Spencer Matthews On Clean Living
I used to be a bit like Bradley Cooper in Limitless. When I was drinking, I was him when he wasn’t taking the NZT drug. When I was sober, I was clearer, faster, stronger, more hardworking, funnier – like his character when he was taking the drug. I don’t think my drinking was an enormous problem or detrimental to my health, but it was a regular thing. Just because I’m a social guy, I’ve lived in London for years, I’ve worked in the City – as a forward foreign exchange broker, you’re very much encouraged to drink – and done some stuff in TV.
When you’re in your 20s you can drink to excess regularly and get away with it. But then adult life creeps in and you start to realise you’re perhaps not who you thought you were going to be – or you know you’ve only got a limited chance of becoming that person unless you start to look at things a bit differently. For me, giving up alcohol was such a pleasant and welcome change. I got a bit sanctimonious about it – I’d walk past a bar and think everyone in there could be feeling the way I am instead. Then I realised being preachy about sobriety was in no way welcome.
Choosing not to drink alcohol is one of the few positive life decisions you can make that is still stigmatised. I feel like a major barrier for people going from drinking full-strength alcohol to low-strength alcohol is social pressure. There’s also been a real lack of choice. If I’ve wanted a gin and tonic, but not wanted to drink, I’ve ended up with a Diet Coke. That’s why I started my business.
These days I’m more of a flexitarian about alcohol than a teetotaller. That’s the ethos for CleanCo too. We’re not saying you shouldn’t drink alcohol; we’re just offering an alternative. Our gin is 1.2% ABV and that 1.2% is there for the flavour – to make sure you are reminded of gin when you drink it. We wanted to create something that was very much like gin, so we made it with juniper, distilled it in the same way, and used cardamom, orris root and citrus.
Eventually you won’t be able to tell the difference. I don’t think anyone has cracked it yet, but we’re evolving our recipes as technology gets better and people develop ways of creating better and better low-alcohol alternatives. We’ve got Clean Gin, Clean Rum and we’re working on a vodka. We’re proud of what we’ve got, but we’re always looking at making them better. That’s not so people have to come back and buy more. We want to be the best. We’re also a startup, so if we get too comfortable, people will overtake us. Everything’s going well, but it can always go better.
For anyone who is thinking about starting a business, the key thing for me was to surround myself with incredibly smart people who could answer the questions I couldn’t. I’d never been CEO of a business before, so this has been a very steep learning curve. Building the team has been as important as the idea and the product. Without people who had experience of business and the market we were in, it would have been so hard to get anything off the ground. Spend your money carefully, of course, but if you’ve had a successful raise, don’t be afraid to spend money to get those key individuals.
My wife Vogue and I had our second child in July. Because I’ve spent a large period of this year working from home, I’ve got to see my family more. Fortunately, I’m rather fond of my wife and we have very much enjoyed each other’s company. We’re not the most socially active couple, so actually lockdown was a terrific excuse to not have to see anyone. I’m married to my best friend, so missing my mates was not a huge issue – I felt like I was surrounded by great company.
It’s been a little while since I was a man about town. I’ve done enough socialising in my life and I’ve realised that pubs and bars can survive without me. At the risk of sounding boring, I now love life at home. Honestly. Vogue works terribly hard and does so much for the family, while I’m quite busy too, so we really value our time together in the evenings. We try to go out every couple of weeks – our favourite restaurant is La Petite Maison. We also got invited by one of Vogue’s mates to Heston’s Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental recently. We’d never been before, but we had a lovely waiter from Ireland which I think made Vogue’s night. Anyone Irish, they can do no wrong for her.
I was also a bit late to the party on Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. I really enjoyed it but I’d been putting it off because, whenever I feel like everyone’s reading the same book, I give it a miss for a while. Then when you actually pick it up, it’s a bit more of a novelty. Maybe that’s because I’m not a big reader. Most of my family reads prolifically; I don’t, but I do want to change that.
What I really love is documentaries. Anything about Trump, I’m in. I liked The Social Dilemma on Netflix recently, though I’ve always been a bit anti-social media anyway. And The Last Dance, of course, with Michael Jordan was great. I’ve also been watching a lot of MasterChef Australia. The contestants are amazing – all of them. Anyone who makes the quarter-finals on the Australian show would be a shoo-in to win the UK version overall. Away from real-life stuff, I’ve got back into Billions. It lost its way for a bit, but it’s great to have it back now.
What do I do to stay in shape? God, you’ve come at the correct time. I’ve just done a Men’s Health shoot after an 11-week body transformation plan. This wasn’t about getting big and buff – in fact, I’ve dropped 10kg. It was about lowering body fat and being athletic. It was fun doing it with my friend Shaun Stafford, who’s an incredible trainer, but it was an extreme diet and I have to say the Shake Shack I had last night was fantastic.
If you haven’t tried jujitsu, you need to. I absolutely adore it. The Brazilians call it the chess of martial arts. There’s no ego in jujitsu and it teaches you general discipline. You learn how to remain extremely calm under pressure and you learn how to control your opponent without striking them. It’s very calculated and it really sets me up for my week. I’m a blue belt right now and I want to be a black belt by the time I’m 40 – whether there’s a Men’s Health shoot at the end of it or not, I enjoy having targets.
Get yourself a tongue scraper – it’s life changing. My tongue’s never been so clean. I get up, brush my teeth, use my tongue scraper, bit of Listerine, moisturiser and hair wax. That’s me done. I respect Patrick Bateman’s commitment to grooming in American Psycho, but I don’t have a lengthy routine myself. I’m pretty straightforward, but I have been known to nick my wife’s products. In fact, she hates it and I’ve noticed she’s started hiding them. Specifically, I like to use her really thick night creams as my morning moisturiser – because personally I can’t understand how a cream can tell the difference between night and day. I also once used dog shampoo just because someone left it in the shower. I only noticed the dog on the bottle as I was rubbing it into my head.
Will I ever drink again? I don’t know. On the one hand, why would I want to go back down that route? Right now, I’m a better husband and father, my mother is delighted with me all of the time, I’m starting to achieve something at work and giving up booze feels like such a good move. On the other hand, looking around at people enjoying a glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve, do I feel like I want a glass? Maybe for an instant. I don’t feel like alcohol has a place in my life or my heart, but I cook with it, I use mouthwash that’s got alcohol in and a ripe banana has an ABV of 2%, so I’m not going to be hardline about it. If you do ever see me having a beer again, don’t worry – my life’s not about to fall apart.
Check out CleanCo’s full range of low-alcohol spirits at Clean.co
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