Doing Things Properly with Mother Root
We love nothing more than finding out that a product we love and have been enjoying all summer long is being created right here on our own doorstep. There is an abundance of inspiring businesses here in South East London, run by passionate and dedicated individuals, and Bethan, the founder of Mother Root, is one of them.
For this edition of our Doing Things Properly series, we chatted to Bethan about running a successful and growing business (alongside parenting), whilst remaining rooted in the need and desire to always do things properly. Mother Root is a business born out of her personal journey into motherhood, her passion for cool climate wines and an obsession with the zingy goodness of apple cider vinegar and we couldn't wait to hear more about how it all came to be.
Can you tell us a little bit about Mother Root and how you started?
Mother Root is an award-winning alcohol-free aperitif, supercharged with apple cider vinegar. It’s designed to be mixed simply on ice with soda or tonic for a refreshing spritz. For the more adventurous though, you can get creative and turn it into vibrant cocktails.
I am a self-confessed acid-fiend. When I worked in the wine trade, I couldn’t get enough of the zingy white wines of cool climate regions like the Loire Valley, New Zealand or Germany; wines that have a tart sourness and flavour intensity that seizes the senses. So when looking for alcohol-free alternatives when I was pregnant, despite tasting every option I tried, nothing quite hit the spot. A desperate Google search for ‘where to find complex high acid non-alc drinks’ took me to an old switchel recipe which called for the addition of apple cider vinegar to a blend of ginger, honey and spices. Very intrigued (and a little sceptical) I started experimenting at home by adding a dash of vinegar (which I now call my liquid seasoning), to all my blends. The power of sour was just what I had been looking for. Seeing the potential for bold, unforgettable flavour, I wondered what would happen if I applied the techniques usually reserved for alcoholic drinks, like month-long macerations and brews with ACV. An obsession began and the seed of Mother Root was born.
What was the inspiration behind the name?
Motherhood is at the root of this business. It is what inspired me (pregnant and thirsty, looking for a damn tasty drink) to research ways to bring complexity to alcohol-free drinks and start experimenting with ferments in my kitchen. This was a transformative period in my life where time takes on new levels of meaning and work needed to be something I found properly fulfilling. I wanted to do something that made a difference. There’s also the double meaning as the “Mother” is the beneficial bacteria which transforms alcohol into vinegar. Both meanings of the word Mother collided and the name felt very fitting as a result.
Navigating becoming a new mum and the journey into motherhood, whilst running a business, is one we know all too well - how do you stay grounded and motivated during challenging times?
Having a family and running a start-up at the same time means you rarely have a moment to take a breath. Lots of plates are spinning at the same time, and there are quite a few that come crashing down. On the plus side, it quickly teaches you that you can’t do everything (despite how much you want to) and in order to move forward (and stay sane) you need to get focussed. This doesn’t come naturally to me. My head is always full of ideas. I’m impulsive and impatient. I want to be on to the next thing already and saying no is really hard. But figuring this out is an important lesson to doing anything properly. My kids help me to stay grounded. Kids thrive with regular routines. Showing up, doing what you say you are going to do, being there for them when they need you creates confidence and resilience in them. It’s a daily reminder of why discipline, and doing the small things well is what really matters.
We’re big fans of creating delicious beverages that are easily enjoyed without the addition of alcohol. Tell us your thoughts on the No and Lo movement and where you think it’s headed.
The no/low alcohol movement is really exciting. Over half the UK adult population is cutting back and looking for better options. We’re right at the start of this movement, and there is so much that will come by way of flavour options. There’s no reason why it can’t go toe-to-toe with alcohol one day. It will take time, and I think flavour innovation is what’s going to keep people interested and coming back.
Many non-alc products currently look to mimic the alcohol flavour and experience. This is one way to approach it, but I am more intrigued by bringing something new to the table. Not, non-alcoholic. Just a quality drink. I take inspiration from traditional alcohol-making techniques but apply them in a new way to create new, complex flavour experiences.
What are the benefits of drinking Mother Root - health or otherwise?
Apple Cider Vinegar seems to be having a moment. But it’s not a trend. ACV has been around forever. The benefits range from increased energy to gut health but we love it for its ability to supercharge flavour.
We loved your recent newsletter focusing on a September reset for routines and rituals - can you share yours with us?
The best routines and rituals are the ones that come easy (and therefore the ones you do everyday). Time is something that feels in permanent short supply, but I have a ritual that helps me feel like I’m getting some of it back.. When the weather is dry, my eldest son, Fred and our elderly dog George go for a long pre-school plod around the park. We talk about everything and nothing for 40 minutes. I get the latest Minecraft gossip from the playground. We notice the insects and watch the runners. We debate our superpowers. Fred’s is speed. And in those moments mine is the ability to change the perception of time..
How does tea play a role in your daily rituals?
My tea rituals change season to season. Summer is all about cold brew tea. I love the evening before prep, putting a handful of loose leaf tea in my old glass milk bottles, topping up with water and popping in the fridge. I love the anticipation of the beautiful, delicate flavours to come the next day. Winter it’s hot, strong and milky. It’s comfort. It’s courage. It’s continuous from about 10am until about 4pm.
How do you take yours? And do you have a favourite Good & Proper cup of tea?
What does a weekend at home look like for you and your family?
Our weekends mostly revolve around the ever-expanding social calendar of our 6 and 3 year olds. Birthday parties, playdates, sports games and trips to visit family and friends. It’s pretty non-stop but I feel lucky. Having kids this age means you feel really part of the local community, getting to know so many people who live in your neighbourhood. After 14 years living in London, it’s the last 6 or 7 where it’s felt really like home.
As you know Doing Things Properly is something we work by, as well as talk about outwardly. What does ‘doing things properly’ mean for you?
Not cutting corners, even though it would make life so much more simple. It’s paying attention to the little details and caring about how people feel. I like to think that extends through everything, from the way we make our drinks, to making the way people can order from us as straightforward as possible, and to how quickly we also fix things when they go wrong. It’s challenging as a small team, as there’s a physical limit to what we can do. So it’s also about choosing what you’re not going to be able to do and making tough choices.
'Doing things properly' is a mindset, and it means excellence comes first. Always.
Talk us through the process of making Mother Root and how important are the individual ingredients.
The process is inspired by traditional methods of aperitif wine making: maceration, blending and sweetening for balance. But rather than using wine, we use benefit-rich apple cider vinegar as our base. ACV is a punchy flavour, so finding one which is bright and mellow enough so that it does the things it’s meant to (like amplify other flavours, bring complexity and energising acidity and structure) without dominating is key. Our ACV is a blend of four different types of apple, two cooking and two dessert, and it’s aged for four months to allow the tart-sweet combination to mellow into a bright, light, citrusy flavour. As a fermented ingredient, the upside of vinegar is that it has a lot going on in terms of flavour but, like alcohol, it also has the power to build flavour. It’s great at stoking the fire of the ginger notes and brightening the bitter orange in Ginger and Marmalade, so the hero flavours of our drinks can really shine through.
As a fellow southeast Londoner, do you have any favourite spots?
I HAVE SO MANY! Forza Wine and Funkidory for the best cocktails (shout out to Justine and Sergio), Mr Bao, Artusi and The Begging Bowl for the always-exceptional food and Grove Lane Deli, Gladwells and The Sourcing Table for the edible (and drink-able) retail therapy.
What does the future look like for Mother Root - both personally and professionally?
We’re growing! We’re three times the size of team we were last year and it’s an exciting time. We’re also growing up. It has taken me the last few years, but few months especially to feel really confident and to have the self-belief that we can and are changing the world of drinks! We’ve got more flavours planned and soon wider expansion overseas 😊
As you know we love a good recipe, and there are so many delicious ways to serve their Switchel. We're excited to announce that Bethan and her team have now come up with something perfect for Autumn - think cosy corners, a good book and the perfect drink in hand. Watch this space. In the meantime, Bethan has been kind enough to give our readers a unique 15% off any products (not including subscriptions). This single use code is valid until 31st October using code PROPERLY15.