The world of craft cocktails is nothing if not competitive. When drinks world superstars Lauren Paylor and Alex Jump decided to turn their attention to *excellent* N/A drinks, pay attention. (We’ll be giving you a shot at these women’s expert recipes on Wednesday, February 24 at 5pm EST.)
Here’s why we clamored to snag the duo as part of our 2021 Chefs’ Collective: First, there’s their resumés. Lauren trained with Derek Brown (Drink Company) D.C., quickly moving on to acclaim at The Dabney, Kimpton Hotels and Silver Lyan at The Riggs Washington D.C. (Ask her about Cognac! She won the Hardy Cognac Legend Competition in 2019.) Denver-based Alex is no less a superstar. She opened that city’s outpost of Death & Company and earned a Tales of the Cocktail nomination for Bartender of the Year. (She was also a Forbes 30-Under-30 for food and beverage!)
Both women are brand ambassadors for Seedlip, the world’s first non-alcoholic (and extremely delicious) spirit. As though they’re not busy enough, they started Focus on Health, which advocates for the wellness of hospitality industry professionals.
To get excited, learn how they manage to make zero-ABV beverages as exciting as the boozy kind.
Alex and Lauren agree: It’s all about balance. “And creativity!” adds Alex. “It can be tough to feel motivated to come up with something unique, creative, and balanced when you take alcohol out of the equation. But just because it’s n/a doesn’t mean it has to be just a flavored lemonade.” Lauren suggests you look to your favorite classic drinks: “Consider acid, sweetener, spice, and texture (or depth). Take your classic Old Fashioned or Tom Collins and plug in [new] ingredients to ensure that you still have complexity and balance.”
What about Seedlip has inspired you in your work as mixologists?
Alex says, “When I started working at Death & Company, the door of possibilities for what a non-alcoholic cocktail can really be was completely opened for me. Getting introduced to the Seedlip brand really helped me see a whole new world of incorporating flavor into drinks—it works well in a variety of low-ABV cocktails as well!” She makes Seedlip Martinis using Seedlip Spice 94, a little White Verjus (basically non-alcoholic white wine that has a bit more acidity), and Kefir Whey (for body). (For six of our inspiring Seedlip recipes, head right this way!)
What flavors or ingredients do you find yourself turning to again and again?
Lauren loves acid and tartness in any shape: “I really enjoy using vinegar in my beverages as well as grapefruits and oranges.” Alex leans a little more savory: “peanuts, peanut butter, coconut, whey, and olive oil!”
What do you see in the future for N/A beverages?
Alex sees more sophisticated non-alcoholic cocktails “that help make everyone feel welcome at the bar, whether they’re drinking alcohol or not.” Lauren sees people consuming more conscientiously: “I think it is important to acknowledge and to think about how beverages serve us or what purpose they serve, how what we are consuming affects our mind, body, and soul and how we can adjust or change our mindset around the way that we enjoy them.”
Tell us about Focus on Health and what inspired you to start it?
Lauren explains, “It’s a company that advocates for the health and wellness of food and beverage professionals. We explore five pillars of wellness: financial, physical, social, mental and environmental wellness.” A onetime athlete, she had lost her exercise routine and mindfulness in consumption. She was re-committing to a healthy lifestyle right when Alex was launching Focus on Health. Alex adds, “I had become so obsessed and involved in my work that I had completely lost any part of my personhood that didn’t have to do with my job. Just because we work in a field that is so dedicated to serving others doesn’t mean that we have to completely lose ourselves along the way.” Boom: The two joined forces.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your work as a bartender? As a professional?
Onetime workaholic Alex now knows she needs breaks in order to thrive: “It’s okay to want to strive to be the best and to continue to push myself to excel, but that doesn’t mean that I have to give up the rest of who I am in order to achieve those goals.” Lauren adds, “No goal is too big and no journey is too long. I truly believe that if there is something that you want and you do everything in your power to work towards it, you can achieve it.”