Drinking when you’re not drinking by Ben Branson

Growing up in the Lincolnshire countryside, you could be sure of two things: the village pub was the rock-steady feature and social centre for all the gossip and goings-on of the community; and, first published a year before I was born in 1982, there was always a copy of The Good Pub Guide at home….

Growing up in the Lincolnshire countryside, you could be sure of two things: the village pub was the rock-steady feature and social centre for all the gossip and goings-on of the community; and, first published a year before I was born in 1982, there was always a copy of The Good Pub Guide at home.

The role of the public house has shifted significantly over the last 30 years, with much of the penny-counting and bar-propping updated to meet the needs of the modern punter. These days, we want good coffee, more veggie options, we have allergies, children in tow, we like craft beer with pizza, we’ll start with a cocktail and we want to know where the food comes from. We want better, we’re willing to pay for it —and publicans have answered our call.

Historically, if you weren’t drinking alcohol, for whatever reason, you drew the shortest, saddest straw. ‘Um, I don’t know… oh, I’ll just have a lime and soda’ (we’ve all been there). Those apologetic words, uttered quietly, were met with either the refrain ‘Are you feeling OK?’ or a despondent glance that screamed: poor you! But those days of fluorescent lime-coloured pints are over, and a new dawn of proper non-alcoholic drinks has arrived. Pubs up and down the country now offer some of the best options if you’re not drinking. The driver isn’t forgotten, the pregnant lady not ignored and, instead of a compromise or an apology, people are now openly ordering a Seedlip & Tonic or a Nanny State (BrewDog’s alcohol-free beer) or an Aecorn Spritz (Aecorn Bitter plus sparkling water).

I’d go as far as to say that pubs now are what pubs were always destined to be. Diverse, inclusive, multifaceted and more social than they ever were before — and that’s a great thing.

Favourite pub: Coach West Street, Marlow, Buckinghamshire SL7 2LS, thecoachmarlow.co.uk

Located round the corner from where I developed Seedlip in my kitchen, this was one of the first pubs that Seedlip was served in. Try the triple-cooked chips with béarnaise sauce and a Seedlip & Tonic!

Ben Branson is the founder of Seedlip, producer of the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirits. His mission is twofold: solve the dilemma of ‘what to drink when you’re not drinking’ and continue his family’s 300 years of farming heritage.