Herb All by Maxim Schulte: Has one of London's best bartenders finally invented a decent non-alcoholic spirit?

 (Courtesy of Herb All)
(Courtesy of Herb All)

At 29, Maxim Schulte landed arguably the most prestigious job in cocktailing, becoming only the eleventh head bartender of the Savoy’s vaunted American Bar. There, he would spend his nights mixing furiously strong old fashioneds and Manhattans, or dreaming up drinks to match the great American songbook, as played by the bar’s longstanding pianist, Jon Nickoll. Not long after, he was pouring brain-clearing tequila martinis in the bomb-shelter bunker that sits beneath Marylebone hit Kol.

Now? Schulte is playing the scientist — but not with booze. His new project is Herb All, a non-alcoholic spirit. Why? “I think its really important to see the bar and drinks industry as a whole,” explains Schulte. “Alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks anywhere should be of the same standard. Guests deserve a fantastic drinking experience, alcoholic or not.”

Fair enough. The drink, he says, is not meant as a substitute for any particular spirit — over a Herb All and tonic, he bemoans zero per cent versions of gin, rum, vodka. “You just can’t replace alcohol, really,” he says. “Something is always missing.”Instead, he says, Herb All isn’t meant to mimic gin or vodka, but it works in drinks that typically would be their patch. If it seems an academic distinction — or, less charitably, rather an unconvincing one — it makes more sense when actually drinking the stuff. Does it taste like a gin and tonic? Not a chance. But the texture, or mouth feel, is remarkably similar, and its grassy, botanical flavour offers a taste that suits the same sort of application. This is the sort of pour you might imagine knocking back under a hot sun, but without any of the unpleasant, sticking wooziness. “We didn’t try to mimic the alcoholic burn that so many products try to do,” Schulte says. “Authentic botanical flavour and mouthfeel was most important.”

 (Herb All)
(Herb All)

All easy to say, but does it work? In person, definitely, and London’s top bartenders seem to agree — it’s on the menu at the Connaught Bar, Lyaness, the Corinthia’s Velvet bar, the celebrated Amaro and Twice Shy, among others.

To get to this point has taken more than a year, Schulte says, and an awful lot of tweaking. In the end, the drink is “a blend of multiple extraction techniques of 100 per cent organic plants and botanicals” — juniper, angelica seed and root are all cited — “and it has no sugar added, which was an important factor for us.”

Schulte says the thing to understand with Herb All is that it’s not just a spirit without the kick. You could, he says, “add a bit into your water bottle for a whole day full of flavour.” It could go with a grapefruit soda — “some bars in London also use it in drinks that are usually agave-based” — or it might suit a number of classic cocktails, just to take their lethality down a notch. “Because of the rich flavour and texture, it can be used in the same quantities as a spirit,” he says. “A single measure, or 25ml, is plenty to make your favourite highball.”

In fact, it might be this last method that makes Herb All’s name. High-minded intentions are all well and good, until it’s been a hell of a day and suddenly a proper drink it what’s called for. No matter how it tastes, a flavoured highball is never going to have the softening effect of, say, a Paloma. But a gimlet with the worst of the sting softened? That’ll do the trick — without the price of the morning after.

Three classic cocktails done the Herb All way


  • 25ml Herb All

  • 25ml Campari

  • 25ml Sweet Vermouth (Cocchi is recommended)

Stir down over good ice like a regular Negroni, and strain over fresh ice in a cold rocks glass. Garnish with orange slice or peel.

Tom Collins

  • 30ml Herb All

  • 10ml Sugar syrup (or to taste)

  • 20ml freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • Soda water

Shake quickly cold with good ice cubes and strain over fresh ice into highball glass. Top with cold soda and garnish with a lemon twist or wedge. 

French 75

  • 20ml Herb All

  • 10ml Sugar syrup (adjustable to liking)

  • 20ml freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • Champagne

Shake quickly cold with good ice cubes and strain into Champagne glass. Top up with Champagne (or preferred non-alcoholic sparkling wine). Garnish with a lemon twist. 

For more information, visit herballdrinks.com