Q&A with Chris Wilfred Hughes, founder of Wilfred's, a nonalcoholic apéritif

Posted by Boisson Staff on

A handful of years ago—in NYC at least—the Aperol Spritz rushed the bar scene and then chose to stay, that sunset colored goblet of bubbles now a very familiar sight on many a Sunday Funday brunch table. But what's special about any spritz is more than just a way to get a buzz for some: it offers an incredible bittersweet flavor and a refreshing fizzy texture that certainly could be enjoyed without the alcohol or sugary calories, right? Definitely. Meet Wilfred's, a drink that captures all the complexity of the great apéritifs, but without the alcohol. Read more as founder Chris Wilfred Hughes answers all of our bubbling questions.

Why do you think spritzes have gained so much popularity? 

Wilfred's founder Chris Wilfred Hughes

They're so unique in their flavor, firstly, with a delicious bittersweet kick that defines their genre. But more than that, the spritz is symbolic of that perfect outdoor moment, where you're outside with friends, the sun shining down on you, with no cares in the world. We actually all have loads of cares in the world, so recreating that moment for those not drinking was really important to me.

In your opinion, what's the worst way to ruin a spritz recipe?

[Laughs] Great question! A great spritz is about balancing bitterness with sweetness, with background notes of botanicals. So making it too sweet would kill it, the balance is so important. But a spritz is also such a fun bright drink that stands out—unashamedly taking the spotlight in the sunshine. So you could ruin a spritz by making it a dull boring color, say mixing it with prune juice instead of a light tonic that complements it.

We've read that it took 18 months for you to experiment with 100 unique recipes to find the perfect recipe for Wilfred's. Can you tell us more about the process and how you got there? Any surprising insights along the way?

It all started at home actually—I wanted to create a drink that could be enjoyed as much by those drinking as those not drinking. I sourced every botanical I could find inspired by my travels, from rare Japanese hibiscus to the aromatic English rose. My kitchen was effectively a drinks lab! But my journey eventually led me back home to the authentic flavors I associated most with home, which was a real surprise. The two signature flavors ended up being freshly picked rosemary from my mother’s garden, and the bitter oranges in my father’s homemade marmalade.

What makes a Wilfred's spritz stand out from the rest?

At Wilfred's we're all about nature and flavor. The reason it took so many iterations to get Wilfred's right is that the flavor was so important, but it had to be using natural botanicals like bitter orange, rosemary, and rhubarb. In fact we've never compared ourselves to other nonalcoholic drinks, we compare ourselves to alcoholic ones that have stood the test of time.

What's been your proudest moment on this journey?

I think winning #1 British Non-Alcoholic Drink at the 2020 Great British Food Awards was my proudest moment. I'd only launched 3 months earlier, and having come from outside the business, getting that accreditation of great taste from people inside the drinks industry really made it feel that the 18 months in the making was worth it! I've learnt that good things can't be rushed.

Wilfred's bottle and gold jigger and shaker

What inspired the design for the bottle?

Wilfred's is a beautiful ruby red-orange color, and we wanted a bottle and label that helped bring out that beautiful natural color of the drink. We were also inspired by the classic and iconic apéritif drinks of the past, which have that beautiful art deco vibe, and we took inspiration from that and incorporated it with a modern twist.

Our motto at Boisson is seeing the Glass Half-Full. How do you think alcohol-free alternatives like Wilfred's allows people to see the glass half-full?

Wilfred's is all about inclusivity and bringing people together. In creating Wilfred's we always saw our nonalcoholic alternative as a way of bringing people together whether they were drinking alcohol or not. It gives people a choice, and that's what matters most. Not to mention that a spritz is such a fun drink that it's always going to make you see the world as Glass Half-Full!

Make your glass half-full and gorgeous with some of Wilfred's ruby red apéritif.

Wilfred's spritz

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