This question has been with me since the beginning.
Before I settled on the final recipes for the Ludlow Red and Rivington Spritz, I knew I wanted to make something completely unique. As someone who spent over ten years in cocktail bars and restaurants researching ingredients, reading books, and crafting cocktails, I knew I wanted to create something that was “done” in the same way that a cocktail would be if I served it to someone at a bar, for a truly sophisticated non-alcoholic option. I wanted to do all the work, so that it was ready to drink, right out of the bottle. A complete thought, without any need for mixing or modification in order to have the optimal experience.I started with the core flavor structure: complex botanical ingredients supported by artisanal vinegar and clarified fruit. Rivington Spritz’s recipe was anchored by the combination of Chinese rhubarb and strawberry supported chamomile, hibiscus, and gentian for added complexity and depth. Ludlow Red’s genesis was my affinity for combining black pepper and blackberries together in drinks. On top of that I wove in licorice, roasted dandelion root, honeysuckle, chrysanthemum, rose, hibiscus, chamomile, and fig balsamic vinegar.
I drew inspiration from years of studying vermouths, liqueurs, amaros, and non-alcoholic spirits, fueled by living in New York City, a place where so many culinary traditions overlap; ingredients from all over the world are only a subway ride away. But I didn’t want to recreate a familiar experience for people: Proteau was not going to be a non-alcoholic spirit, nor was it intended as a wine alternative. At the core, Proteau is a non-alcoholic beverage, but I always felt that term was a little lacking—too clinical. Keen observers will notice that we printed labels with “non-alcoholic aperitif”, but that’s not a term I find all that accurate, since aperitif has a very specific meaning in Europe. I didn’t want to call it a bottled cocktail since the word “cocktail” has a lot of meaning behind it and might set up the wrong expectation.
I also didn’t set out to develop a wellness drink with any functional claims. Although almost every ingredient in Proteau has some research into the physiological effect on the body and I’m thrilled that Proteau could be considered a healthy drink. But for me it was never about that. The functional benefit is deliciousness. The joy you feel when you taste something really amazing while sitting with loved ones…everything is in service of that feeling.
Proteau has references: elements of Italian bitter liqeurs, Crème de Cassis, Aperol, and sweet vermouth and even Lillet, but stands on its own.So the term we use for Proteau is: “Zero-Proof Botanical Drink”, and it gets the job done. My ambition is to have enough variants in the line that Proteau will become ubiquitous—synonymous with complex and sophisticated, food-friendly, zero-proof botanical drinks.