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The drink that’ll help you live to 100 and the Italian village that inspired it

Move aside, coconut, turmeric and aloe vera water: there’s a new health drink in town

Roofs of old buildings on the hill with sea and mountains on background. This picture was taken in Acciaroli, Cilento park area, Campania, Italy.
Roofs of old buildings on the hill with sea and mountains on background. This picture was taken in Acciaroli, Cilento park area, Campania, Italy.

If your knowledge of rosemary is limited to its chemistry with lamb and its worth as a cocktail component (yes, really), you need to rethink things.

Late last year, the global press went nuts for rosemary. Thanks to a government census, scientists discovered that a tiny village in Italy, Acciaroli, boasted an extraordinary number of centenarians. Acciaroli, which is two hours south of Naples, also has unusual numbers of 80- and 90-years-olds, many of whom have next to no memory loss, cancer, arthritis or cataracts. After studying the villagers’ lifestyle, scientists identified just one unusual factor: the large quantities of rosemary – both raw and cooked – that the villagers consumed.

Your average Joe reading these rosemary-centric articles thought: ‘Note to self: must eat more rosemary’ – then forgot all about it. British entrepreneur David Spencer-Percival didn’t stop there; having realized he wasn’t turned on by the prospect of a lifetime (albeit a longer one) spent munching raw rosemary, he decided to try to drink it instead.

Rosemary

First, he consulted the Google gods and typed in ‘rosemary water’. Search results showed nobody was making or selling it commercially. This was something of a light-bulb moment for the entrepreneur, who has a history of mega-successful startups (he previously founded Huntress and Spencer Ogden). David promptly went to his local garden centre, bought the biggest rosemary bush he could find, emptied his fridge of its current contents – much to his wife’s consternation – and filled it with bottles of water infused with rosemary sprigs.

Having discovered that rosemary-infused water actually tastes rather nice, David registered rosemarywater.com and decided to make a new drink. He recruited an artisan drinks company in north London, along with a botanical extraction house in Worcestershire. To check that the villagers weren’t nibbling a super strain of rosemary, David and his wife went on a foraging mission in Acciaroli and nicked some rosemary, which they tested in a lab against specimens from six or seven other places, including Morocco, South Africa, Italy and the UK. The results were in David’s favour: the levels of rosmarinic acid were very similar.

The next few months were spent trying to extract rosemary’s magic bits, then distill them. David and his gang tried ethanol extraction and reverse osmosis; they took the oil off the top; they did some fresh-chopped cold brews; they mixed the whole shebang together. Finally, an elixir was sent to David in the post, prompting him to turn to his wife and proudly proclaim, ‘We’ve got it.’ And thus No.1 Rosemary Water was born.

Rosemary water

Something in the water: the herbal elixir in No.1 Rosemary Water could actually make you live longer

The drink has just two ingredients: certified spring water and the rosemary elixir. The equivalent of one sprig of rosemary is used per 750ml. (Hardcore rosemary addicts can also do potent rosemary shots.) When No.1 launched exclusively at Harvey Nichols, it sold out four times.

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