High Point Drinks is the brainchild of Eddie Lofthouse, founder of Cornish brewery Harbour Brewing. And we reckon the non-alcoholic alternatives are ideal for making booze-free cocktails you’ll actually enjoy this Dry January.
Just ten minutes from Eddie Lofthouse’s house is the highest point in Bodmin (and in Cornwall), the summit of Rough Tor. He and his family go up there to see sunrises and sunsets, the ocean and the local wildlife. “It’s wild, rugged and ace. When life is moving at pace, how you choose to spend your time can quickly become about choices,” he says.
It was having this thought at this spot that Lofthouse conceived of High Point Drinks, a brand based on the idea that the choice not to drink alcohol should be about an elevated experience, not a compromised one. As was the case with Harbour Brewing Co, he couldn’t find what he was looking for in the market so he decided to make it himself. “Despite the pace of its growth, we couldn’t find depth, complexity or rich flavours in the no-to-low booze world. Our expertise in fermentation meant that we had craft production and layers of authentic flavour to introduce to the conversation”.
The Cornwall brand currently makes two drinks, a non-alcoholic fermented Aperitif and Digestif. Lofthouse was attracted to this style of drink because he feels they’re sophisticated and hold depth of flavour, complexity and are interesting to drink. He adds that “we chose to create an aperitif and a digestif for more than just their style. It’s the occasions that are associated with them. Two key moments around the table that we love, an aperitif at the beginning of a delicious meal with friends, and a digestif when the meal ends and the pace of the evening begins to wind down”.
How a brewer makes low-and-no alcohol
The process to create both beings with a brew of Cornish spring water (the elixir of life – depending on who you ask, says Lofthouse) and tea leaves. Then a two-stage fermentation process is done, one bacteria and the other yeast, or anaerobic and aerobic if you’re the kind of person who watches Only Connect.
While alcohol is produced as a natural part of this process, it’s eaten up and converted into acetic acid. From there natural fruits, herbs, and spices are infused and afterwards, a blending method is used to achieve balance. The digestif has an extra step in that it ages for a week or so to create a smoother mouthfeel and extract some deeper notes.
Lofthouse’s brewing background comes into its own here, as flavour in High Point drinks really is driven by the fermentation. “Those years of perfecting and deepening our knowledge, and an ability to play with the process has uncovered layers of complexity and flavour beyond our expectations,” Lofthouse says. “We knew the science behind it would work, but the personalities shining through so distinctly in both Ruby and Amber have been rewarding and surprising, for both ourselves and the on-trade”.
Providing choices, not compromises
Dry January isn’t a pledge I’ve ever taken myself and, as the founder of Harbour Brewing, it’s fair to say that Lofthouse is more motivated by moderation, not sobriety. “People want choices. We’re not anti-alcohol. It’s about finding balance in a world of indulgence, something we’ve all become increasingly aware of throughout the pandemic,” he explains. “The ritual of preparing a sophisticated drink and enjoying it at home; for many, this is simply relaxation. If we can offer someone that same occasion without the alcohol then that is finding balance without compromise for us. People want to compromise on their alcohol intake, not on flavour and experience”.
It’s this perspective that demonstrates the potential of the no-and-low alcohol market. The desire for choices means the need for options, so expect more brands like High Point to pop up. Lofthouse predicts we’ll see some unprecedented growth first, as new brands and ideas make themselves known, followed by a natural evolution in quality and understanding as awareness of the market grows. “The NA market has the potential to give consumers what they’re seeking, a way to master moderation without feeling excluded or left with a “less than” taste,” he summarises.
The question that remains is, how do you create non-alcoholic cocktails that don’t skimp on flavour or a sense of occasion? “Keeping it simple, and letting the complexity perfected in our liquids lead the way. We’re not looking to be a ‘replacement’, High Point Drinks stand up by themselves in cocktails,” Lofthouse explains. “We keep it simple for at home recipes, and hand the controls over to the bartenders and mixologists that truly know what they’re doing”.
Here’s some recipes and a breakdown of each product to get you started.
High Point Ruby
High Point Ruby is a vibrant fermented aperitif and delicious served as a spritz with tonic and ice. This bittersweet citrus aperitif also works really well when paired with fine food.
Ingredients: Hibiscus, lavender, wormwood, pink peppercorn, orange zest and pink grapefruit zest.
Tasting note: A wild herbal aroma, a wave of zest and spice that rolls onto your palate with long-lasting bittersweet citrus flavours.
Simple serve: The High Point Ruby Spritz. To make, combine 50ml High Point Ruby and 200ml of good quality tonic water in a large wine glass filled with cubed ice. Garnish with a slice of pink grapefruit. Simple but effective. Lovely.
Take it up a notch: Ruby Bitter Summer. Put 50ml High Point Ruby, 50ml freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice, 15ml freshly squeezed lemon juice, 10ml sugar syrup (made 1:1), 5ml passionfruit syrup and 5-8 mint leaves into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake for 10 seconds. Fine strain into a chilled highball glass full of cubed ice. Garnish with a mint sprig and a slice of pink grapefruit.
For the mixologists: Ruby Clover Club. Place 50ml High Point Ruby, 20ml freshly squeezed lemon juice. 15ml sugar syrup (made 1:1), 5 raspberries, 20ml egg white/vegan foamer in a cocktail shaker, shake without ice, add ice and shake again. Fine strain into a chilled coupette/cocktail glass then garnish with freeze-dried raspberry powder.
High Point Amber
A deeply smoky fermented digestif, which has been cold smoked and aged for one week after blending. Best enjoyed with ginger ale or neat over ice.
Ingredients: Lasag, ginger, clove, vanilla, cacao nibs and gentian root.
Tasting note: Freshly stoked embers and notes of toffee aroma, the scent of freshly stoked embers rise up with notes of log-fired toffee before its signature mouthfeel is ignited, and smoke and spice start to gently warm the soul.
Simple serve: Amber Lowball. To make, combine 50ml High Point Amber and 200ml of good quality ginger ale in a large wine glass filled with cubed ice. Garnish with a slice of orange.
Take it up a notch: The High Point Amber Old Fashioned. To make, combine 50ml High Point Amber Digestif, 5ml of sugar syrup (made 1:1) and three dashes of aromatic bitters in a mixing glass filled with cubed ice. Give it a hearty stir, before straining into a chilled rocks glass over cubed or block ice. Garnish with an orange twist. An effective and rewarding twist on a classic.
For the mixologists: Amber Penicillin. Put 50ml High Point Amber, 20ml freshly squeezed lemon juice, 10ml homemade ginger syrup and 10ml honey syrup (made 3:1) into a cocktail shaker, filled with ice. Shake and strain into a chilled rocks glass filled with cubed ice.