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When Becca Gardner decided to stop drinking, she says it was one of the best decisions she has ever made for herself — but she quickly realized the lack of options available for non-drinkers. Becca reached into her Kentucky roots, creating a whiskey business with a twist. The alcohol-free spirits of NKD LDY can be found in numerous bars, restaurants, and retail locations throughout the country. And there’s more than just whiskey — the brand offers tequila and gin, too.

Our newest FACE of the South took time to tell us how NKD LDY is different from other non-alcoholic spirits and how her lifestyle change five years ago led to her successful enterprise.

Becca Gardner in a black and white blouse.

Becca Gardner is the founder and CEO of NKD LDY. Image: Josh Merideth

Where did the idea for NKD LDY come from?

After I’d stopped drinking, I was considering a new job in London, where the non-alcohol scene had just exploded. I turned down the job, but I was so impressed by how well-received non-alcohol was; almost every bar or restaurant accommodated the choice. I knew there had to be some promise for what we could see in the U.S. as well, so I moved back to Kentucky to figure out how to create an authentic, non-alcoholic spirits company.

And you did just that. What does NKD LDY offer?

We make gin, tequila, and whiskey alternatives so people can enjoy their favorite cocktails without the alcohol. It allows people to drink without compromise. We are at about 15 bars in Louisville as well as a couple of retail locations. We’re also in distribution in Florida and Tennessee and are moving into New York and California this spring. You can also buy NKD LDY online through our website.

Bartender pouring a drink.

NKD LDY products are crafted from distilled spirits. The alcohol is then gently removed in a way that preserves as much of the spirits’ essence as possible. Image: Carrie Casler

Two women outside enjoying cocktails.

Sisters Becca and Jenny Gardner enjoy the fruits of their labor. Becca is the NKD LDY founder and CEO, and Jenny handles branding and creative. Image: Carrie Casler

What makes your non-alcoholic products different from others?

Rather than starting with water, we start with actual distilled spirits. Then we remove the alcohol fraction from the spirits in a way that preserves as much of the spirits’ essence as possible. The beverages are then completed using flavor and aroma artistry.

Why the name NKD LDY?

When we were initially getting started, we were only going to do whiskey. It was going to be very much about the Kentucky origin, and the spirits industry — especially the brown spirits industry — is very masculine. I wanted there to be a heroine, an inspirational female figure — so that’s where LDY came from. The NKD part speaks to my own experience that I wish for others: undisguised living and the ability to show up as you are and feel safe doing so. It also has the dual meaning of “naked” in the hospitality industry since it’s a stripped-down product.

Cocktails and bottles of NKD LDY spirits.

NKD LDY offers non-alcoholic tequila, whiskey, and gin alternatives. Image: Carrie Casler

What’s one thing you’d want people to know about starting a business?

Success is a moving target. I would love for people to know that you can pursue anything you put your mind to, but it’s also OK to change your mind. It’s OK if your vision shifts based on what life brings you or presents. I think having the ability to have that flexibility in what success looks like for you is such an essential piece of being able to feel like a whole, healthy human in this day and age because we’re struggling with so much uncertainty.

What are your favorite places to eat, shop, or explore around Louisville?

We go to Gralehaus for brunch constantly. Almost every weekend. I’m also a die-hard fan of Burger Boy. I just love Burger Boy! In terms of shopping, I love the vintage scene in Louisville: Fleur de Flea, Nitty Gritty, and Fat Rabbit. I’ve found some of the best vintage pieces here. During the spring and summer, it’s all about the festivals and flea markets. All the outdoor stuff. Louisville’s just beautiful. We love walking around Old Louisville and the Highlands and looking at old homes.

Cocktails and a bottle of NKD LDY.

NKD LDY drinks can be found at numerous bars, restaurants, and retail locations throughout the U.S. Image: Carrie Casler

What’s the best advice you’ve ever given or received?

Right now, the best advice I’m applying to my life is: The decisions you make today will determine the day you have tomorrow. I find that important because it’s easy to push things off until tomorrow, especially at this point in my pregnancy. But I realize that I’m not being fair to the future version of myself if I assume that everything will suddenly be easier tomorrow. It’s something that someone told me when I first stopped drinking. It certainly applies to that experience, but it’s something I’ve continued to share, reiterating different versions.

Aside from faith, family, and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?

Paper and a pen or marker. I take copious notes and make lists all day long; it’s how I’m able to sort my brain out around what I’m doing and brainstorming. I also could not live without music. I think it’s such an effective way to shift your mood. It’s amazing — the magic a song can hold. I think the last thing is unstructured time, and that break doesn’t mean going to the gym. It’s time when you have absolutely nothing to do or accomplish; it’s just time to reset.


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About the Author
Lennie Omalza

Lennie is a Southern-based freelance writer. Originally from Hawaii, she is a yoga-loving foodie who travels as often as she can.