Australia is continuing to make strides in the non-alcoholic beverage space with the arrival of a swish new cellar door dedicated to zero-alcohol sips. The newly opened Non HQ is the home of the no-alc drinks purveyor Non, who has been crafting ingredient-focused, left-of-centre tinctures since 2019.
While a cellar door may typically be associated with wooden barrels of vino, soil and vineyards, Non HQ is a stylish laboratory-like setting where extracting flavour is undertaken with scientific precision. Unlike alcohol, water doesn't carry or hold flavour as much as spirits, making the creation of each flavour-forward liquid a laboured process, with ingredients cooked, steeped, sous-vide and roasted to extract maximum deliciousness.
"It's the interplay of the ingredients and processes. It's hard, but it's worthwhile," says founder Aaron Trotman. Once a month, Non HQ opens its doors to punters so people can see the detail behind each beverage as well as mix up their own creations. "We want to be able to taste each ingredient individually," says kitchen lead Nick Cozen.
At the HQ, the team creates a complex tasting profile by layering different flavour building blocks, which are also found in winemaking. This includes floral and fruity elements on the nose; followed by tannins or bitterness, often using something like black tea, orange pith or cascara that "builds depth and complexity," says Cozen. Acidity is added, often with verjus. "It's that sourness and acid that really brightens things up," he adds. Then spice rounds things out. "Allspice, pink peppercorn or ginger gives a warming feeling," says Cozen.
So far, the team has developed seven different drinks, including the bright and juicy salted raspberry and chamomile; and one with stewed coffee and cherry that's moody, chilled and quaffable. Along with seeing the creation process, punters also get to tour through the slickly designed headquarters. The interiors were designed and decorated with the help of Weekdays Design (who also did the graphic design for Non's bottles) and Jardan, who furnished the tasting room
Each of the seven different Non releases has been made with food in mind, so the drinks complement certain dishes. Trotman's called upon Joel Baylon of The Moon Wine Bar and Shop – who on our visit does seven courses of umami-forward snacks, which work well with the different Non drinks – to host private food pairings. The food pairings can be added onto the distillery tour to round out the flavour-forward experience and see the drinks shine alongside good eats.
Overall the operation proves how Melbourne is at the forefront when it comes to creating exceptional liquids without alcohol, and showcases this all by letting people take a peek behind the curtain.