugar levels down, and the RTD sits comfortably within the low-sugar tax bracket at 5.6g sugar per 100ml.
‘Because we use high-quality, fresh ingredients, we don’t have to use as much sugar to get that intensity of flavour,’ Taylor said. 'Sugar is often used [by other soft drink producers] to fill in when other flavours aren't present.’
Square Root was launched in 2012 by Taylor, a former brewer, and Robyn Simms, who previously worked in The Euston Tap. The pair say that, from the start, their aim has been to match the level of innovation they’d observed in the craft-beer category to produce soft drinks that could be considered alternatives to alcoholic drinks.
Square Root recently collaborated with Taylor's former colleague Andy Smith of Bermondsey-based Partisan Brewing to produce a beer and a shandy. The latter, titled Sbagliato, sits at less than 0.5% abv and incorporates citrus, spices and grape must from Renegade Wines. The limited-edition run of 4,500 bottles has already been a distributed to the on-trade, however, the company has a number of new brewing collaborations lined up for 2019.
Square Root Non-Alcoholic Gin & Tonic is available for RRP £1.80/275ml from Diverse Fine Foods.