We wanted to get as close as possible to those time tested and universally loved flavours of original spirits.“We didn’t want to craft original flavours that were botanical, we wanted to get as close as possible to those time tested and universally loved flavours of original spirits.”What if, at the end of a long day, I offered to make you a Negroni. As you kick off your shoes and relax on the couch, the strong bitter taste of this ruby drink flows down your body till it curls your toes. Each sip brings you closer to relaxation. Each sip allows the worries of the day to slip away.
I offer you a second drink, which you’d really like, but you pause and think twice. You have to drive to your sister’s to see the baby or meet up with your boss for a business dinner.
What if I told you that every element of the Negroni you have just drunk is non-alcoholic? Would you be willing to have another with me?
And this is the very scenario that Lyre’s, a new Australian non-alcoholic spirit brand is looking to achieve. The ability for people to enjoy social situations and get the taste of their favourite cocktail, without actually drinking at all.
What’s in the range?
At the beginning of March, Lyre’s are releasing not just one non-alcoholic spirit but thirteen. Within the non-alcoholic range they will be offering an Absinthe, an Amaretto, an American Malt, a Coffee Liqueur, a Dark Cane Spirit, a Dry London Spirit, a Dry Vermouth, a Highland Malt, an Italian Orange, a Spiced Cane Spirit, a Triple Sec, a Vermouth Rosso & a White Cane Spirit.
“The objective for us was to give bartenders and people who love cocktails a toolkit, says Mark Livings, CEO of Lyres Spirits Co. “We really wanted to give people an incredible toolkit to use in terms of making classic cocktails, as well as cocktails that they themselves are inspired by.
“It would be super easy to grab one or two fast moving lines within the spirits category and say here’s a couple for you to play with, but really that’s like giving someone a canvas and only providing one or two colours to paint with.”
We wanted to get as close as possible to those time tested and universally loved flavours of original spirits.
As the name suggests, the range was created to mimic your favourite spirits. Just as the Australian Lyrebird is renowned for being able to mimic the calls of other birds, Lyre’s is looking to replicate the flavours we all enjoy, without the alcohol burn.
“So our logo is our Australian lyrebird, gently tipping a top hat to the golden era of cocktails, which came to life in the 1920s and 30s.”
Livings also hopes that the name will be a calling card for non-alcoholic drinks. Rather than people having to say they are after a non-alcoholic version of their favourite drink, he hopes that will be able to just ask for a ‘Lyre’s Gin & Tonic’ or a “Lyre’s Old Fashioned’.
“It’s like there’s a cheeky little secret between them and the bartender when they’re asking for something with no alcohol in it,” Livings explained.
Lyre’s is, of course, not the first non-alcohol brand on the market but they are hoping that by bringing out such an extensive range with defined alcohol flavours, they will set themselves apart.
“We have an enormous amount respect for Seedlip,” say Livings. “We think they have crafted an absolutely beautiful brand with a great story. Seedlip is a, shall we say, Gin adjacent range, that is ideal for the gin occasion. We wanted a bigger range than that.
“We didn’t want to craft original flavours that were botanical, we wanted to get as close as possible to those time tested and universally loved flavours of original spirits.”
How is it made?
How close Lyre’s has come to the taste of the original spirit is, of course, going to be the issue. Livings points out that a number of the low ABV products such as the Amaretto, the Absinthe and the Italian Orange, the taste is virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.
“If you move to things like the gin, the bourbon, the Highland malt and so on, the most distinguishing characteristic you will find between ours and the originals is palette weight and viscosity and that’s simply to do with the fact that there is no ethanol.
“They can feel a little lighter on the palette, but we think we have gotten exceptionally close with the flavours, in terms of how they mimic the length and the boutique, and how the flavours unpack over time.”
Livings believes that it was important to ensure that Lyre’s range is made up entirely of natural ingredients. The flavours, he explains, comes through essences, extracts and some distillates.
“For us, it means it gives us a bit of a larger pallet of flavour notes to work with and allows us to really push the boundaries in terms of getting a non-alcoholic expression on an original, out to market.
“There are distillates that we use to extract some of those flavours that are more difficult to get,” Livings said. “So how that works is that the base item that we are trying to extract the flavour from is soaked in ethanol or is distilled. We then infuse that ethanol into the water and then boil the ethanol off.
What’s with the animals?
The thing that is probably the most striking about the brand is the packaging. The labels were all hand-drawn by a stencil artist, Joe White, who works out of London. As Mark explains it, the animals used on the labels were chosen so as to evoke the providence of the original spirit.
For the American malt which is Lyre’s homage to Bourbon, a North American black bear was used. For the Dry Vermouth, there is a French ibex (or mountain goat) and an Italian fox is on the label for the Amaretto.
“We thought we would be a little bit cheeky and build this menagerie of different characters that come from all over the world and pay tribute to the providence of the original spirit,” Livings explained.
Lyre’s has very pointedly ensured that everything about the products from the packaging to the taste relies heavily on the familiar. And as society becomes more comfortable with abstinence or intermittent abstinence, Livings believes Lyre’s will become the recognisable alternative that will give people the freedom to socialise, relax and connect.
Yet Livings is keen to point out that Lyre’s is not just any alternative, but one that is borne from a quest to make the impossible possible.
“The very nature of this brand is to disrupt” Livings added. “It’s about doing something that has previously been thought to exist only in imagination or in a state of insane creativity.
“We are quite proud of being quirky and different, and we put it front and centre, so we think it works. We certainly hope it makes us memorable.”