I paid $4 for a glass of soda water straight from the gun at a pub recently. I might as well have had a happy hour beer for the extra gold coin. But it wasn’t a Dry July pledge that stopped me from ordering a pale ale. I’m just choosing to drink more “mindfully” at the moment. And I’m not alone. The global no- and low-alcohol drinks market grew by more than seven per cent in 2022, surpassing US$11 billion. The driver? An uptick in the sober curious movement, which has created increased demand for zero-per-cent drinks that actually taste good.
Etota’s bittersweet non-alcoholic aperitivo is ruby red and super sippable. It’s brewed and bottled in the NSW Northern Rivers town of Tyagarah using local ingredients like rhubarb, grapefruit and beetroot. There are no artificial preservatives or flavours, but it contains an organic mushroom that keeps it shelf-stable for longer.
When a bottle arrived at the Broadsheet office, hands flew up for a taste test. There’s a tartness that hits your tongue immediately and took some of us by surprise at first. It’s grapefruit-forward but smells like rhubarb and berries. Nods of approval filled the room as we took second and third sips. And even though it’s sweet, there’s a savoury finish and alcohol-adjacent bitterness that keeps you coming back for more. The mouthfeel is closer to its intoxicating cousins like Campari and Aperol than the cordials and soft drinks often peddled as booze-free alternatives. This was important to founder Kate Forrester, who worked with distiller Nick Royds to perfect the formula.
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Forrester is candid about her experience with alcohol. “I learnt how to binge-drink pretty early. After four years of abstinence and working through the underlying issues, I can now enjoy a drink but prefer to drink less,” she says.
The brand name is a tribute to Antonio Benedetto Carpano, who is credited as the inventor of modern vermouth. “We originally launched as Etto, but there is another business with the trademark. So we played around with the letters and chose Etota,” Forrester says. Coincidentally, these letters are found in the word “teetotaller”, though the brand takes more of a choose-your-own-adventure approach to consumption.
“You can sip it on ice or mixed with soda water. But you can also use it as a base for cocktails – it pairs really well with gin,” Forrester says. Other serving suggestions include recipes for Clover Club, Sgroppino and Mojito mocktails.
Speaking of gin, the leftover extracts from the aperitivo are being used to distil a red gin, which will be available later in the year. This is part of the brand’s effort to create a circular product that offers drinkers choice. “Once we’ve used all the extracts to distil the aperitivo and the gin, they get put on the gardens as we’re trying to eliminate any waste in our process. We’re also looking into working with local suppliers to source produce waste for some of our ingredients. For example, there is a huge problem with strawberries – even if only a few look bad, some places will throw out a whole crate,” Forrester says.
You can buy the aperitivo in a 500-millilitre bottle for $50 or sample a pack of three 50-millilitre serves for $20. You might also notice Etota’s aperitivo on the menu at some of your favourite restaurants and bars: Nomad in Melbourne, Ciao, Mate in Bangalow, Bianca in Brisbane, Aloft in Hobart and Adelaide’s Leigh Street Wine Room are among the brand’s current stockists.