Meet Mary: the low-alcohol spirit perfect for summer picnics

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There are so many reasons someone might choose a low-alcohol spirit – from health benefits to mental wellbeing. And now, particularly post-lockdown, there’s a rising trend in people re-evaluating their relationship with alcohol, and as such, has seen an increased demand for no and low alcohol spirits on the market.

Mary – a 6 per cent ABV – is one of those spirits. A light, sustainable spirit made with a responsibly sourced botanical blend with six times less alcohol than your average gin.

Eric Sampers, who created the brand, was formerly the brand director for Beefeater Gin. He said: “There are a lot of pressures in today’s world. People are making lifestyle changes – including what they are drinking. So far, many new drink options are focused on zero alcohol, but not everyone wants to become teetotallers or have a full-strength drink. Some people want to simply moderate how much alcohol they put into their bodies and balance their lifestyle – but most of all they want to feel good about their choices.

“Consumers are changing behaviour very fast, particularly the younger generation, who are starting to question their relationship with alcohol. There is always a generation that dictates the agenda in terms of trends and fashion, but then their choices end up influencing a lot more. They can break the rules or the tradition, but eventually those trends spread very fast across other age groups.”

The low alcohol spirit is not a gin, but it’s ‘gin-esque’ so to speak, in that in terms of botanicals and flavour, it’s the most similar in taste. And after launching in 2020, it’s already been crowned winner of The Spirits Business Low & No Masters 2021 as the Grand Taste Master – the highest accolade across 90 competitors and 7 categories.

First of all, the bottle and branding is absolutely gorgeous – bright, vibrant and fun. They’re all words and feelings we’d have previously associated with a night out – but low alcohol doesn’t mean low energy or mood. In my teens, if I went out with friends, people would be quick to label you ‘boring’ for only having one, but it’s simply not the case and Illogical drinks know it. The company, and Mary as a brand know their market and are anticipating for the future. It’s Instagram worthy, on trend, has a focus on sustainability, is certified vegan and gluten free. It also has no added sugar, no artificial flavours and no carbs, and is only nine calories per 25ml serving.

To put things into perspective, a standard gin bottle is 40 per cent ABV, whereas Mary is 6, which dilutes to 1.5 per cent when mixed – the equivalent to around 0.3 units of alcohol.

Drink Aware said: “Choosing lower strength alternatives means – providing you drink the same number of drinks – you consume fewer units of alcohol and are more likely to stay within the guidelines.

“The health benefits of switching to low alcohol or non-alcoholic drinks are clear. In the short term, you’re more likely to get a better night’s sleep; feel fresher in the morning and have a more productive day at work as a result. What’s more, some lighter products are lower in calories, so your waistline will thank you too.

“Importantly, reducing the number of units you consume helps avoid the more serious long-term effects of drinking too much, including cancer, mental health problems, high blood pressure and heart disease.”

The seven botanicals distilled into the spirit are:
  • Basil for freshness and garden appeal
  • Sage for a savoury touch
  • Thyme for fresh garden flavour and a ‘long finish’
  • Juniper for the gin-like quality
  • Coriander seed for a ‘moreish’ taste
  • Angelica root for ‘sophisticated depth’
  • Pine to lift the flavours
  • Grain spirit for the alcohol taste

Opening the bottle, it smells of summers spent in your grandma’s herb garden with a hint of citrus. Tasting neat, it’s a very herby flavour – fresh and dry. It has a smooth mouthfeel without the shudder you’d usually get from inhaling, or sipping a higher ABV spirit, but it does still have that ‘taste’ of alcohol.

‘Why include alcohol at all?’ is a question many will ask, and the brand simply answer: taste, of course. They said: “It can’t be denied that alcohol has a taste. That’s why wine is more satisfying than grape juice and gin tastes better than cold tea. Alcohol adds sophistication and elegance and let’s face, it’s kind of delicious.”

The spirit was designed to go with tonic, but as Eric said before, we are a generation of rule breakers. It’s versatility means it will pair with virtually anything, from soda, to lemonade or ginger beer. The pine distilled into Mary ‘lifts the taste’ to ensure it is never overshadowed by mixers, using pine needles that would otherwise be by-products of (sustainable) timber production.

Whilst Illogical Drinks suggest a mix of one part Mary, to two parts tonic with lots of ice and garnished with cucumber and lemon thyme, I served mine with ice, San Pellegrino lemonata, with lemon slices and blueberries.

Mary added: “On other days we change up our garnish to something savoury like sage and black pepper, or something citrusy like orange. We’re not fussed, drinking should be easy, so whatever you do, just make sure you do you — and garnish as your mood takes you.”

Mary is a refreshing summer tipple perfect the your post-lockdown picnic with your friends, so you can have all the fun and flavour of alcohol whilst drinking responsibly with a sustainable and visually beautiful brand that’s trend-setting for the future.

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