Diageo’s investment is both financial and resource-based, as Ritual’s direct-to-consumer and retail business will be developed by incubator Distill Ventures.
It’s fitting that the world’s first independent beverage accelerator—which helped develop the world’s first alcohol-free spirit, Seedlip—will help build and scale the first American alcohol-free spirit alternative.
Ritual Zero Proof was founded in Chicago by David Crooch, GG Sakey and Marcus Sakey. Upon the brand’s launch in September 2019, their supply of Gin Alternative and Whiskey Alternative was expected to last through February of 2020. It sold out by October 2019.
Diageo acquired a minority stake in Seedlip in 2016, increasing their investment in August of last year to acquire a majority share. Currently, Diageo has a minority stake in Ritual Zero Proof.
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Roughly a quarter of the brands enrolled in Distill Ventures accelerator program produce non-alcohol beverages. If Diageo’s investment is any indication, Ritual is likely to become wildly popular with bar and restaurant guests choosing not to consume alcohol.
The characteristic that bartenders will likely appreciate most about Ritual is its ease of use. When substituting Ritual Gin Alternative or Whiskey Alternative for their full-proof counterparts, the Ritual products can be swapped in with a 1:1 ratio. That means classics made with gin and whiskey can be transformed into zero-proof versions with ease and speed.
Gin Alternative is described as mirroring “the familiar flavor of gin with cucumber, juniper berries, mint and basil, perfectly served with tonic.” Whiskey Alternative “is warm and soulful, with notes of oak and vanilla, the perfect match for orange and bitters.”
“This is a movement,” says Marcus Sakey, founding partner and chief brand officer of Ritual Zero Proof, of consumer interest in zero-proof cocktails. “Just like almond milk and veggie burgers, spirit alternatives are changing the landscape. In 18 months, we predict non-alcoholic options will be on every menu and the shelves of every grocery store. Americans want more choice, and Ritual Zero Proof is all about more—more flavor, more moments, more life, that is. It’s the only American-made spirit alternative to echo the taste, smell and burn of a spirit—without the alcohol or calories.”
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The curious can find Ritual Zero Proof in select bars, Michelin-starred restaurants and major beverage retailers throughout Chicago. Gin Alternative and Whiskey Alternative are available for purchase on the Ritual Zero Proof Website and on Amazon.
In other incubator news, 2020 Nightclub & Bar Show attendees will have the chance to check out 40 hospitality industry-specific tech startups during the 35th anniversary celebration. Don't miss out on the next generation of cutting-edge bar and restaurant tech located in the new NxT Pavilion, sponsored by the American Nightlife Association, LA Fund, 500 Startups and Intel. Register now!