High spirits, clear minds is the motto behind Monday Distillery, a Geelong non-alcoholic beverage brand with a big future ahead.
THE hiss as you crack the bottle open combined with a bright and zesty flavour will instantly have your mouth tingling with the familiarity of a classic gin and tonic.
The taste is so good you may not even realise the flavoursome drink is non-alcoholic.
And that is exactly what the female founder of Monday Distillery, a Geelong-born business, wants you to think.
It all started when Sam Manning discovered there were limited options for a night out with friends if you wanted to stay alcohol free.
Choices typically included either a sickly sugar-filled drink, or flavoured sparkling water.
Using her background in botanicals and beverages, she set out to develop something with all the emotional connection, taste and vibe of her favourite gin and tonic, without the effects of alcohol.
“People are after more sophisticated, health conscious options that still offer the feeling of a fun social drink with friends,” Sam explains.
“Research shows that it’s easier to replace a habit with a similar, yet healthier one.
“Helping people keep that relaxing drink ritual in something that looks and tastes like an adult beverage is something we’re told is part of the major appeal.”
The timing of the launch of Monday Distillery in the middle of last year couldn’t have been better for Sam, who fell pregnant and was herself in the market for a non-alcoholic option.
But expectant mother’s aren’t the only ones excited about the new offering.
“We were going to so many social events and I had something to take,” Sam laughs.
“Initially the idea was so pregnant women would have something to drink, but then there is the designated driver and then there’s those on a diet trying to cut back on sugar.
“It is a really big movement – we are leading healthier lifestyles in general.”
Monday Distillery’s Classic G & T is made from carbonated Australian spring water, juniper berry, lemon, lime, rosemary, sea salt, citric acid, stevia quinine and cinchona bark.
Meanwhile the Exotic Spice G & T mixes out the rosemary, sea salt and citric acid for cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom.
The brand is Geelong born and bred.
Sam and her husband Haydn Farley – who has now also joined the business full time – are proud to say the drink is made in Geelong at microbrewery Bellarine Brewing Company with a distribution warehouse also in Geelong.
The couple were based in Torquay until a recent move to Port Fairy, but plan to keep their operations in Geelong.
This isn’t Sam’s first foray into the drinks world. In 2014, she and best friend Mia Cox launched OhSo Tea Co, a loose leaf tea business.
Sam then went on to create Cha Cha Tea in 2016, which saw her developing tea concentrates – mixers naturally coloured in bright hues. While running Cha Cha Tea Sam was also experimenting with ready-to-drink beverages. This is when Osun Sparkling, formerly known as Madame Dry, began.
Osun Sparkling is a sugar free, botanically infused drink made with carbonated spring water that has been positively charged using crystals.
Each bottle is rich in antioxidants and is consumed for its health and beauty benefits.
Sam says Osun Sparkling was very female skewed but knew there was a whole demographic of men out there who would also appreciate a fresh option – and that is when Monday Distillery came to fruition.
“People get really excited to walk into a barbecue with this, people don’t question what you’re drinking,” she says. “During our market research we would give it to people to try and ask them what it is and they would say a gin and tonic.”
Given the expansion in the business, Haydn decided to quit his job for an Australian retailer and join the Monday Distillery team full time.
The couple actually met while working for The Laboratory, albeit while Sam was based in Queensland and Haydn in Torquay, where he was her boss.
“I worked there for 13 years. I’ve been everywhere in Australia, it was a lot of travel, but lucky because otherwise we wouldn’t have met,” Haydn says.
Less travel has meant the couple were able to start a family, welcoming Paddy into the world 11 weeks ago.
They are now splitting their time between their off-grid property in Port Fairy, where Haydn grew up, and northern New South Wales, where Sam was raised.
“We joke we are new age hipsters living off-grid for six months and then up north for six months, with everything tied to Geelong,” she says.
Sam and Haydn, who currently have 230 stockists Australia-wide, including 120 stockists in Victoria, hope to launch Monday Distillery and Osun Sparkling in America down the track.
Local stockists include Provenance Wines, Box Office Cafe and Bottles & Barrels, which was one of the first to come on board.
They are also stocked at Victorian Dan Murphy stores, an achievement they still can’t quite believe.
“You have no idea how exciting it is to have it stocked in stores,” Sam says.
Gin is not the only alcohol the duo are inspired by. There are also plans for non-alcoholic vodka, whiskey and rum drinks.
Watch this space.