Drink: Toast the New Year booze-free with Cambridge brand Nøde
The no-and-low drinks market in the UK is predicted to reach £450 million in 2024. Proof you can ring in the New Year without booze, Alice Ryan raises a glass with Sam Adams, founder of Cambridge 0% brand Nøde
What makes Nøde stand out from the 0% crowd?
We’re big on locally sourced ingredients from independent businesses, as well as having a huge focus on sustainability. As we make small-batch quantities,we can also manage having little-to-no wastage on the drinks. We’re a family company, with everything done in-house from the drinks creation to the branding and photography.
I’m always coming up with new creations, and base most of the drinks around what’s in season. We grow our own Cola Herb during the summer months, when we can also be found foraging locally for botanicals like elderflower. When the cooler months roll in, however, it’s all about warming combinations, like our core product, which is the Vermouth - a base of red wine and Chinese vinegar infused with a heap of spices over two days. It's got some heat from Pul Biber spice which gives a lovely long finish and compliments the juniper berries, and is very versatile - even just served with soda for a simple drink at home.
This isn’t your first no/low rodeo: you were developer of the alcohol-free drinks list at Vanderlyle in Cambridge, weren't you?
I have always been fascinated by the process of brewing beer since I started working in pubs. The flavours and aromas that you can get from the hops, malts, and yeasts are insane when you put them through different processes for brewing.
When Alex, Lawrence and I had our initial brainstorm on what the drinks offering could be at Vanderlyle, a non-alcoholic pairing came up. Not knowing really anything about kombucha and fermentation, we took it as a learning opportunity and were able to offer an equal experience for everyone who came and dined with us, whether they wanted to drink alcohol or not.
To fill in a bit of background: did you always want to work in food and drink? What sparked the interest?
I started working at my local pub at the age of 15, pot-washing and peeling a lot of potatoes for Sunday lunch! When I was old enough to start working behind the bar, I moved out to front-of-house and fell in love with the atmosphere and the interactions with the customers. The longer I stayed within the industry the more I enjoyed it; learning about ingredients, and techniques, and becoming more knowledgeable about how to manage a business, too.
Where has your career path taken you? In Cambridge, we know you as part of Steak & Honour's Wheeler Street team.
I did have a year away from the hospitality trade to be a sound engineer for Warner Bros - I toured for a production of Scooby Doo all around the UK - but went straight back into hospitality as soon as I returned. I even did a year at the institution that is Gardies, serving students until the early hours of the morning! More recently I was the openings project manager for Charles Wells Brewery, where I travelled to open new sites all over the country. I’m currently the manager at Steak & Honour.
The no-and-low sector is booming. What's driving that surge of popularity - and sales - in your opinion?
The products on offer now are vast compared to five years ago, which has helped massively. I think there are also less questions being asked if you're at the pub and not drinking, too. This could be down to a general increase of mental health awareness; I think there’s more of an open narrative these days connecting alcohol to anxiety, for example, and there is definitely a cleaner living trend with younger generations that was skipped in mine!
It's a very slow journey, but I think with what the no/low community is offering, and what the independent companies in particular are pushing out, it'll keep growing and become the norm on a weekend for people not to drink as much, and even to become more sober-curious.
You're pouring a drink on New Year’s Eve. . . What's it going to be?
I'll be making our take on a Port. It's a base of pomegranate juice which is infused with orange peel, cinnamon, clove, star anise, chocolate, and some other spices. That'll be alongside a giant cheese board from Rennet & Rind I'm sure!
For details of upcoming events, pop-ups, new batches and made-to-order drinks - plus a link to the online shop - go to Instagram @nodedrink. You can also find Nøde at Barbarella, Chesterton, every Sunday through January.
Photography: Daisy Dickinson
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