They decided to develop three drinks, each with different botanicals, to be enjoyed before, during and after food. But they needed a base – something interesting, not just water – so once again they looked to history. Verjus, or ‘green juice’, the juice of wine grapes pressed before they change colour, kept coming up in old books of recipes and herbal remedies. ‘In the UK, we used verjus in cooking before we had citrus, so it’s a classic ingredient,’ says Warner. She explains that until the 18th century, when the climate became colder, there was an abundance of grapes in Britain, but that global warming has enabled viticulture here again since the 1970s, evidenced by a small but booming industry in English sparkling wine. ‘When you take alcohol out of the equation, drinks lose the mouthfeel, body and structure, which you need in a drink to be had with food. Verjus gives some of that back.’ While verjus is usually the result of waste grapes, Aecorn’s producer grows grapes specifically for verjus, ‘so there’s a lovely balance of acidity and sweetness’.
Aecorn is a blend of that verjus base, fresh botanicals and a stabiliser that Warner and Branson keep top secret. There’s the bright-red Aecorn Bitter for before dinner – a blend of acorns, bitter citrus, gentian, Sancho pepper, bay leaf and coffee that’s designed to be drunk as a spritz or used as an ingredient in a ‘NOgroni’, which is served at Soho House. The other two are somewhere between wine and vermouth: Aecorn Dry is a blend of black tea, quassia, camomile, clary sage, English oak, seaweed and Maldon salt, to be sipped with foods like white fish, light meats and anything creamy that it can cut through, while Aecorn Aromatic, reminiscent of an old-world red wine, has notes of vanilla, clove, cassia, cola and French oak – perfect to finish a meal alongside cheese, chocolate or coffee, where you might normally drink a port.
While an absence of alcohol is the basis for both Aecorn and Seedlip’s business models, Warner observes that, across the board, drinks companies are now embracing ‘low and no’ as a means of making the industry more creative. Sparkling water and tonic be warned: there’s competition in town. And, pregnant or otherwise, I'm stocking up.
Aecorn Aperitifs are served at all Soho Houses in the UK as part of the NOgroni. Find out more at aecornaperitifs.com.
Images courtesy of Aecorn.