Pierre and Stefan have been friends forever, working together in the wine and gin industry. Both have a background in wine and spirits, Pierre has spent time as a Sommelier, and Stefan specialises in production and merchandising. The pairing, whilst formidable, needed something extra. Cue Matt, investor and partner to the growing enterprise, he has kept the i’s dotted and t’s crossed. Last but not least, Keith joined the team after an opportune introduction that “was written in the stars”.
We had a quick catch up with Keith Stevens about how Abstinence came about and got to know a little more about the team they have assembled down in South Africa.
UT: Abstinence is a bold and interesting name, how did that come about?
KS: Funnily enough, as the result of Stefan's severe hangover. We have been playing around with a couple of options, but it was when faced with the brutal reality of feeling like absolute (enter profanity here) that the name came to him. ABSTINENCE, do it less often, not at all, or moderate/pace yourself better when you do decide to drink alcohol.
UT: Tell us about the flavour choices for Abstinence Cape Citrus.
KS: The Western Cape (in South Africa) is one of the biggest growers and exporters of the world's finest citrus fruits. We use this bountiful resource and combine orange, naartjie and grapefruit in this product and also use a proudly (and very revered) local ingredient, called buchu. It's our most awarded spirit (The Spirits Business No and Low Masters Gold Medal, San Francisco World Spirits comp double gold), and appeals to customers across the world as a great, guilt free citrus (and faint spice) gin alternative without the alcohol. Everyone loves it.
UT: What can people expect when they take their first sip of Abstinence Cape Citrus?
KS: Our products are made for mixing, so first and foremost you need a great quality tonic if you're going to prepare a perfect serve. The ABSTINENCE Cape Citrus is a burst of orange and spice on the nose, reminding you of warm summer days wherever you are in the world. There's a very appealing spice backbone that balances the citrus, and then our secret weapon, the buchu plant, that has a subtle but very prominent part to play in balancing the liquid. Other than a classic G&T application, it makes a mind-blowing Cosmo, Bees Knees or Collins cocktail. The sky is the limit really.
UT: It must be tough working in such a beautiful place like South Africa, how do you relax after a long day in the office?
KS: We don't have an office (thank goodness). We are building a future focussed networked business where we work from where we want to work from and meet in shared spaces. I relax over an ABSTINENCE most late afternoons or a Non Alc beer. Otherwise, when it's summer in Cape Town, I hop onto my mountain bike and go for a ride on the mountain or a brief hike. Working from the majestic mountain ranges and coast lines of Cape Town in the Western Cape is a dream destination, once you've been here, you'll find yourself hard-pressed to leave.
UT: We know South Africans are big advocates of a BBQ (braai), what's your favourite thing to cook?
KS: Recently I've become more adventurous with the braai. The other Sunday I pulled off a delicious (Karoo) whole Lamb Shoulder, basted it overnight in butter milk to tenderise it then seasoned it with rosemary, fresh garlic and a lamb seasoning. High heat to seal the meat then long slow cook for about 45 minutes. No mean feat using wood as the braai fuel! And, of course, a couple of ABSTINENCES along the way! Braaing is a religion over here!
UT: All seasons are a sight to behold in South Africa, especially on the Cape, but which is your favourite?
KS: Without question, it is the Cape Town summertime. Long days, blue skies, mountains, rolling seas and wine farms. As a Sundowner, I'd have an ABSTINENCE. When on a wine farm (there are more than 600 in/around Cape Town), I'd be enjoying great value red wines with the most majestic settings and views in the world.