Meet The Maker: Paul Mathew, Everleaf

Let us introduce ya to the conservation biologist turned bartender turned award-winning non-alcoholic aperitif creator

Whether you like to swerve the alcohol all year round, are looking for something epic to get your through Dry January or like to bring some moderation to your cocktails, this is the non-alc booze brand we always turn to. We got chatting to the man behind one of the biggest success stories of the low and no booze movement,

Let’s start by you introducing yourself – who are ya, and what are you the maker of?

I’m Paul Mathew, and I’m the founder of the non-alcoholic aperitifs brand, Everleaf. 

You’ve gone from bartender to drinks producer – how did that happen?

Part of the reason I wanted to create Everleaf was because demand for no-and-low drinks was increasing in my bars and I wanted something we could be proud to serve – something with as much depth of flavour and complexity as the best alcoholic things on our back bar. 

People were becoming a lot more conscious about their health and being more mindful when drinking, and there was a need demand for something more interesting than a sugary drink without alcohol. I wanted to give them something complex, interesting and delicious – and Everleaf was born!

My experience behind the bar definitely helped with making Everleaf what it is, but so did my previous career as a Conservation Biologist; it put us in a unique position with a real knowledge of botanicals, combined with a drinks-making passion and an understanding of flavour.

How long did it take you to create the liquid that became Everleaf? Was it a long process and did you have an idea of what you wanted it to taste like? 

It took more than 18 months to create Everleaf. I put a lot of time into researching plants, sustainable sourcing, dehydrating samples, macerating, and extracting to get the perfect blend of complementary yet surprising flavours. Then I also wanted to tackle texture. Alcohol has a unique viscosity, and without that drinks can often lack the texture you’d expect from a cocktail or a glass of wine. A mix of plants and botanicals have helped give Everleaf a silky texture that helps carry flavour and make it hugely satisfying!

So you created a non-alcoholic aperitif – does this mean you’re not into booze? 

I drink, but I also don’t drink - I’m into having good choices, whether you’re looking to cut down in general or just need a night off. As a bartender, I want to be able to offer the best of any style of drink, and as a consumer, I want to have that choice. I’m definitely into booze (interesting stuff – my shelves at home are filled with things like Chinese baijiu, aquavit, amari and the like – I’ve just had an amazing oyster-shell vermouth delivered for example), but I only tend to drink alcohol a few nights a week, and when I’m not, I still want something interesting, complex and well-thought-out!

Where do you like to go for a great cocktail in London (and no, you can’t say your own bar!) And what is your order? 

The thing that most excites me about London’s cocktail scene is the variety and choice, so I’ll always choose variety over one venue, but I do find myself going back to Tayēr + Elementary for something that makes me excited about creativity and everything the industry can achieve (I’d probably drink their recommendation), and of course, The Connaught for a Martini because there’s nothing quite like it for service and sense of occasion (both bars also use Everleaf of course)! 

If you could teleport to any bar in the world, where would you be zooming off to?

Right now, probably a little hand-built place in Belize that I once made drinks behind when working on a forest conservation project – a bit of total escapism!

So you recently had some new bottles join the Everleaf fam – tell us about those!

We did indeed! In November last year, we not only added two new members to our Everleaf family, Mountain and Marine, with the original now known as Forest, but we also gave our bottle a makeover.

We’ve always loved Forest, but we wanted to grow so that there was a drink to suit every occasion, every preference. Everleaf has always been inspired by and sourced from nature, and Mountain and Marine, like Forest, are created using botanicals and ingredients found in their respective biomes. 

Mountain is an elegant blend of 12 aromatic botanicals, leading with fragrant cherry blossom, along with bittersweet rosehip, wild strawberry, sweet and spicy myrtle, juniper, and a touch of everlasting, inspired by a mountain climb, from blossom-filled woods, to fresh rocky peaks. 

Marine is a crisp blend of 16 refreshing botanicals with a core of piney juniper and bergamot to reference gin botanicals, followed by tropical sea buckthorn, savoury dulse and kelp seaweeds, along with a hint of bitter olive leaf and intensely aromatic labdanum, inspired by sea swims before resting on the beach, surrounded by the aromas of olive and citrus groves.  

We were going to ask you about your new look – why the change and what’s the new vibe?

We really did love our original bottle, but as we've grown, we felt we could communicate just how special Everleaf is a little better.

The new bottle shape and branding now better captures the ecosystems and environments that each variant represents. We also wanted to make the bottles look and feel beautiful, to truly reflect the quality of the liquids inside. The labels now also express the biome which has inspired each expression in the background. 

Do you have a favourite cocktail to use Everleaf in? What food does it work well with? What about the new creations?

I wanted Everleaf to be really versatile – for anyone to be able to make a great complex drink just by adding tonic, or for creative bartenders to pull apart and work their magic – so I love a straight Forest Spritz with tonic and a slice of orange, Mountain & tonic with strawberries, or Marine with tonic and lime, but I also love the great flavours and textures that come out making them into sours, and kombuchas work really well with them too. 

One of my favourite bartender creations is probably the Zac Efron from Vesper Amsterdam: Everleaf Forest, house saffron milk, lime, mandarin & bergamot soda, pistachio and mint.

Where do you make Everleaf? Where does the magic happen?

The ingredients for Everleaf come from all over the world, sourced sustainably and then get put together near Brighton. We’re not distillers with a shiny copper still –some ingredients are distilled for us, others are unglamorously macerated in buckets, while others are steam distilled where they’re grown (for example vetiver in Haiti). We’re blenders more than distillers, and the process is more akin to perfumery than gin distillation. There are lots of production challenges with non-alc, and we’re still learning a lot every time.

What does a working day look like for you? 

A little different these days! I really miss the bar visits and training sessions! Starting a business is hugely exciting though, and no two days are ever the same. That said, I love to start off with a run, so have retained that as part of the routine as it helps get my mind in the right place for the rest of the day. 

What has been the biggest challenge in producing & launching your products? 

As non-alcoholic products are still a relatively new category, there have been lots of production challenges to work out, but working on solutions and experimenting has been a lot of fun – really appealing to both the scientist and bartender in me! As for the rest, I had a good idea of how to approach bars and restaurants, but getting Everleaf direct to consumers and into supermarkets has been a whole new learning experience for me – much as it has been for all the bartenders now selling their cocktails on-line while their bars are closed. It’s great to see so much innovation happening at the moment though, and I’m excited about what’s next – we’re in a really difficult time for the industry, but there’s a lot to be optimistic about as we come out of it.

What would you say are Everleaf’s greatest achievements?? 

Developing and launching two new products and rebranding during lockdowns was pretty challenging! I’m hugely proud of the team for achieving that in the last year!

We’ve also had some amazing awards and reviews that have really given us a boost, from appearing on Drinks International’s Brands Report as the no.3 bestselling non-alc brand, and the no.4 top trending, as well as winning Best No & Low Distilled Drink and Best Aperitif at the Imbibe No & Low Awards 2020. As for reviews, we’ve been delighted with the response – most recently Olly Smith gave us a glowing review on BBC Saturday Kitchen “It's satisfyingly intriguing. I genuinely think that is a flavour I’ve never tasted before. I take my hat off to Everleaf. They’ve nailed it.” – that was so great to hear!

I think the greatest achievement has been getting the support of bartenders though – I’m a bartender, so to get that recognition from my colleagues means so much. 

Have you got any fun, crazy or cool facts about Everleaf?

My dad has been a botanist all his life, and when I was young, he would get up before dawn to write his monograph books on Crocus and Iris – now two of the ingredients in Forest (as saffron and orris root) that I find hugely emotive. Orris is the one botanical that’s in all three Everleaf varieties. It’s a great ingredient (helping to harmonise flavours), but perhaps I’m also trying to make amends – as a child I once went around the garden carefully collecting up all of Dad’s carefully placed labels detailing the names and important information of all the plants he grew (Irises included) and putting them in a small wheelbarrow. It took him years to identify where they all belonged…

I chose “Everleaf” as a name to link back to conservation and sustainability – we want our plants to be around forever, and will be working with the conservation charity I used to work for (Fauna & Flora International) to do more on that side this year. This is reflected in the little leaf logo on our caps – drawn with a single line and looping back on itself forever.