Non-alcoholic brand Muri is only two years old, but it’s already making waves in the international beverage scene. That’s because they’re doing something radically different in the no/low alcohol space, and changing perceptions of what alcohol-free drinks can be. Founder Murray Paterson uses his background from working in cider production and at a distillery, and takes inspiration from the creative city of Copenhagen, where the brewery is based. Paterson looks at composing a drink the way a chef looks at a dish: with flavor at the forefront, balancing sweetness and acidity. He and his partner Ioakeim Goulidis forage fresh ingredients and use fermentation and other culinary techniques to create a compelling, alcohol-free beverage. The result is unlike any other non-alcoholic drink in existence – Muri is a company to watch.
Our Favorite Non-Alcoholic Beverage
Our first introduction to Muri was at the Koan x Empirical pop-up in October 2020. A glass of their first release, Passing Clouds, was part of the non-alcoholic pairing – and we actually found it more interesting than the wine served with that course. Naturally, that caught our attention. So, when participating in Dry January a few months later, we picked up a bottle of Muri to enjoy at home, in order to get to know the product better. We were blown away by the complexity in the glass – it was completely different than any other non-alcoholic beverage we had tried previously. Muri was not one-dimensional or flat in taste or texture, it was bursting with layers of flavors and it fizzled on our tongue like a sparkling wine. We weren’t alone in our obsession – other passionate foodies in Copenhagen were equally entranced. Muri was flying off the shelves at wine shops, and popping up with increasing speed on non-alcoholic pairings around town.
Meet Muri: The Backstory
Muri Founder Murray Paterson hails from the UK, but his interest in the beverage industry led him to Empirical, one of the most innovative producers in the world, known for their unconventional approach to beverage making. It wasn’t long before Paterson moved to Copenhagen, the fermentation capital of the world, to work as a distiller at Empirical. When he launched his own company a year later, he took what he’d learned at Empirical and applied their flavor-forward approach to his own vision: to develop interesting non-alcoholic alternatives.
Muri’s drinks are meant to “reimagine the wine occasion;” in other words, these beverages are meant to be drunk when wine would otherwise be offered. “We don’t quite know how to categorize our blends, but we put them in wine bottles so people know when to drink them,” Paterson said. Although the beverage is inspired by wine, don’t open a bottle expecting it to taste like the alcohol-free wine you’ve tried before. Unlike other no/low alcohol brands that start with a beverage and then remove the alcohol from it, Muri didn’t want to create a drink that was merely imitating something else. “Alcohol-free wine will never be as good as regular wine. A gin without alcohol will never have as much flavor as a regular gin – that’s because alcohol is such a good conveyor of flavor. So, it’s much easier to make a good alcoholic product, but you have to work really hard to create a good non-alcoholic one,” Paterson explained to us.
So, instead of following the dealcoholization trend that was popular in the no/low space, Paterson wanted to create a beverage that was totally new – and something that was naturally alcohol-free. To pursue this mission, he brought on Ioakeim Goulidis, who previously worked at Noma’s fermentation lab, as the head of research and production. Muri is always looking for an interesting mouthfeel, a sweet body, and a top note of acidity in their beverages. So, how do you build flavor without alcohol? By adding layer upon layer of fermentation, and blending it together. Muri uses short fermentations, stopping each ferment after a few days before it becomes alcoholic. The ferments are based on fruits, berries, locally foraged herbs, and tea. They also often apply different culinary techniques, from carbonic maceration to lacto-fermentation to smoking. To provide texture, all of the drinks have a base of water kefir (a fermented beverage with lactic acid), which gives the blends a creamy mouthfeel.
Muri’s Three Blends
Passing Clouds was Muri’s first release, a fresh, easy-to-drink bottle of bubbles named after a psychedelic nightclub in London. In restaurants, it’s generally served as an aperitif, as a Champagne alternative. The base of the drink is a quince water kefir, which gives the fruit-forward taste and the creamy mouthfeel. Gooseberry wine (fermented gooseberry juice) is added next for acidity, with a cultivated yeast that provides floral notes. The next layer is a cold-brewed jasmine tea, which accentuates those aromatic qualities you find in the glass. Finally, they add kvass, a caramel malt inoculated with sourdough starter, to give some of those brioche and toasty notes that Paterson loves in Champagne. The kvass is infused with geranium and locally foraged woodruff. The final result is dry, complex, floral, and sparkling, and reminds us of some of our favorite skin contact pet nats – this is our absolute favorite of Muri’s products!
Muri’s second release is named Nuala, which means “lovely” in Gaelic – a tribute to Paterson’s Scottish heritage. The base of this blend is a blackcurrant piquette (a pressed juice), which is mixed with red currant juice, water kefir macerated with chamomile flowers, black tea, kombucha rested in French oak, and kvass infused with fig leaves and pine needles. The mouthfeel of wine is one of the most difficult things to replicate in non-alcoholic drinks, so the kvass here is used primarily to add texture, and the fig leaf carries the length a bit on the palate. Nuala has tart berry notes with some tannins from the blackcurrant skins, and a hint of oakiness from the kombucha. This is the only still beverage from Muri, and it is crafted to be a red wine alternative.
The newest release from Muri is Yamilé, a “rosé” blend that has arrived just in time to quench your thirst during the summer. The base of this beverage is carbonic macerated raspberries, which provide a very tart flavor, lots of acidity, and give the drink a nice bubblegum pink color. Honey is used as the primary sugar source, and the sweetness is balanced out by gooseberry mead. Lacto-fermented rhubarb is layered in next; the fruit has been smoked over beechwood for two days, which gives the drink a slight hint of smokiness. There’s a water kefir in this blend as well – this one has been macerated with blanched pink peppercorn, star anise, and goldenrod flowers. Another light and easy-to-drink bubbly beverage, this is our second favorite of Muri’s offerings.
The Hungries x Muri
We hosted an event with Muri and members of our food community, The Hungries. On a lovely spring afternoon, we got together at the Kitchen Collective in Kødbyen to share delicious food and drinks, and learn all about what makes Muri so special. After tasting all three of Muri’s blends, our members got to try their hand at making their own creations, using various ferments created by Paterson and Goulidis. We sampled everything from gooseberry juice to red currant wine to nobilis pine pickle liquor, and crafted our own unique blends which we then got to take home with us. Thanks to Muri for teaching us all about fermentation and the future of no/low beverages! Want to come to future events like this? Join our food club, The Hungries!
The Future of No/Low Alcoholic Beverages
The demand for interesting alcohol-free alternatives is rising, and, as a result, Muri’s production is rapidly expanding. In their current production space in Nordhavn, Muri is able to produce 7,000 bottles a month. You can find their products at some of Copenhagen’s best restaurants, including Sushi Anaba, Kadeau, and at POPL, where they also make boozy cocktails like negronis and spritzes with the Muri products. Soon, Muri’s blends will be available for purchase in the States as well.
So, what’s next? The focus is restaurants! With such a flavor-driven mission, it’s natural that Muri’s drinks will go hand in hand with the food industry. The next blends you can expect to see from Muri are special edition collaborations with restaurants. The first release will be this summer, in partnership with restaurant Kadeau. The Kadeau blend will be based on pinecones from Nobilis Fir trees. We sampled some of the “pinecone wine” at our event with Muri, and thought the juice tasted like Nordic cotton candy – very woodsy and herbal, but with bright, sugary notes. The special blend will be available both at restaurant Kadeau, and also on Muri’s webshop.
Muri hopes to change people’s perceptions of non-alcoholic drinks. They hope to blur the lines a bit more between alcoholic and alcohol-free beverages, and create drinks purely because they’re delicious. Muri doesn’t only want to cater to the no/low market – they also hope that people who like to drink alcohol will be intrigued by their blends. “I really hope the future is less binary, less black and white, less vegan versus carnivore. We thought about calling ourselves the non-binary winery,” Paterson laughed. He also hinted that someday Muri might release an “evil twin”/ alcoholic version of some of their blends. As passionate wine lovers ourselves, we’re delighted to find alternative drinks that are just as fun and thought-provoking as fine wines or craft cocktails. We’re excited to see what the future holds for Muri.
Have you tried Muri? Let us know what you think in a comment below.