Going out for dinner and drinks is a big part of many Singaporeans’ lives, especially when there is always a new bar or restaurant popping up.
This was especially so for Melati Drinks founder Lorin Winata. The 27-year-old used to work in investment, and would often be expected to attend networking events after work.
It was often the case that alcohol was present at such events, and she felt under pressure to drink when socialising with friends or colleagues, despite being concerned about not feeling as fresh and rested the following day.
Lorin felt that there was a lack of sophisticated, adult-focused booze alternatives that both satisfied and provided the same complexity as booze, and it was difficult to find a drink that paired nicely and complemented the dishes.
She noticed that, while Singapore was a food and drink capital of the world, there was a huge gap in terms of zero-or low-ABV drinks that were delicious, complex, and wouldn’t look out of place at a glamorous event or Michelin-starred restaurant.
A life-changing trip to Bali
The idea for Melati really started to come to life during a visit to Lorin’s ancestral farmland in Jatiluwih, Bali.
According to Lorin, the botanicals grown there have been being used in traditional medicinal remedies for centuries, and something just clicked in her head.
Why was there not a product out there that utilised the restorative properties of these ingredients, yet was socially acceptable — and enjoyable! — to have at parties, or as a way to unwind after a busy work week.Lorin Winata, founder of Melati Drinks
Following that visit to Bali, she shortlisted 60 botanicals that she felt were intriguing and had important health benefits. She then worked alongside an Ayurvedic specialist and food scientist to fine tune this list to 26 botanicals.
These botanicals were selected for their mood-boosting, detoxifying properties, as well as the fact that they blended together to create a deliciously complex taste.
With that, she created Melati — Asia’s first non-alcoholic aperitif inspired by traditional Asian remedies. An aperitif is is an alcoholic beverage usually served before a meal to stimulate the appetite.
The Classic Melati is created from rare and individually selected Asian botanicals, and the team works closely with farmers all over the world to ensure a fair trading process and to build a longstanding relationship.
The botanicals are then individually treated via cold-extraction for up to six weeks to draw out maximum benefits, before being carefully hand-blended in Singapore.
To ensure optimum quality and freshness, the team only make 500 bottles each time. Each bottle contains zero per cent alcohol, and only 12 calories per serving.
According to the Melati website, a 500ml bottle of Melati is going for S$68. There are also sets available, with a gift set going for S$75 and a starter set going for S$38.
Is it a replacement for alcohol?
The key difference between Melati and existing non-alcoholic options is that Melati is not intended as a direct replacement for alcohol, and does not attempt to mimic the flavour of traditional spirits.
Additionally, Melati is a restorative product, due to its use of rare botanicals such as chokeberry, sencha, red kampot pepper and star anise. These botanicals work together to offer antioxidant and detoxing qualities.
Together, they help to detoxify the liver, increase blood flow, spark digestion, and support general wellbeing. Melati also does not use sugar as a filler ingredient, so the blend of the botanicals is particularly potent.
According to Lorin, the “flavour, mouthfeel and length has a certain depth which can sometimes be missing in non-alcoholic beverage options.”
When asked how Melati tastes like, Lorin shared that it is a deliciously complex bittersweet aperitif reminiscent of a red vermouth or sloe gin.
Due to the unique blend of botanicals, Melati’s complex flavour profile means that it is best enjoyed in a classic spritz serve — you can simply add one-part Melati and one-part tonic or soda water over ice and garnish with a slice of orange — making it easy to enjoy at home or in a bar or restaurant.
Melati is currently on the menus of some of the city’s best restaurants and bars, including three Michelin-starred Odette, Michelin-starred Nouri, and Native, ranked six on Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2020.
Is non-alcoholic the future of beverages?
There has recently been a rise in popularity in alcohol alternatives, as more Singaporeans try to cut down on their alcohol consumption for one reason or another.
Other zero or low-alcohol brands such as Lyre’s Non Alcoholic Spirits and Seedlip have made their way into restaurant and bar menus in the past year.
While they represent a small quantity compared to alcoholic cocktails, there’s steady growth, and I do see an increase in demand. Three years ago, one in 10 customers would ask for a zero alcoholic cocktail, but now it is one in five.Aki Eguchi, programme director at The Jigger & Pony Group in an interview with The Business Times
Indeed, Lorin believes that “this is only the beginning of the road for non-alcoholic spirits and aperitifs” as more people than ever are concerned with what they are putting into their bodies — from the health benefits of each product, to how it is sourced and made.
Non-alcoholic spirits and aperitifs offer consumers the choice of abstaining from alcohol in an interesting, sophisticated way, while still being able to enjoy a flavourful drink.
“As the non-alcoholic scene continues to grow, I believe there is more than enough room for multiple brands and products. Essentially, the category barely existed until a few years ago, so it’s really exciting to see how it continues to evolve, and how new players are responding to consumer demand and tastes to develop new and exciting products,” said Lorin.
Featured Image Credit: Dsgcp / Melati Drinks