Two expert palates. One small-ish apartment. And waaay too many drinks for a kitchen fridge. This is the story of the incarnation and first curation for Zero.Zilch.Zip. - conducted over four unusually warm Autumn days, and led by the world’s only two Zerologists, James Morgan and Christine Parkinson - you can meet them here.
On the logistics:
There are 21 steps to Christine’s apartment. There are 20 cubic feet in Christine’s fridge. There are 62 world-class products gracing our first curation, culled from many hundreds of worthy contenders.
It turns out this heady concoction creates the perfect formula for an intensive and effective tasting session (thankfully). But it also created one of the greatest logistical challenges in the world of Zerology.
Christine: The first challenge (once we’d managed to bring all the deliveries upstairs) was the unboxing, and starting to organise the drinks into categories and sub-categories. That was a mission in itself… after which I got to enjoy the expression on James’s face when he first arrived!
James: Ha… yes that was quite an experience. Clambering over mountains of discarded boxes and dodging carefully organised collections of bottles and cans. I’m used to seeing a fair few bottles (both full and empty) in Chrissie’s apartment, but this was something else entirely.
Christine: And then there was the ice debacle. We obviously wanted to taste and assess each drink in its optimum condition, which meant keeping things cool. This resulted in an almost endless cycle of ice-making and fridge rotation throughout the four-day curation!
On the disappointments:
James: There were very few, I’m pleased to say. It’s testament to how far the world of alcohol-free has advanced since our Hakkasan days. We were both a little disappointed in the strength of the ready-to-drink products, despite shortlisting five absolute stars in the category’s final curation.
Christine: I completely agree, although it’s worth stressing that any little disappointments were totally overshadowed by the amazing discoveries we made. And I need to make a special mention for Sea Arch, a stunning addition to the ready-to-drink list!
On the greatest challenges:
James: One word. Beer. There were just so many good options, and we found it really difficult to choose between them. The 15 drinks in the final range really are the best you’ll find, and a brilliant place to start if you’re new to alcohol-free drinking.
Christine: I think beer took the longest time to judge too… it spanned about four different tasting sessions to save our palates from becoming jaded. There are a lot of hoppy options like IPA’s, and we really wanted to make sure every producer got the proper care and attention when making our selection.
On surprising discoveries:
Christine: I’ve been really pleasantly surprised by the quality of the white spirits. Thinking back to our Hakkasan days, we didn’t list a single drink from this category, because they simply weren’t up to scratch. So I was quietly dreading them, but we experienced so many amazing new and developed drinks. Special mentions for Bowser and Xachoh – stunning.
James: My surprising discovery was actually about Chris! You see, I’ve always been a bit of a champion for drinking vinegars, and Chrissie has always supported me to help get them listed on high profile drinks lists. So seeing her expression contort and grimace during that particular tasting was a total surprise. She’s faithfully stood by me and encouraged me all these years, and I’d never realised how much she disliked them!
On industry friendships:
James: There was a personal side to the curation. You see, we’ve spent a while working in the alcohol-free world now, and we’ve come to know and love many of the producers. Some of them are good friends, and we’ve seen how much of their lives and livelihoods have been poured into each drink they make.
Christine: Yes, there were a lot of conflicting emotions involved. Of course we simply had to stay impartial and assess each drink on its individual merits, but we couldn’t help rooting for the people we knew before trying their product. There was an inner leap of delight when we realised they’d produced something great, but equally a little sinking feeling when we knew something wasn’t up to scratch.
On future curations:
Christine: In terms of alcohol-free options available to the wider public, we’re very confident this is the best collection in the world. It cuts through the shops that list everything, and just celebrates the absolute best you can buy. I really hope our curation helps to educate and empower customers, ensuring people enjoy every alcohol-free experience – because there’s so much to savour.
James: I think one of the things we’re most excited about, is that the list won’t stand still. The curation will live and breathe. New products will be created. Recipes will be improved. And we’ll need to keep revisiting the list to ensure it’s always the best of the best. One day we’ll find ourselves out of a job – and that’ll be an exciting day for us. Because the ultimate goal is for Zero.Zilch.Zip. to be community curated, meaning the customers will take control of the curation. They’ll become the voice of alcohol-free.