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An Interview with Caleño

ellie webb caleno

Caleño is a distilled tropical non-alcoholic spirit, inspired by the colour
and vibrancy of South America. We caught up with Founder Ellie Webb to hear more about the story and plans for Caleño.

How did the idea for Caleño come about?

In 2017, I took part in Dry January for the first time (a challenge to give-up alcohol for one month). I remember going on a night out with my friends and quickly becoming bored of sugary and fizzy options like cola! I wanted something more sophisticated that tasted a little more like my usual choice of gin & tonic. I worked in the drinks industry so I had an understanding of the spirit making process. I decided to try and create my own non-alcoholic spirit that I could drink in the evenings and mix with tonic.

From the very beginning I knew I wanted this drink to be different, but always fun, colourful, vibrant. A couple of months after working on my idea, I flew back to Colombia. After having not visited for a while, I fell in love with the country again, and everything became so much clearer; I knew what I wanted my drink to be about - making “not drinking” fun for everyone, by infusing Caleño with the Latin free-spirit I had grown up with.

Caleno and drink

What was the process like to design the recipe?

I had to inject lots of colour and vibrancy into my alcohol-free spirit and I needed to find some unique tropical flavours to help make Caleño one of a kind. Growing up and spending lots of time in Colombia as a child, I always remembered the delicious ‘jugos’ made from blending exotic fruits like pineapple, papaya, coconut and lulo! I wanted to make the non-alcoholic category accessible in terms of taste, so I needed to include these kinds of flavours, but at the same time it needed to have its own personality and be balanced out in other dimensions like citrus and spice to get the right complexity of a spirit.

After tinkering with botanical ingredients and distillations for almost 18 months, Caleño was born!

Where do you see Caleño in a few years' time?

I hope we will have grown to become one of the key global players within the non-alcoholic spirits industry, and a brand that has really challenged the social norms and perceptions of what it means to ‘not drink’.

We’ve got some exciting plans in the pipeline. We’ve got some new products launching later this year, and we have big plans to grow the brand quite significantly in the UK and expand internationally.

 Ellie Webb Founder Caleno

What does 'better' business mean for you at Caleño?

All our glass bottles and packaging are fully recyclable and we are currently working toward becoming a B-Corp (businesses that positively impact the environment and social communities), which is a hugely exciting journey - we are keen to give back as a business.

What is the best business advice you’ve been given?

Don’t try and do it alone. Talk to other people in your industry - they will always be willing to help and support you. That’s what’s so great about the food and drinks industry.

And try and find a co-founder or two with complimentary skills to join me. I started the journey solo and have managed by myself, but it was hard at times and sometimes a lonely journey. It’s great now that I have a brilliant team around me.

caleno spirit drink

What is the best way to serve Caleño?

The perfect serving is simply with tonic, over ice. And for a tropical twist, pop an Inca berry in your drink. Watch the video below to get a feel for it!

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