Are alcohol-free alternatives finally coming of age?

This article on alcohol-free alternatives was featured in The Guardian in April.

What to drink when you’re not drinking? Not so long ago, the choice was very limited: tonic without the gin, perhaps? Lime and soda sans vodka? An oversweet fruity number? Or (yawn) another sparkling water? Perhaps it is no wonder that those of us of a certain age tend to be heavier drinkers than the younger generation: alcohol consumption in the UK fell 26% between 2002 and 2012, and the number of people aged 16-25 who drink little or not at all has risen by 40% in a decade. So it’s no great surprise that the marketeers are muscling in with a raft of decent alcohol-free tipples designed to please these sober youngsters and their boozy parents, too.

Most low-alcohol beers are still thin and dull, but Brew Dog’s Nanny State (around £1.25, widely available) is clean and hoppy, with body and balance, and stands up well against its alcoholic craft beer cousins.

When it comes to wine, most with no or low alcohol tend to be fairly grim, too. Torres Natureo Muscat (£5.99, Waitrose) is vinified as wine, then de-alcoholised by distillation and comes out at a healthy 0.5% abv. It’s off-dry, but not too cloying, and would sit well on a springtime supper table, especially if the food is slightly spicy: try it with something Thai.

Seedlip is a non-alcoholic, zero-calorie distilled drink that’s caused a stir even among die-hard drinkers. Treat it as a gin or vodka: I like the savoury freshness of Seedlip Garden (£27.95 The Whisky Exchange, £27.99 Waitrose), flavoured with peas, hay, rosemary and thyme. Drink it with tonic and a cucumber slice. (Seedlip recommends Fever-Tree Elderflower tonic, but it works just as well with good old Schweppes.) For a similar grown-up botanical hit with tonic (and at a fraction of the cost), try a few drops of bitters: classic Angostura (about £10, widely available) with a slice of orange; or the deliciously zingy Fee Brothers Grapefruit Bitters (£8.71, £9.85 The Whisky Exchange) with a sprig of mint.

If you do like something fruity, try your hand at making shrubs, or “drinking vinegars”, as the hipsters call them. These are fruit cordials made with vinegar, which gives a pleasing, sour tang. Mix 1kg fruit with a litre of cider vinegar and 750g sugar, leave in a covered container for two weeks, then strain and bottle the liquid. To serve, dilute 1:5 with still or fizzy water. Soft fruit seems to work best: raspberries with crushed black peppercorns thrown into the mix, or gooseberries with chopped green chillies, say.

I’m always up for new AF drinks suggestions & must try the Seedlip Garden too!  If you’d like to try some of the new alcohol free drinks now available why not head to the Mindful Drinking Festival in London next month?  Having read this morning’s headline on the Guardian (Heavy drinking will kill 63,000 people over next five years, doctors warn) it feels like Laura & Jussi, the founders of Club Soda, have set this up at just the right time 🙂

10 thoughts on “Are alcohol-free alternatives finally coming of age?

    1. Hey Stew Tried Kombucha myself and liked it. It’s being showcased at the Mindful Drinking Festival in London next month too!

  1. Something I’ve noticed at my grocery store recently is root beer and ginger ale packaged in brown or green bottles resembling traditional beer bottles. I have mixed feelings about this new marketing strategy. On one hand, I think the “faux” beer packaging could be helpful for people in early sobriety who are trying to blend in at social events (I drank N/A beer at parties for several months until anxiety about what people thought of me eased up). On the other hand, I know some teenagers who like the packaging because it makes them feel grown up, which reinforces the notion that drinking alcohol is a required rite of passage. The Mindful Drinking Festival is a good step toward normalizing nondrinking.

    1. Can understand your mixed feelings about it Julie and agree that the new London festival is an important step 🙂

  2. I’ve always loved beer (too much) and I’ve found a few AF brands I like, my complaint is that here in the states there aren’t many offerings, and in my area especially, finding them requires some strategic planningl. xx

    1. Hopefully AF beers will catch on on your side of the pond like they seem to be here Lori which will then require less strategic planning! xx

    1. Thanks Wendy! Yep I’m a dessert lover rather than a wine drinker now 😉 xx

  3. I like the sound of that Garden Seedlip …. am making some mint syrup for nojitos and you’ve inspired me to hurl in a few frozen peas – think I’ll call it Cheapskate and Tonic Xx

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