Audacia Elixirs is out to change the way we drink
By Ross Boissoneau | March 12, 2022
Whether you’re the designated driver, it’s dry January, or you’re just taking a night off from the strong stuff, there are countless reasons to seek alcohol alternatives. For those of us skipping the booze, the status quo has long been pop, water, or a virgin daiquiri. If you’re tired of the same old, same old, Roman Albaugh and Loghan Call have just the thing.
The two are partners in Audacia Elixirs, a new Traverse City company based around the notion of creating alcohol-free drinks “crafted to rival the complexity, taste, and presentation of a traditional cocktail.”
Trying Something New
Albaugh, a mixologist by trade, is the owner of the Bartending Company, an on-your-site beverage catering outfit. He had managed bar programs for numerous bars and restaurants in the Los Angeles area before returning to his hometown of Traverse City and starting up the beverage service.
Four years ago, he got a call from local chef Loghan Call of Planted Cuisine, who was preparing a six-course dinner for a client. The kicker: the event was to be alcohol-free. “I did six spirit-free beverages with his six courses,” says Albaugh.
The two quickly became friends, and eventually, business partners. Albaugh had observed how those who chose not to drink alcohol had few options and even sometimes felt stigmatized. “The offerings were slim to none: club soda with lime, maybe a syrupy mocktail, kombucha. I wanted to create a more inclusive environment.”
They both saw an opportunity. “The zero-proof movement is taking off,” Call says. “There’s not that much out in the market here.”
Several years after their first team-up, Audacia Elixirs was born. The onset of the pandemic had led to the loss of most business for both Planted Cuisine and the Bartending Company, but there was a silver lining: it was a perfect time to start their new business. By December 2021, the duo was ready to present at TCNewTech…and they won the pitch night.
Focusing on Flavor
Now officially up and running, Audacia Elixirs offers three zero-proof spirits. Albedo is citrus-based, with flavors derived from lemon and grapefruit, as well as sweetness from fenugreek. It also offers notes of juniper and fennel. Radici (which means roots in Italian) blends roots from dandelion, chicory, astragalus, and burdock and includes cacao, French oak, and cinnamon. Baca (floral in Latin) is derived in large part from hibiscus and rose, which give it its intense red-pink color, though the schisandra berry and linden flavor are perhaps the most prominent.
Albaugh says the three spirits are not meant for drinking neat. One of his favorite ways to use albedo is, as he puts it, to go the margarita route, mixing with ingredients like lime juice, orange juice, honey, grapefruit, mint, or ginger, all of which will complement the somewhat bitter, intense flavor profile.
The fruit- and herb-based recipes go back to Call’s catering business, Planted Cuisine. He offers a variety of food-related services, from catered dinners to cooking classes to immersive farm market experiences, all of them plant-based. While happy to provide wine and other alcoholic beverages, he’s excited about the upswing in requests for non-alcoholic drinks.
As is Albaugh, who has embraced the challenge. “I knew it would push my creative boundaries,” he says.
They are joined in the venture by Call’s mother Naomi, credited as their “alchemist.” The owner of Alchemy Farms in Maple City, she is a clinically certified herbalist who has worked as a chef, certified nutritionist, and teacher for over four decades. They combine their various knowledge bases to create spirits that offer the complexity of whiskey, gin, rum, and other alcohol-based spirits.
Shifting the Narrative
Albaugh says the goal of Audacia is really twofold: first, to develop high-quality zero-proof spirits, and second, in turn, to enable those who choose not to imbibe to do so without feeling like they’re not part of the fun.
“What we’re trying to change is the stigma around not drinking,” he says. He makes it clear that they are not looking to demonize alcohol, but to make sure those who are not drinking have options that are both tasty and healthful. Albaugh says the three elixirs enable him to create flavorful original drinks, rather than trying to imitate popular drinks with fake booze and create so-called mocktails.
“Coming from the food world, trying to recreate meat products is a losing game. So we wanted to come up with originals…with bold, complex flavor profiles,” says Call.
At this point, their zero-proof spirits are only available at a few places. “They’re on the menu at the Cook’s House and Iron Fish. They’re good friends, and we want to work with those we know and get feedback,” Call says. “By April, the plan is to get into as many local establishments as possible.”
They hope to eventually go the retail route as well as expand into other places where alcoholic beverages are served. “We want to be in the breweries and wineries. They don’t [typically] have a lot of mixers, so we’ll be doing some pre-mixed cocktails,” says Albaugh.