Review: The Pathfinder Is a Non-Alcoholic Spirit That Shines in Boozy Drinks

This new hemp-based elixir adds an unusual complexity to classic cocktails

An Old Fashioned made from The Pathfinder, a n/a hemp spirit that actually works well in boozy cocktails
The Pathfinder can work in place of (or in conjunction with) whiskey and other spirits
The Pathfinder

What we’re drinking: The Pathfinder Hemp & Root, a non-alcoholic “spirit” fermented and distilled from hemp (among other ingredients)

Where it’s from: Based in Seattle, The Pathfinder was co-founded by Steven Grasse (creator of Hendrick’s Gin and Sailor Jerry Rum), Chris Abbott (the cannabis entrepreneur behind Mr. Moxey’s) and Guy Escolme (ex-Diageo). 

Why we’re drinking this: Honestly, because we recently enjoyed a few low- (but not “no”) alcohol tipples utilizing The Pathfinder, and we wanted to discuss this interesting hybrid approach to cocktails. (Plus, we did the old-timey apothecary designs on the bottle.)

“It took us two years to get to the right process such that we developed a complex taste but no alcohol,” as Abbott tells InsideHook. “We start by fermenting hemp seeds and then distill the liquid to create our base. This initial process is similar to new-make whisky, vodka or tequila, except we use hemp instead of malted barley, grain or agave. The second part of our process is similar to how vermouths, gins and amari are made — Vermouth-style extraction, steeping, macheration, distillation and infusions.”

We initially tried this in a whiskey sour variation (that, yes, included whiskey). It turns out bartenders are using this in boozy tipples — with a recent convert including Amor y Amargo in New York. 

“It’s an easy way to add bitterness and complexity in a non-alcoholic cocktail,” says Abbott. “And in a boozy, spirit-forward cocktail, bartenders approach The Pathfinder much the same way they would an amaro or sweet vermouth.”

the Pathfinder hemp spirit on a table with an Irish coffee
The Pathfinder also works well in coffee (Irish or regular)
The Pathfinder

How it tastes: The Pathfinder is made from fermented and distilled hemp, as well as ingredients such as Douglas fir, sage, juniper, saffron, wormwood and angelica root, along with natural terpenes.

An amaro is the first thing you think of on the nose — and yes, if you’re familiar with hemp products, you’ll pick up those memorable notes, too. On the palate, it’s an oily texture with hints of root beer, anise, a Campari-like bitterness and pine (that Douglas fir is shining through). What’s nice is that, sans alcohol, there’s an actual texture here that feels like it’d play nicely with tonic/soda and a bit of citrus (we made a non-alcoholic drink with soda and lemon, and it honestly tasted like an artisanal cola). It’s also apparently great with coffee (and yes, you can use in an Irish coffee split with a whiskey).

One suggested recipe from The Pathfinder team is a Manhattan: Stir 1.5 oz rye, .5 oz Laird’s Apple Brandy, 1 oz Pathfinder and three dashes Angostura bitters with ice; strain into a coup, garnish with a cherry.

Interesting fact: Debuting soon in Seattle and Portland cannabis retailers: The Pathfinder Cannabis Spirit, the same liquid but containing THC.

Where to buy it: You can buy a 500ml bottle for $45 ($35 plus shipping) directly from The Pathfinder website.


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