Esmee is the founder of What to Drink, which she describes as 'an online platform for moments you want to enjoy amazing drinks, but don’t feel like boozing'. She also writes a regular column on alcohol-free drinks for the Dutch newspaper Het Parool.
Yet she admits that if someone had told her five years ago that she would become a specialist in AF drinks, she'd probably have choked on her wine. At that time she was an award-winning wine journalist, who drank alcohol for both business and pleasure. In fact, she was treading grapes in an urban Amsterdam winery, when she found out she was seriously ill and quit alcohol to get ready for surgery.
'I just never started drinking again,' she says. 'I felt so much fresher and energized, that I saw no reason to get back to booze.'
As someone who likes to surf in the North Sea in her spare time, Esmee is no stranger to things that take her breath away. But she was shocked (in a good way) to discover that the non-alcoholic category was 'even more exciting and innovative than the wine industry'
Her favourite AF categories are 'all things bitter', from IPAs to aperitifs to amaros and bitters and, of course, the multiple innovative alc-free creations that have no alcoholic equivalent.
A self-confessed 'spoiled wine snob' she says that her holy grail would be a drink that is 'as layered and complex as a fine wine.'
'I'm hoping to find that during the tasting,' she says. 'But whatever happens I'm looking forward to tasting surprises, progress and creativity during the judging.'