Where the ETCH brand is aimed squarely at a broader adult soft-drink market – the drinks are packaged in 275-millilitre twist-top bottles that sell for $4.50 each – another standout new brand in the Australian alcohol-free market, NON, is setting out to compete directly with on-trend boutique natural wines: with their cloudy appearance, 750-millilitre bottles, minimalist labels, $30 price tags, and remarkably vinous flavour profiles, the NON range could easily be confused with – and indeed are sold alongside – funky pet-nats.
“My partner doesn’t drink alcohol,” says Aaron Trotman, co-founder of the Melbourne-based NON brand. “Because of that, we’d tried lots of non-alcoholic drinks pairings when we’d visited top restaurants like the Clove Club in London and Brae here in Victoria. I knew [ex-Noma chef] William Wade and was talking to him at the end of 2018 about how I felt there was a gap in the market for bottled versions of these restaurants’ drinks, and he said, ‘I can make them.’ A couple of days later, he came back with a bunch of different prototype drinks.”
The key to the quality of NON is the chef’s approach to building layers of flavour, aroma and texture by combining different ingredients and techniques. Wade macerates fruits and spices, uses salt to season, verjus and tea to provide wine-like grapey body, acidity and grip, and adds savoury, umami-rich components such as kombu and tamari for deliciousness. They’re seriously impressive drinks; the fact they’re alcohol-free is almost irrelevant.
Currently, production of the four core drinks in the NON range is very limited: they’re made in 500-bottle batches, and sales are restricted to a handful of restaurants and independent wine stores such as P&V in Sydney and Blackhearts and Sparrows in Melbourne. But Trotman and Wade are building a bigger brewhouse and have plans for other non-alcoholic drinks offerings. Keep an eye out for these: if they’re as good as the first releases, they’ll be well worth trying.
In the meantime, perhaps it’s time for Clayton’s to make a comeback?
The zero percenters
NON Zero Percent [Melbourne]
I can recommend all the drinks in the NON range, for different reasons. The NON 1 Salted Raspberry and Chamomile is really pretty, bright pink, pure and fruity, reminiscent of creaming soda, but in a wine-like, pet-natty way. The NON 2 Caramelised Pear and Kombu is rich, complex and satisfying and probably my favourite: cardamom and pepper add spicy notes, black tea and ginger bring depth, the whole tasting remarkably like a funky farmhouse cider. The NON 3 Toasted Cinnamon and Yuzu is, as you’d expect given the inclusion of citrus, spice and salt, deliciously tangy and refreshing. And the NON 4 Roast Beetroot and Sansho is possibly the most challenging of them all: dark and earthy flavours enhanced by woody, amaro-like, peppery, herbal notes.
Also see etchsparkling.com.au, non.world
NEED TO KNOW
How to Drink without Drinking by Fiona Beckett is published by Kyle Books. £15.99