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Æcorn co-founder Claire Warner discusses non-alcoholic apertifs, nature and the new normal

About This Episode

We’re joined today by Claire Warner, the co-founder of non-alcoholic aperitifs brand Æcorn. With its sister firm Seedlip, Æcorn is giving non-drinkers a seat at the bar and a healthier alternative. Claire’s love of nature inspired Æcorn’s recipe, with a focus on digestive health and roots in 17th century European distillation. She has taken the essence of classic drinks and transformed them into wellness and sophistication; the most popular being the ‘nogroni’. With a passion for purpose and changing the game, Claire tells us the importance of change, adaptability and open-mindedness.

Claire Warner, Co-founder, Æcorn

Claire Warner began her corporate career in 2003, joining the LVMH owned brand, Belvedere Vodka and was appointed Head of Spirit Creation and Mixology in 2009. In this role, Claire led the development of all new Belvedere expressions, as well as creating the global educational programmes for Belvedere. In 2015 Claire was awarded both Best International Brand Ambassador at Tales of the Cocktail, the ‘Oscar’s’ of the drinks industry, and Wine Spectator Ambassador of the year. Claire joined the alcohol-­free world of Seedlip in January 2018 to head up the brand’s sister company, Æcorn Drinks. Æcorn launched in May 2019 to London’s Selfridges & Waitrose nationwide. Æcorn will extend ‘what to drink when you’re not drinking’ from the bar to the table. Æcorn aims to create more meaningful connections by ensuring non-drinkers feel included in social settings. Claire is acknowledged as an early advocate for better wellbeing in the drinks industry and has spent years speaking to those working in the on-trade about topics including excess sugar in both soft drinks and cocktails, excessive alcohol consumption, and spending more time in nature.

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Lockdown List

What is a book that has changed your life?

There have been so many pivotal books in my life that have set me off on so many exciting paths that I can’t simply give you one book. I’m going to share three: While it’s not a fun read, Sweet Poison by David Gillespie really did change my life in so many ways. At the time (around 10 years ago) I had no idea how addictive sugar was, and that its secreted in so much of the food we eat. It made me totally rethink sugar, which lead me to not only change my own diet, but also changed the way I thought about everything. I removed it from the vodka we were producing, I spent a few years teaching bartenders about it and eventually, I started to explore the weird and wonderful world of flavour.

I then stumbled across the Dorito Effect by Mark Schatzker which blew my mind and made me want to celebrate the power of nature through all-natural flavour. That journey led me to Ben Branson of Seedlip who shared one of his favourite books, Biomimicry by Janine Benyus with me (which I stole for a while!) I then spent a few years banging on about nature, before Ben offered me an outlet for all my passions, which is how Æcorn was born.

Books really can change your life! But, I would say that if you ever find yourself sat next to me at a dinner party, please don’t ask me about sugar, flavour or nature. I can very quickly get nerdy and boring!

What are you watching at the moment?

Nothing. I have officially completed Netflix.

In all seriousness, I am trying to watch less TV and read more.

Who is your biggest inspiration and why?

In a previous life, way before I came to the drinks industry I was studying law and I wanted to be a barrister, so Ruth Bader Ginsburg has always had a special place in my heart. She was the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States and co-founder of the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. She was the second woman to sit on the United States’ Supreme Court. She had an almost superhuman capacity for work throughout her life, famously supporting her husband who was battling cancer while they were both at Harvard Law School, taking notes for him, bringing up their first child while also holding down a post on the Harvard Law School. She was a fierce defender of women’s rights, LGBT causes and racial equality. She was an trailblazer, an icon and not only a force to be reckoned with at the bar, but also in the gym, continuing to train with her PT well into her final years. When I’m battling imposter syndrome, I often think of her quote ‘”Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.”

In one sentence, describe your ‘new normal’.

My dog is wondering when he’s going to get some alone time.

What is your best tip for life?

“Say yes and figure out how to do it later.”

So often we say no to great opportunities because we’re not sure we’ve got the right experience, or enough experience. I’m not sure who gave me this tip, but it has served me well. I’ve appeared on countless terrifying TV shows, jumped into exciting job opportunities and embarked upon a long distance relationship despite everyone saying they never work out (we’ve been married seven years and counting). Getting out of our own way is often the best way.

A quote for life

“We forgot how to know when we learned how to please.”

As a recovering people-pleaser, this quote by Glennon Doyle really stopped me in my tracks. It’s impossible to truly know the right path to take, or decision to make when you’re trying to keep everyone happy but yourself.

What is your lockdown soundtrack?

Girls Just Want to Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper

You’ve Got the Love – Frankie Knuckles remix (although I love the Candi Staton original and Florence cover too!)

Lizzo – Tempo

Taylor Swift – Lover

Grandma’s Hands – Bill Withers

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