Meet the mother of Mother Root...
A small artisan producer living in Peckham with her husband, two boys and their elderly dog George, Bethan Higson is the creator of Mother Root... and her delicious ginger switchel might just be the perfect alcohol-free drink.
Bethan stumbled into switchel-making in a roundabout way, after a 10-year career in the wine and spirits trade... “I was pregnant with my first child and craving something that would give me the same acidic bite as my favourite white wines. So I was Googling and it led me to an old article about bartenders using an ancient vinegar drinking tradition to make cocktails with more diverse flavours. Turns out vinegar is a great flavour amplifier, so it’s perfect for making non-alcoholic drinks too. Armed with my wonder ingredient I began experimenting with other ingredients and winemaking techniques like maceration, blending and ageing. And that’s how Mother Root was born.”
She’s the perfect fit for Naked Wines. Her obsession with quality and attention to detail mirror the same commitment we see in all our winemakers. It’s that level of passion which makes her switchel so unique, and why we’re proud to bring it to Angels.
Bethan Higson's Story
I’ve always been a creative person and growing up would play with ingredients making all sorts of concoctions at home - usually the edible or drink-able sort. Using my hands to make something you can share with people I’ve always found to be a really meditative and enjoyable process.
After a decade in the wine business, I became pregnant for the first time, and experienced first hand the lack of options when you are not drinking. Nothing seemed to scratch the itch. Drinks that were available were very simplistic, and the soft-drinks industry seemed to lack ambition for what more was possible.
I knew alcohol wasn’t the only thing that makes a great drink. It’s about so much more than that. It’s about sourcing, processes, blending; simply put, it’s about caring more. And it just seemed to be that nobody saw this gaping need for better quality, more interesting options.
Once I became aware myself, I was a woman obsessed, on a mission to expand what more is possible and get people excited about alcohol-free. Mother Root was an inevitability from that day forward.
When I worked in the wine business, I loved the crisp wines of cool climates: from Champagne to Alsace, Loire Chenins and German Rieslings. All of these styles of wine had this incredible vibrancy in common, thanks in large part to: acidity. The crucial role of acidity in building complexity, tension and giving a structure to a drink was where I started when making non-alcoholic drinks. I didn’t set out to make a replica of my favourite wines. I knew that would be impossible, and moreover I’m not inspired by the idea of mimicry. I just wanted to create the most exciting non-alcoholic drinks possible.
Instead, I was inspired by how great drinks are made (wines or others similar): meticulous blending where each ingredient is selected to play a specific role in the final blend, taking time to do things properly (like ageing our steeps for up to 10 weeks at a time because it deepens the flavour and ensures the balance is just right), and working with only the best ingredients.
In a small business, each team-member wears many hats. My primary responsibility is for the drinks: making and ensuring the quality is always excellent. I’m also head of the creative vision, and that is all about telling our story, so people know why we do what we do, and feel excited to join our community of flavour fanatics, eager to turn alcohol-free on its head.
Outside of work, I’m also a mum to two little boys (ages 6 and 3) so there is a lot to fit in in one day.
By the time I sit at my desk at 9am, I’ve already negotiated the domestic equivalent of world peace, getting two boys to school and nursery in one piece, and (mostly) on time! The work day that follows feels much calmer as a result - parenting definitely helps provide perspective in that sense!
Then I get stuck into all sorts of tasks from production planning, cocktail recipe development to social media content ideas, and sales and finance administration. The days are really varied and I’m learning something new every day. This can be stressful, but it’s also what makes the work fulfilling at the same time.
My team are an incredibly talented bunch. It’s so motivating to work with people who are better than you. They help bring some of my most complex ideas to life, and motivate me to keep learning and improve every day.
The day our Ginger switchel was featured on Saturday Kitchen Live and was given rave reviews by the panel, including by Yotam Ottolennghi himself. That was a life-changing moment right there.
Subsequently being unable to fulfil the overnight increase in demand that being on National TV means. We were continually in and out of stock for months, and we had to adapt quickly (during a pandemic) and scale up our production facilities overnight.
Mother Root would not exist today without my family and friends who have supported me from day dot. From listening to me drone on about the idea, years before it came to fruition, to tasting hundreds of test batches, offering frank and frequent feedback so I got to the final blends that work best. To being there when things get tough, as they always do. They help me recharge and give me the confidence to keep on keeping on come what may.
I love music and happen to be a failed musician. I was a classically trained singer and violinist, and spent over a decade at a specialist music school. I still play (a little) today, but more than anything, I love listening and dancing to music. Not just limited to classical music - my taste is really eclectic and reflects my mood. Right now, I’m going through a bit of a rebellious streak and my spotify playlist is full of female punk-rock classics from the likes of Joan Jett and Stevie Nicks.
It’s my not-so-secret big dream that one day, Mother Root will be served as the official non-alcoholic drink at the Grammy’s. So let me know if you know any of the organisers ;)
We love the Naked wines approach - supporting producers who pour their everything into making things well. So that our lives are more deliciously diverse and joyful as a result.
You Angels are awesome and we love you! We can’t wait to see and hear what you think of our drinks.