There is something funny about the linguistic means through which people process their lifespans, mostly by using the words “spend” and “waste” when it comes to describing time. Time is undeniably the most valuable of any currency, and to use the word “spend” in relation to time is to suggest a sort of exchange: what good do we get in exchange for giving away a portion of our life? We spend time to receive… what, exactly? Is the act of spending not the end in itself, when it comes to our time? Mélanie Masarin, founder and CEO of sensational non-alcoholic aperitif brand Ghia, has dedicated a career–a life – to the glorious, ambiguous end: Ghia, a classy, beautiful alternative to alcohol, is about spending time, and spending it well.
Masarin believes that how one chooses to spend their day is how they choose to spend their life. The ethos seems to saturate every facet of the young CEO’s life, from the ways in which Masarin conducts her business (Ghia is headquartered inside a beautiful house, not an office building) to the ways in which she uses her free time (see her surrounded by friends and family in the south of France. See her making delectable homemade dinners for her acquaintances). Masarin, who has already served in senior roles at Glossier and Dig Inn before heading Ghia, is making waves across social media as an early pioneer in the rapidly growing sophisticated, non-alcoholic cocktail business.
Founded in 2020, concurrent with the blossoming “sober curious” movement, Ghia was borne out of necessity: Masarin quit drinking and couldn't find an alcohol alternative that was remotely as sophisticated as a cocktail, or any that aren't ridiculously sugary. So, she began to experiment with her own recipe. Three and a half years and an international lockdown later, Ghia is one of the most buzzy brands of the moment. The cans can be found in hotels, bars, and wine shops across major cities in the US, as well as in Sweetgreens everywhere. Made out of bitter, delicious botanical extracts, Ghia aperitifs are as healthy as they are adult-tasting– it’s no surprise Ghia has been a named favorite among sober people and alcohol-drinkers alike.
One might say that Mélanie Masarin is a connoisseur of spending time. Where epicureanism and hedonism and all of the pleasurable parts of life intersect with self-awareness, with wellness and environmental consciousness, that’s where you can find Mélanie. That’s where you can find Ghia. FLAUNT caught up with Masarin, and she had lots to say about the brand, wellness culture, and dinner parties:
What drew you to creating an aperitif? Do you feel there is something about aperitivo culture that lends itself to a non-alcoholic beverage?
Growing up, I spent many summers with my family in the South of France near the Mediterranean centered around entertaining friends, cooking together, and having conversations that lasted until dawn, all fueled by my grandmother’s homemade limoncello made with fresh-picked lemons. Those memories are what inspired me to create something that challenges the way we have traditionally thought about drinking and socializing.
I believe that Aperitivo culture is so much about connection vs what’s actually in your glass. I wanted to create something for drinkers and non-drinkers alike that was bitter, sophisticated, and didn’t make you feel like you were missing out so you could still be a part of those special moments.
Ghia's office doubles as a beautiful house that welcomes guests. I’d be curious to hear more about how this idea came about, and more broadly, how you think about hospitality in your personal life and as a founder?
We knew that we wanted to have a place that not only served as an office but could also be a place to host our friends, family and community so a house seemed like the most natural choice. Everyone on the Ghia team is an epicurean so having a kitchen was super important. We always gather there to sample upcoming products, whip up a quick lunch or to grab a late afternoon spritz.
For me both personally and as a founder, hospitality is incredibly important.. I’ve always loved bringing people together – whether it’s been through hosting dinner parties for my friends or creating safe spaces that spark real, meaningful conversations. In my previous life I worked at Dig Inn and then Glossier, and these roles in hospitality and retail taught me so much about the value of customer service and really helped pave the way for launching Ghia.
Ghia has a wonderfully design driven retro feel to it. How did you think about creating Ghia’s brand and visual identity?
We worked with Perron-Roettinger to create our visual identity. When designing our packaging, we took cues from the dynamic shapes and joy we all experience through hospitality, and also drew inspiration from vintage signage, European aperitif brands, furniture, and experimental architecture. We want Ghia to be joyful, approachable, and remind you of your favorite restaurant, dinner party, hotel bar, or vacation. Ghia was meant to live in these environments and the design was very much informed with that in mind.
What are some of the best choices you’ve made as a founder and CEO? What are some mistakes you’re glad you made?
I think some of the best decisions I have made as a founder, were actually because I knew nothing about beverages when I started Ghia. I was the customer, and I made it for me. I wanted a drink that felt luxurious and delicious and had an ingredient list I would be proud of. Our ingredient costs are probably 3-6x higher than our competitors, it's a pretty crazy thing to be making a can full of extracts and juices only, but ultimately it's what I'm the most proud of, and why I hope we will keep distinguishing ourselves from a pretty competitive category with quality.
Wellness and indulgence are often posed as antithetical to one another, though you (and your brand!) often encourage the marriage of the two. Can you talk a little about how you personally view the concept of indulgence?
I really believe how you spend your days is how you spend your life, and so to me an indulgence is anything that is pleasurable. We don't market Ghia as a wellness drink because we prefer for it to feel like an indulgence, and while we are not calorie-counters we are label-readers. I believe good ingredients and mindful sourcing have to become tablestakes.
You are hosting a dinner party for friends new and old. What do you cook and what do you serve to drink?
I make everything ahead of time except my main so I can enjoy being with my guests. I go in phases of making the same menu for a couple months then moving on to something else. For drinks I always have both alcoholic and non-alcoholic options - I usually serve natural wine and Ghia.
For the menu - I have lots of things to graze on while everyone arrives. radishes and butter, a burrata with olive oil and lemon zest. I love to start the meal with a light, citrusy and herby salad. An entree (I've been baking fish in salt crust since I got back from Ibiza - this too shall pass!). There is almost always a handmade pasta on the table because it's what I do best and people love the most - right now I cook down a sauce with shallots, anchovies, and sungolds because sungolds are everywhere and so delicious. For dessert - I've moved on from my Pavlova phase and rhubarb galette phases, and lately this summer, I've been making semifreddos for desserts. The last semifreddo was baklava flavored with nuts and honey inside it was a huge hit!