Redemption: Drinking without drinking

Catherine Salway, founder of the alcohol-free gastrobar, talks about how it came about and why more people are turning away from booze

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(Image credit: © Oliver Dixon / Imagewise)

A few years ago, I was dating a guy who was a recovering alcoholic, and we were looking for somewhere to meet in London where there was no alcohol. That's when I realised there really wasn't anywhere. I started to wonder if opening a place that was completely alcohol free could be done in a really cool way. When I left my job as group brand director for Virgin – where I worked for 17 years – I wanted to start my own brand and I remember asking myself, "Why should socialising always be at the expense of your health?" and so the idea for Redemption was born.

It all started as a pop-up back in 2013. I was looking for a business partner, and a chef at one of the early pop-ups recommended vegan chef Andrea Waters, who was keen to start her own business. I spent a year and a half persuading her to come on board with me. Before then, I already knew I wanted to open somewhere that was alcohol-free and vegetarian but as time went on, we decided to eliminate all the toxins and go vegan and sugar-free too.

When we first started, people thought we were mad. They would say, "London is run on alcohol, you're never going to make any money. Stop now before you lose everything". My response was, you can't run London on alcohol for all the people, all the time; we need a break. So that's what we provide at Redemption. It's about human sustainability. Our tagline is "Spoil yourself without spoiling yourself". Our customers love our cocktails. We've made a huge effort to choose really beautiful glasses so our customers get that experience, the pleasure of spoiling yourself but without the alcohol. Alcohol is like a shortcut to relaxation. If you don't have the alcohol you have to work harder to put people at ease. Everything from the music to the lighting has been considered to make our customers as relaxed as possible and we tell our staff: "You have to be people's champagne because we don't have that".

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It is hard to persuade people away from alcohol – you realise how many generations of marketing you're up against – but people are starting to push against it. It's now getting to the point where not drinking is the norm and drinking alcohol is for special occasions. Movements like Dry January and Sober for October are helping to reset society a bit.

There's been a real shift in the industry so now we can supplement our own cocktails with non-alcoholic products such as Seedlip, Fitbeer and Bees Knees, which is the best alcohol-free wine we've been able to find. People don't like to drink sweet things while they're eating so we've had to work really hard to find the perfect balance using ingredients like rosemary, ginger and even chilli.

This recipe for our activated black charcoal detox martini is made with fresh lemons for a vitamin C and potassium kick, activated charcoal for detoxifying properties, and cayenne pepper, which adds a stimulatory heating effect. All of which aids the metabolism, and the body's cleansing and elimination process.

It's important to select activated charcoal made from coconut shells or other natural sources. Activated charcoal is popular medically for a safe and effective treatment of poisoning and drug overdoses. It's used to reduce bloating and gas and even prevent hangovers, not that you need to worry about those at Redemption.

Activated Black Charcoal Martini Recipe

Image: Claire Menary

Prep time: 5 minsServes: twoIngredients:• 300mls sparkling mineral water• 2 lemons, juiced• 1/4 tsp activated black charcoal (available in health food stores)• 2 tbsp maple syrup• pinch of cayenne pepper• 1 ice cube of aquafaba (the viscous liquid from tinned chickpeas, otherwise known as "vegan egg whites" – so next time you drain a tin save the liquid.)

Method:Blitz all the ingredients in a bar blender until frothy, and pour in to two chilled martini glasses. There should be a lovely creamy foam sitting on top of the dark magic below.

CATHERINE SALWAY left her role as group brand director at Virgin to set up Redemption as a pop-up in 2013 after a strong desire to set up a socially conscious brand. She started working with business partner Andrea Waters in 2015 and they now have two sites in Notting Hill and Shoreditch with a view to opening two more in 2018; redemptionbar.co.uk

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