Enrepreneurial advice from creator of Botonique – Listen and adapt

Hilary Marsh launched a drink to help people look after their health


As a life long wine lover, wine merchant and professional wine-taster, Hilary Marsh realised she needed to protect her long-term health, but found non-alcoholic wine alternatives to be frustratingly lacking in flavour.  

Based on the happy experiences of her childhood, making hedgerow wines and elixirs with her family, as well as her experiences from being an experienced Covent Garden restaurateur, Marsh launched Botonique in June last year, as an alternative to wine with additional health benefits. 

(1) Who are you and what’s your business?

I’m Hilary Marsh, founder of Genius Drinks Ltd. We’re the home of Botonique, the new and unique British-made natural, dry, sparkling non-alcoholic drink alternative for lovers of wine. Our mission is to help people drink less alcohol and look after themselves, but without loss of pleasure.

(2) How long have you been around for?

Since 2013. We learned a lot from our first drink, the controversial GoodShot. However, our new flagship product Botonique was launched in June 2016 and is going strong.

(3) How do you make money?

By creating and selling new and innovative drinks, that are manufactured righ here in the UK.

(4) What makes you different and why should people take notice?

Unlike other non-alcoholic drink alternatives, Botonique isn’t sweet. We listened to demand and created a drink that has a sophisticated taste associated with alcohol, but without including it.

It also has unique health benefits due to the inclusion of the beneficial elements of Prelixir, a unique blend of vitamins, minerals and amino acids which alcohol is known to deplete.

This unique element means that Botonique is able to provide anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, alkalising, detoxifying and hydrating benefits, resulting in all the pleasure of drinking without the negative side effects!

(5) What was key in terms of getting started?

Botonique listed on Ocado in November 2016

I qualified as a chartered management accountant, and at aged 27 I was director of a venture capital investment company specialising in startups, so I knew certain things from a financial perspective.

I’d also been co-founder and managing partner of a 15-strong business consultancy, and was CEO of a young software company, so I know entrepreneurship, but it had all been business-to-business at that time. Learning about fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) was difficult, but it helped to win a menteeship with the Grocery Accelerator.

The ability to create the product itself went back to my childhood, where I acquired an aptitude for blending flavours, and hospitality, without realising it, helping my Mum cook and Dad make and blend hedgerow wines to satisfy our stream of house guests and parties in spite of them having a civil servant’s income.

The reason for creating non-alcoholic drinks specifically is due to the realisation that after having previous job roles as a wine merchant, taster and Covent Garden restaurateur, I had to look after my long-term health. However, rather than stop drinking altogether, I decided to create a non-alcoholic drink with a long and complex finish like wine.

(6) What’s your biggest achievement to date?

In terms of Genius Drinks, it would be getting Botonique listed on Ocado last November, and being the number one best selling product in their Discovery Shop.

Personally, it would be building Cafe Baroque, the restaurant, wine bar and music venue I created and ran in Covent Garden for seven years.

(7) What setbacks have you had along the way?

The biggest setback at Genius Drinks was the mixed reception for our first drink. This was called GoodShot, and was positioned as a functional mixer “for a better tomorrow”.

Consumers and bar staff loved it, but we couldn’t get mainstream listings, as someone in the decision chain would always think it looked as if we were encouraging people to drink too much, which was never the intention. So, we pivoted and launched a drink positioned firmly to help people drink less and look after their health.

(8) In five years’ time, I will be…

Hopefully running a global functional beverage company, Or, having sold or moved on from that, working on one of my many other business or public service ideas!

(9)  What one tip would you give to others starting out?

Use the whole you, dare to be different, but most importantly listen and adapt when you have to. You cannot do everything on your own.

(10)  Who are your business heroes and why?

Mohammed Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank which pioneered micro loans through networked local peer groups of women in Bangladesh. Its paradigm shifting, effective, and makes the world a better place – though of course, like all businesses, they’ve had their share of problems.

- Fred Heritage · 26 MAY 2017 

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Summer Botonique Popsicle Recipes

Thanks to Anouk, Botonique's resident foodie

Botonique Bellini’s

This is the Botonique answer to the fabulous Italian drink with fresh peaches and prosecco. Tip: This makes a fantastic “apertif” to welcome your guests to your summer garden party!

What you need:

-        4 ripe peaches, peeled and roughly chopped in somewhat even chunks

-        About 2 cups of Botonique

-        Some sugar to your taste (tip: if the peaches are nice and ripe, no/ not much sugar is needed)

How to make it:

-        Heat the peach over low heat with the sugar until the almost fall apart, wait to cool a bit and then process in a blender.

-        Add Botonique and quickly blend in

-        Pour the mixture into the popsicle moulds 



“Virgin champagne popsicles”

Time to put smiles on your friends’ & families’ faces with these bright fruity popsicles. No sugar is needed for these popsicles, as the ripe sliced fruit will give you plenty of sweetness.

What do you need:

-        Red and black fruit to your taste – Tip: slices strawberries look very pretty in these popsicles

-        Botonique

How to make it:

-        Slice the fruit and “build” them into the popsicle moulds. Tip: put the fruit in diagonally and use some whole bigger berries like blackberries to distribute fruit all over the mould and still leaving enough room for Botonique

-        Poor over Botonique until the moulds are full

-        Carefully transfer to the freezer 😊.



Virgin or non-virgin “Gin & Botonique” with fresh cucumbers

These popsicles are strictly for adults; virgin or virgin, without added sugar. If you have a bit of a sweet tooth through, you can always infuse some sweetness. Tip: These popsicles make a great refreshment in between the main dinner and the pudding t a long Sunday roast with family or friends!

What do you need:

-        Cucumber

-        A good squeeze of lime juice

-        Gin

-        Botonique

-        Sugar/ Agave Syrup (easier to mix) to taste

How to make it:

-        Thinly slice the cucumber and put the slices into the popsicle moulds

-        Mix Gin, Botonique, lime juice and if you want sweetness (syrup is easiest to mix)

-        Poor the liquid over the cucumber and freeze.



Bottling of Botonique

Maestro Steve taking his work very seriously as he blends the delicate botanical extracts for Botonique.

Maestro Steve taking his work very seriously as he blends the delicate botanical extracts for Botonique.

It seems such a long time since I was making tinctures of different herbs and spices in my kitchen, and experimenting with combining them to develop the distinctive taste that is now Botonique Crisp Dry White (though I’ve just been doing that again for our next drink, a Rosé).

But now each different part of Botonique is made by different UK companies, each expert in that particular area (extracting the flavours and goodness, removing the alcohol, nutrient blending, bottling etc). Bottling is especially important from a safety point of view so we use a company with the highest possible quality and safety standard rating – BRC AA – Brothers Drinks in Somerset, who also bottle for Fevertree, amongst many other big brands.  It’s a major hassle for companies who normally do massive runs to fit in a small bottling, especially one as complex as Botonique, so I’m always really grateful when they give us a slot.

And then - because there are so many ingredients in Botonique, which have to be extracted and then de-alcoholised, plus the nutrients - there is immense pressure to make sure all the ingredients and partially blended subcomponents come together on time. Last Friday was the day, finally confirmed on Wednesday!

So many things went wrong, and I had to watch so much precious Botonique going down the drain, which was heart-wrenching, but the bottles we have taste delicious.

We’ll have to wait a few months now for Botonique to clear and develop. It has so many nutrients and natural extracts in that it starts out cloudy and takes a while to clear. I’d hoped that a new technique we used would prevent the clouding, but in that we sadly failed. In terms of taste it’s like the difference between a young and a more mature wine. When young, Botonique is more vibrant. You can almost pick out the individual botanicals. As it ages the flavours integrate. We are thinking we might need to apply “vintage” labels and release at different stages so people pick the age and flavour profile they prefer. Personally I love it at all stages!

I hope you do too


The Dutiful Mother’s Delight - A poem for Mothers’ Day

As a mother you'll most often find me

At home, looking after the family.

For them I do best,

For me there's no rest,

No time for what used to delight me.


I used to enjoy drinking wine,

The feeling and taste were divine,

But now I've cut back 

And I do feel the lack 

Of a drink that is special - and mine!


A friend told me just this last week 

Of a lovely drink called Botonique. 

Said it tastes just as nice 

At a similar price, 

That it's healthy, delicious and chic.


Said it's very low calorie too, 

Full of things that are so good for you. 

I hope she told Hubbie,

He thinks that I'm chubby.

I think he could do with some too.


Buy it Now! - http://botonique.com/shop

Orders placed before noon on a working day are delivered next working day

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It's for Wine Lovers but it isn't Wine!

Botonique doesn’t taste like wine – no grapes or alcohol - though people say it reminds them of wine. They also say it reminds them in varying degrees of gin, vermouth, Pimms, tonic, ginger ale and various other things.

The truth is it doesn’t taste like anything else. It has a completely unique taste made from herbs, spices, citrus and other beneficial botanicals such as Panax Ginseng and Milk Thistle Seed, plus the Prelixir nutrients and a touch of pear juice.


So why is it called the Botanical Soft Drink for Wine Lovers?

Although it doesn’t taste like wine, Botonique complements wine in various ways. It is known as the soft drink for wine lovers because it:


a)       Has the complexity and food-friendly balance of dryness and acidity of dry white wine

b)      Fits in with a wine lovers’ rituals

c)       Looks like Champagne or Prosecco in the glass

d)      Makes a great wine spritzer

e)      Can be enjoyed alongside, in between or after drinking wine or other alcohol

f)        Can be an acquired taste, as with wine, but soon becomes addictive – but in a good way

g)       Can support wine lovers’ nutritional needs by replacing lost nutrients


It complements wine, but it isn’t wine.

We call it our Partner in Wine!

Win two Bottles of Botonique and a Hamper full of other Gluten Free Goodies - Prize Draw by MannaVida

"Would you like to win this delicious hamper full of gluten free goodies worth over £160? That’s not including the lovely hamper that you can use for a myriad of things around your home." - MannaVida

Our friends at MannaVida have prepared this unique selection of healthy, nutritious and delicious goodies for you. The best thing is, everything in this hamper is gluten-free, as are MannaVida's award winning bread making kits!

Of course, one thing that can't be missing is Botonique. So that you can enjoy it along with all these brilliant nibbles.

Better be quick and enter the Prize Draw before it closes on the 28th of February. 

What you can Win:

First Prize

4 MannaVida bread making kits (with baking trays)
2 packs of TwoBirds seeded cereals
6 bars of iQ Choc superfood chocolate
4 bottles of Equinox Kombucha fermented tea drink
2 pots of Arctic Power Berries dried berries
1 pack of mixed cakes from Honeybuns cakes
4 Vini and Bal’s curry sauces
2 large bottles of Botonique soft sparkling drink for wine lovers
10 packs of Fairfield Farm natural crisps
3 packs of Twinings special teas
6 pouches of Naturelly fruit jelly juice
3 packs of Easy Bean Chickpea Crispbread
2 packs of Saltney’s low sodium salt
2 packs of toasting granola from Troo Granola


Runners Up (x2)

4 MannaVida bread making kits (with baking trays)



Christine’s review of the Scratch Meal Deal: Michel Roux & Botonique – a winning combination

Wednesday evening, 6 o’clock. Still two days to go until the weekend.

I shut down my laptop, leave work and by the time I have the key in my door to my flat, I hear my stomach rumbling. It's only Wednesday, still I can’t help but feel like today I should treat myself with some great food.

Luckily enough I am perfectly prepared. Yesterday I took delivery of the Ocado Scratch Meal Deal and now, a bottle of sparkling Botonique and one of Michel Roux’s cooking from “Scratch” Thai Green Curry are waiting for me in the fridge.  


About the Ocado Scratch Meal Deal:

I love Asian and Oriental food, but would never normally cook it myself. But that lovely man Michel Roux has produced a range of “Scratch” Asian and Oriental dishes take all the hassle out of preparing a delicious meal. No more “what shall I cook?” questions and no more hunting down the right ingredients.

Though tired, I got the satisfaction of cooking the meal myself with fresh ingredients, but without the stress or need for expertise. Portion sizes and flavour combinations are sorted and ingredients are already chopped for you.

At the moment Ocado are offering a “Scratch Meal Deal” for £10* –  a choice of 5 Michel Roux dishes covering Vietnamese, Korean and so on, plus a suitable bottle of wine or non-alcoholic alternative. Only one of each so they must have been picked carefully. I was tempted by the Chilean Viognier, but I chose non-alcoholic Botonique because it was a week day.

And I must say it went brilliantly. The herbs and gentle spice of Botonique coped well with the Thai spices, and that lovely dryness and acidity really worked with the richness of the coconut. Yum!

So that was my midweek treat, my reward for 3 days work and all set for the next two!

*The offer runs until 22nd February


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What is Scratch Michel Roux

-          Healthy cooking for 1 person

-          The promise: Ready from scratch in less than 10 minutes

-          Delicious ingredients already chopped and boxed

-          A fresh meal that keeps your kitchen clean

The perfect weekday dinner with an elegant glass of Botonique



“Some things were just meant to be together” - Ocado

The taste experience

As I'm a real lover of Thai food I tried the “Thai Green Curry” and was surprised by this meal. The “Scratch” meal literally felt like it was cooked from scratch. In contrast to many ready meals, the genuine Thai flavours and ingredients tasted really fresh and zingy, but it only took 10 minutes.

The meal amazed me with its nice creamy flavours and textures. Being a fan of spicy food, I would categorise this meal as mildly spicy but still very complex in its flavour. A sip of Botonique allowed the perfect refreshment alongside the meal and rounds off the overall taste experience with just the contrast in herbs that it needs.

I would recommend getting a starter to have first, maybe prawn crackers or spring rolls.

This will be my new go to meal if I can't be bothered thinking of anything else for dinner!
Also, thanks to Botonique, there will be no regrets the next day if I have a couple of glasses more than expected.