When non-alcoholic cocktails and spirits broke into the scene as a trendy alternative to boozy drunkenness, it was met with skepticism.

But if there’s anything these two years has proven, it’s this: ABV-free libations are here to stay.

With big brands like Seedlip and Lyre entering the market, one might think there’d be an Asian alternative to these imported names. Well, there wasn’t — not until now.

Enter Melati Drinks, Asia’s first non-alcoholic aperitif inspired by traditional Asian remedies. The homegrown brand isn’t just aiming to target the sober-curious too — it’s made with 26 healing botanicals that work together to detoxify the liver, increase blood flow and support general wellbeing with vitamins and antioxidants. Who would’ve thought that “drinking” could have these many benefits?

How did Melati come about?

Melati
Founder of Melati, Lorin Winata (Image credit: Melati)

Melati Drinks is the brainchild of Lorin Winata, better known by her moniker sheeastsshecooks on Instagram. The big question on our minds: Why conceptualise a non-alcoholic aperitif? After all, many choose to open restaurants and cafes during their first foray into the F&B scene.

Winata elaborates: “I was working in VC previously with long hours and wanted to have it all: career, health (workouts and wellness), and a social life. The balance lay in having a complex adult drink in my hand which didn’t need to have alcohol so I could go for all work conferences and events while staying sharp.”

Melati
(Image credit: Melati)

For Winata, the goal was to create a product inspired by her Asian heritage that would have actual benefits to people’s lives. She first started with a list of over 60 botanicals from various eastern medicines. This included the likes of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Jamu recipes from Indonesia.

That’s when the booze-free aperitif started taking shape. She then worked with a food scientist and an Ayurvedic specialist to select 26 botanicals “that not only reacted well with each other and were functional in a drink but also tasted good together.” These include goji berries, hibiscus, raw cacao, ginger, fresh lemon, star anise, sencha, red Kampot pepper and cinnamon, just to name a few.

Unlike spirits like gin, where a neutral spirit is first made and then flavoured with botanicals via re-distillation, Melati extracts the botanicals individually via cold extraction and cold press for up to six weeks before hand-blending the drink together.

Melati doesn’t believe in mass-market production either; only 500 bottles are made with each release. “Each batch (is) made consecutively with a high concentration on quality which is why we keep the batches so small,” says Winata.

Melati
(Image credit: Jocelyn Tan for Lifestyle Asia)

We had a chance to try the cold-pressed, cherry-coloured drink, mixing one-part Melati and one-part tonic water (we went with East Imperial’s Royal Botanic Tonic, in line with Melati’s botanical theme) in a wine glass over ice. The result? An aromatic, refreshingly fruity blend with some slightly bitter hints, which made for an excellent choice over lunch.

We even went back to grab a second glass to sip on throughout the day. After all, it’s only 12 calories per serve and thankfully, sans the alcohol-induced headache.

Melati is available online here, and at retail shops like Little Farms Valley Point, Little Farms Tanjong Pagar and Temple Cellars. If you’re hankering to try some at your nearest restaurant, these following establishments are stocking Melati as well: Restaurant Zen, Odette, Esquina, Burnt Ends, Smalls, Cicheti, Bar Cicheti, Caffe Cicheti, Lucali BYGB, Rebel Rebel Wine Bar, The Old Man, Kinou, Hiryu, 13% Gastro Wine Bar, Gazette and 1880 Members Club.

Jocelyn Tan
Writer
Jocelyn Tan is a travel and design writer. She's probably indulging in serial killer podcasts or reading one too many books on East Asian history. When she actually gets to travel, you can find her attempting to stuff her entire wardrobe into her luggage. Yes, she's a chronic over-packer.