Food and Drink

How This Alcohol-Free Aperitif Became a Bar Cart Necessity

Ghia founder Mélanie Masarin wants non-drinkers to feel included.

Photo by Ben Biondo, design by Chineme Elobuike for Thrillist
Photo by Ben Biondo, design by Chineme Elobuike for Thrillist
Photo by Ben Biondo, design by Chineme Elobuike for Thrillist

Growing up in Lyon, France, Mélanie Masarin was surrounded by celebration. She and her family split time between the historic city and the South of France, constantly gathering with friends and cooking meals.

“I grew up in an environment where making drinks kicked off togetherness. There was always food on the table to share and loud conversations lasted into the night,” she remembers. “It was something I missed moving to the U.S. Even when I’m really busy, I try to cook for friends at least once a week.”

Another cultural difference Masarin observed was that, in France and Italy, alcohol is almost exclusively about celebrating. But in America, drinking culture has experienced pretty wide pendulum swings-from Prohibition to binge drinking-creating a more toxic connotation. “We’ve been conditioned to think of it as a coping mechanism,” she says.

She took this unhealthy outlook and flipped it on its head. In 2019, she founded Ghia, a non-alcoholic product that is designed as a cause for celebration without the depressant side effects. The apéritif is made with Riesling white grape juice, yuzu, fig, elderflower, orange peel, and other herbs, resembling the taste of Campari without the added sugar and booze.

“I don’t love sweets and sugar, which doesn’t mean I’m super healthy. I love fat and salt,” Masarin laughs. “But when I was drinking, I loved a more dry beverage, something with bitters, drinks that are more complex and travel through the mouth. I was a Campari-soda girl.”

She refers to drinking in the past tense because, after a 2018 test revealed she had Crohn’s disease cells in her stomach, she had to make some intense lifestyle changes. She cut out alcohol, sugar, coffee, and shifted around stressors in her life. It was that same year she began work on the idea of a sophisticated, spirit-free drink.

Photo by Nacho Alegre
Photo by Nacho Alegre
Photo by Nacho Alegre

“At the time, the category had very few players,” she says. “We wanted to develop a culinary product that felt like a grown-up drink. Even if you went to a nice restaurant that had a great non-alcoholic menu, the drinks didn’t feel thoughtful or complex. You should feel included if you’re not having alcohol. But the mindset has changed so much since then.”

In fact, a Nielsen study found that 66% of millennials are making efforts to reduce their alcohol consumption (citing health as the primary reason) and Ad Week reports that demand for non-alcoholic drinks was up 60% year-over-year through July 2021.

“Right now, we have the most information available about what makes us feel good and what makes us feel bad,” Masarin says. “The pandemic, at first, made people want to cope and drink more. But the lasting effects have made us more aware of our health and motivated us to take care of ourselves. This is the future, not a trend.”

With this kind of long-term thinking, it’s no wonder that the research process for Ghia took some time. Developing the flavor itself involved a year-long initiative the company dubbed “1,000 pours,” in which Masarin hosted brunches, handed out mini bottles, and tried to get Ghia into the hands of everyone she knew. She collected feedback on Post-It notes and made adjustments accordingly.

“This was very much developed for and by people who drink, not by a set of sober people,” she explains. “At the beginning, we did a version that was a little too bitter, so we decided to lower the gentian root content. We realized people really loved the yuzu flavor so we focused more on the citrus aspect.”

Those tweaks seemed to do the trick. Ghia is now stocked in 100 restaurants, including the much-lauded King in New York City, has been promoted by food personalities like Antoni Porowski, and is beloved by fashion stars and Instagram influencers alike.

Ghia currently offers the apéritif on its own, which you can mix into cocktails like the Slow Burn, its version of a hot toddy. There are also two ready-to-drink Le Spritz versions, one with added soda water and the other with added ginger juice. Plus, the company is about to launch its first food product called Ghianduja, a hazelnut spread that’s a nod to Marasin’s early days of spreading Nutella on crepes back in France.

It’s those nostalgic days of togetherness that remain her motivation-whether customers are looking at the alcohol-free section of a restaurant menu or deciding to stay sober at a party.

“I want people to be able to drink and dance at the same time, or drink and drive at the same time,” Marasin says. “I just want people to feel comfortable.”

Photo by Nacho Alegre
Photo by Nacho Alegre
Photo by Nacho Alegre

Slow Burn Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces Ghia
  • 8 ounces water
  • 1 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoons coriander and/or fennel seeds, whole
  • Fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

Directions:
Combine water and fresh ginger slices with coriander and/or fennel seeds in a saucepan over low heat and stir. Bring to a simmer and let steep for one hour, then strain. Add a lug of Ghia and honey to taste. Drink from a mug while it’s warm.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Jess Mayhugh is the editorial director of Food & Drink for Thrillist, who likes a Ghia Ginger with a little lime juice. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

Food and Drink

How Talking Terps Has Influenced Cannabis Hype Culture

The origins and optimism behind the cannabis brand that sells out drops within minutes. Canabis...

Photo courtesy of Buckle Your Brain
Photo courtesy of Buckle Your Brain
Photo courtesy of Buckle Your Brain

Many cannabis brands describe themselves as “lifestyle brands” and “cultural disruptors.” Few of them actually impact lifestyles or broader cultural trends. Only one of them has figurines up on Stock X right now.

“For OG Terp Crawford to be featured amongst Nike, Jordans, Supreme, BAPE, and PS5s is really sick,” says Hope Lord, co-founder of cannabis lifestyle brand Talking Terps. “Stock X is not taking everyone who makes a toy and putting it up there.”Between their psychedelic graphics, cannabis-adjacent accessories, and famous OG Terp Crawford figurine, Talking Terps has established a cult following amongst cannabis enthusiasts, hypebeasts, and beyond. On paper, it’s a lifestyle brand interested in both cannabis and psychedelics. In action, Talking Terps is an alternative universe that bridges the gaps between toy culture, cannabis culture, psychedelic culture, and American pop culture.

The brand was established as a concept in 2015 by Leor Feit aka Hope Lord, Flatbush Zombies member Antonio Lewis aka Zombie Juice, and Flatbush Zombies spiritual adviser Phil Annand aka PTA Haiti 3000. One year later, the phrase “talking terps” popped in a Flatbush Zombies song, referring to terpenes, a compound found in cannabis.

“We had a show at Red Rocks in Colorado,” Lord recalls. “I had a friend that was part of Blue River Terpenes who brought us the first sample of cannabis-derived terpenes. Then Juice and Erick made a song with it in the chorus.”

Talking Terps
Talking Terps
Talking Terps

Once Talking Terps emerged as a phrase, the graphics, accessories, apparel, events, and, of course, toys were soon to follow. By 2017, the phrase was spotted on one of Snoop Dogg’s t-shirts. In 2019, the concept of Terp Crawford was born, launching the brand towards the collectible toy game.

While the first Terp Crawford was technically a plush pillow, the first toy-named OG Terp Crawford-came in March 2020. The 6-inch tall vinyl sculpture of a humanized weed nug with a joint in his hand and a smile on his face is meant to embody everything Hope, Juice and PTA stand for.

“Our message is to love each other and be happy,” Lord says. “Tread lightly and disrupt nothing.”OG Terp Crawford drops sell out in actual seconds and resell on sites like Stock X for over double their retail price. More than a simple toy, he’s a figure that Talking Terps hopes will evolve into a full-on cartoon character.

“As time goes, the idea for Terp Crawford is for him to be a Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny type figure from our world that can cross over,” Lord says. “There should be no reason one day that Terp Crawford’s not throwing a football in some skit on Monday Night Football.”

That’s not just a high aspiration-the team is currently working with 3 Hearts Entertainment to develop a TV show around him. The goal is for Terp Crawford to go global and for Talking Terps to go meta. With their vast graphic library and club of TT enthusiasts, virtual collectibles like NFTs only make sense (though the team can’t let the terp out of the hat just yet).

“I can see Terp Crawford in Japan, speaking in Japanese on TV,” Lord muses. “Once we take him somewhere else, we could do big sculptures, like at KAWS level, maybe. I think we’ll get a TV show. I can’t speak too much on what we’re working on for the metaverse, but it’s got a lot of components. I can say that we’re building a whole new platform called the meta-forest.”

It’s safe to say there will be a sold-out waitlist to get into that forest.
Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat!

Danté Jordan is a freelance writer, video producer, and media consultant specializing in cannabis culture and education. Follow him on Instagram.

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