Melbourne-based distiller Brunswick Aces has been making gin without the gin – that looks like, smells like and (almost) tastes like the real thing – since 2017. But soon you’ll be able to jump on their booze-free bandwagon IRL.
In late April, the team is opening what it’s calling “Australia’s first permanent non-alcoholic bar” in a Brunswick East warehouse – sandwiched between Temple Brewing and Market Lane’s roastery on Weston Street.
“People feel like it’s a fad and it’ll drop off, but it doesn’t,” Brunswick Aces co-founder Stephen Lawrence says of the teetotalling movement. And while non-alcoholic drinks are losing stigma and even gaining popularity among Aussies, “It’s all about getting liquid on lips.” So the bar will be a place for those who might be reluctant to buy an entire bottle of a zero-alcohol spirit to drop in and see exactly what it can bring to an expertly crafted cocktail.
Brunswick Aces currently distils two zero-ABV gin alternatives: the London dry-style Spades blend and the more contemporary Hearts blend, with notes of sweet citrus and native Australian wattleseed. Whisky and rum-inspired products are coming soon.
At the bar they’ll star in “complex, adult-flavoured” cocktails – nothing like the typical sickly sweet mocktails abstaining folk may have had to stomach. Expect the simple Rosemary’s Love with your choice of Brunswick Aces blend, rosemary gomme (a type of sugar syrup), soda and flame-licked rosemary, or the Estate Fizz made using the Spades blend and an Earl Grey mix frothed up with egg whites and served in a coupe. Despite the alcohol-free schtick, there’ll also be a single, actually alcoholic G&T on the list.
If you’re thinking, “Aren’t bars inherently boozy?”, Lawrence has an answer for you. The space will intentionally feel no different to a regular bar – it’ll be moody, dimly lit and with cosy nooks – so those who don’t drink don’t feel left out. “When we started making these drinks, it was much less about the alcohol [or lack thereof] and more about [replicating] the experience, the ambiance, the company.”
Education and interactivity will also be a focus – “really showing people how to make [these cocktails] at home,” Lawrence says. And while you sip your cocktail, you’ll have a front-row seat into the on-site distillery through big glass panes.