Category Archives: Mocktails

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 🙂

Three Day Week-end Treats :)

botoniqueSomething to drink and something to watch on a Bank Holiday Monday!  Three Day Week-end Treats 🙂  The drink is new and I need to thank Hilary Marsh at Genius Drinks Limited for not 1 or 2 bottles to sample but 3!!  It is called Botonique and is described as ‘the botanical soft drink for wine lovers’ and you can find out more about it here:

How to serve

  • Well chilled or over ice
  • In a Champagne flute for maximum bubbles
  • In a wine glass for less bubbles
  • Give it a stir if you don’t want the bubbles

When to serve

Anytime you fancy a “proper” drink, including:

  • Pre-dinner aperitif
  • To accompany Asian or Oriental cuisine, seafood, fish, sushi, anti-pasta, goats cheese and a range of other foods
  • Sorbet drink to refresh the palate

What is it?

Most soft drinks are far too sweet – until Botonique.  Botonique is a sparkling blend of botanical extracts and nutrients, crisp & refreshing, deliciously dry.

Botonique is packed with Prelixir® nutrients – relevant vitamins, minerals and amino acids which are the building blocks of life.  You can learn more at

As the name suggests, Botonique is rich in botanical extracts, which provide the natural flavours as well as well as health benefits. We only name two of them – Milk Thistle Seed and Panax Ginseng – keeping the rest as our trade secret. But the secrecy doesn’t make them any less beneficial!


Botonique can be transformed into a variety of enticing drinks with the addition of cordials such as elderflower, juices such as grapefruit, or garnishes such as:

  • Strawberry & black pepper
  • Lemon & ginger
  • Cucumber, lime & mint
  • Pineapple & sage

Coconut water is also good, creating a softer, fatter mouth feel – and making your coconut water much more healthy & delicious!

So with alcohol free filled glass in hand you can now watch this that aired on BBC One last Thursday and is available on iPlayer for 29 days:

The Truth About Alcohol

So how did we enjoy our Botonique?  Chilled with a dash of Grenadine so it looked like a sparkling rose 🙂  Yum!


Alcohol-free: why temperance drinks are making a comeback

temperance drinksThis was an excellent piece in The Guardian word of mouth blog as Lent started in mid February – another excuse to give your liver a rest if you need to 😉

Booze. We’re so over it now. Not only is the government trying to wean us off our swift halves with its new alcohol guidelines (so good luck with that, then), but there’s been shocking exposure of “Britain on the Booze”, and a “dramatic rise” in the number of young teetotallers shunning their alcopops and Bacardi Breezers.

Add Lent to the cocktail and the self-righteous whiff of abstinence is definitely in the air, so what better time to stock up on your temperance drinks? The Temperance movement started in the early 19th century, mostly in the industrial north, as an antidote to the voracious boozing of the day – and, allegedly, to sober up the workforce.

I have always been a lover of these old-style botanical brews: the sweet furriness of cream soda, the aniseedy kick of dandelion and burdock, the medicinal-smelling sarsaparilla that tastes ever so faintly of toothpaste. For one thing, they have a depth of flavour you don’t normally find in soft drinks, although, apparently, Coco-Cola and Vimto started life as temperance beverages.

Then there’s the scent of bubbling oranges filling the kitchen with a knuckle of ginger, a pan of stewing blackberries, sticky and sweet. I like the names too: black beer and raisin, rhubarb and rosehip, blood tonic.

Temperance drinks were big in aromatics, so if you want to make your own, stock up on your spices and extracts; cloves, nettle, cardamom seeds, liquorice, essential oils. For a glimpse of the real thing, head to Fitzpatrick’s in Rawtenstall, Lancashire, thought to be the last temperance bar in the UK and founded in 1890. Here, herbal brews were supped for their reputed medicinal benefits too (lemon and ginger for the immune system, for example, nettles for the kidneys. But let’s not even mention the sugar). If foraging is your thing, tug on your wellies and don’t be afraid to dig (although do get the permission of the landowner).

For dandelion and burdock, look out for burdock’s large, furry, heart-shaped leaves and boil with dandelion roots sweetened with sugar, two spoonfuls of black treacle and lemon juice. Many temperance cordials use syrup as a fruity base. Try this simplified peach syrup from Bertha Stockbridge’s 1920 prohibition classic “What to Drink”: simmer 10oz of peach slices with 8oz of water and 8oz of sugar for 30 minutes, then strain. From there on, the world of flower power opens up. Don’t be afraid to experiment. The Anthologist in London does a whole range of cheeky tipples made from its homemade syrups and infusions, which you can make from pretty much anything: vegetables, herbs, even meat. (It even does a bacon-infused, non-alcoholic bloody mary.)

Beware of making them too sweet, however – a common mistake, according to the great mixologist Tony Conigliaro. So combine the lemony-tartness of hibiscus with zingy raspberry puree. Purists can check out the original 1904 “Recipes for Temperance Drinks”, which includes gingerette, peppermint cordiale and Boston cream, although I think I’ll pass on Mrs Hibbert’s Temperance Brandy, which is basically cinnamon powder dissolved in a wineglass of hot water.

Mostly, I like to keep it simple: hot Luscombe ginger beer with a splash of grenadine and a squeeze of lime juice. One of the tastiest temperance drinks I have ever had was a violet and jasmine crush at The Botanist in Leeds, the blend of mint, violet and jasmine syrup with lime juice, apple juice and soda water was like a mouthful of honeyed sunshine. Who needs gin?

Loved this!  And the sub header: “compared with more modern soft drinks, traditional botanical brews may be old-fashioned, but they are packed with flavour and anything but boring”  If you do feel like a a botanical non-alcoholic brew with a whiff of gin about it – may I recommend Seedlip? 😉

Postscript: 10am This time 5 years ago I was about 5 miles into running the London Marathon!!  For me preparing for that event in my life was where this journey all started …..

The Zero Alcohol Awards 2016

Zero-Alcohol-Awards-LogoSo the alcohol industry is probably  hoping this is some April Fools’ joke but I’m happy  to say that the Zero Alcohol Awards is definitely real 🙂  Here is the list of nominee’s from Alcohol Concern.

Congratulations to our shortlisted nominees.

The Zero Alcohol Awards sponsored by Britvic are the first of their kind to recognise and reward the range of zero alcohol drinks provided by retailers, bars and pubs across the country, alongside the innovators bringing new products to the market and creating new environments to enjoy them in.

Best Bar/Pub Award

  • All Bar One
  • Browns
  • Pitcher and Piano

Best Multiple Retailer

  • Asda
  • M&S
  • Sainsbury’s
  • Tesco
  • Waitrose

Best Independent Retailer

  • The Alcohol Free Shop
  • Dry Drinker

Best New Product

  • Belvoir Elderflower and Rose Cordial
  • Fentimans Cherry Cola
  • Frobishers Classics: Apple Pear and Elderflower
  • Frobishers Classics: Sparkling Raspberry
  • Green Lady Sparkling Tea
  • Nix&Kix Cool Cucumber and Fresh Mint
  • Peter Spanton Drinks
  • Seedlip
  • Rochester Ginger

Best Zero Alcohol Award Initiative

  • Dry Bars: The Brink, Liverpool; Redemption, London; Sobar, Nottingham
  • Dry Scene
  • Morning Gloryville
  • Warsteiner Fresh partnership with Jurgen Klopp

People’s Choice Award: Favourite Drink

  • Bavaria 0% Beer
  • Becks Blue
  • Belvoir
  • Bottlegreen
  • Shloer

People’s Choice Award: Favourite Location

  • The Alcohol Free Shop, Manchester
  • The Arkle Manor Bar, Surrey
  • The Crown, Henlow
  • Granger & Co., Kings Cross
  • Sobar, Nottingham
  • Strada, Nationwide

So lots of good recommendations in that list for things to drink, places to buy & go visit 🙂

Winner’s announcement here:

The winners of the Zero Alcohol Awards 2016 sponsored by Britvic have been announced.

Seedlip! S&T the new cool ;)

OK so it’s the first Friday night of February and you’ve been dry all January and had the first 4 days of the month off too.  You deserve a drink right?  How about a grown up drink that offers you the flavours of a good G&T but none of the liver damage or hangover?

This was in the Evening Standard in December and thank you Club Soda for bringing it to my attention! 🙂 I think we’ve discovered the drink that is going to make being sober really cool – Seedlip “Developed with Botanists, Distillers and Historians to solve the “what-to-drink-when-you-are-not-drinking” dilemma.” *I think I’m in love* 😉

seedlipImagine you’re having a night off the sauce. Then imagine that instead of having to order a glass of boring lime and soda or elderflower cordial and explain your choice to everyone, you simply said to the barperson, “I’ll have a Seedlip Martini please” — and what you got was a martini that looked and almost tasted like a martini, and no one even noticed. It could be brilliant.

Seedlip, billed by its founder Ben Branson as the world’s first distilled non-alcohol spirit, has arrived in London. After Selfridges bought the rights to sell it exclusively for two months, online stocks sold out within three weeks. Needless to say, Branson is making 1,000 more to arrive before Christmas.

So this is not a spirit as you know it, yet it is clear like gin, made like gin — different botanicals such as lemon peel, cardamom and cascarilla tree bark are distilled individually then blended together — and you can drink it like gin, with tonic or in a martini and other cocktails. It is also sold in what could easily pass for a beautifully labelled gin bottle. So theoretically you could replace gin with Seedlip and no one would know.

Last weekend I was challenged to go out in London with Branson and drink only Seedlip. I accepted willingly — as a regular drinker who takes an occasional lime and soda night, I get bored of saying, “I just don’t feel like drinking this evening,” to raised eyebrows.

At 5pm on Saturday I arrive at the glamorous Dandelyan bar at the Mondrian London hotel and eye its “boozeless” cocktail list. There I meet Branson, who is informed then and there by bartender Aidan that everything on it now includes Seedlip. He can’t believe his luck. Aidan thinks Seedlip is a “totally banging” addition to the drinks market — and the bottle, with its elegant illustration of a fox made out of botanicals on the label, fits so seemlessly into the cluster of others lined up on the back bar that I don’t even notice it. 

I order a Dandelyan Sourless, a light green number with an egg white foam that Aidan shakes up in front of us. It’s smooth and refined, with moments of pea and coconut, and it feels boozy, but I am assured that it’s simply Seedlip’s gin-like botanicals. 

The same happens with the Tropical Grass, made with Seedlip, pineapple juice and pine sherbet. By our third round — S&Ts, each served over ice with slices of fresh lemon — I’m still feeling perky.

Branson is both euphoric and worried about the early success of Seedlip. Earlier this year, after developing a flavour profile, he took his new drink, unpackaged and unbranded, to various bartenders and soon discovered that they all wanted it. Currently available at Dandelyan, The Clove Club, Sexy Fish and Hix bars, in January it will also arrive at the bars of the London Edition, The Savoy, Gordon Ramsay Group and House of St Barnabas.

Branson’s vision for Seedlip — named after a basket used for holding seeds — came about while he still owned his own design agency, working on product design for food and drink brands including Absolut Vodka, but wanted to solve a problem. He loved going to good restaurants but felt that, as a non-drinker “you don’t get that same kind of attention to detail for aperitifs, for example. I always drank a bitter lemon or a tonic but I knew it was only half a drink.” 

While researching old herbals, he came across a copy of the 1651 book The Art of Distillation, where he found some curious non-alcoholic herbal remedies for illnesses, none of which required any sugar or fruit juices. An idea was sparked.

“It was critical to have a fantastic brand, something that would really stand out that wasn’t a clichéd craft spirit, and to find a new category that created an  aesthetic that could really bring nature to life,” says Branson of the design process.

Seedlip is blended and bottled in England, though some of the preparatory work happens abroad. Having grown up on his family’s farm in Lincolnshire, Branson would ultimately like to open a distillery there, once he’s proved the London market. Botanicals are sourced from around the world — the lemon peel is distilled in Argentina — and five other botanicals are distilled in Germany using “a secret process”. Next year he’ll launch two more products.

Back on our bar crawl, I ask Branson whether he’s solved his problem. “I think we’re just getting started. From what I’m told we’ve given bartenders a way to start a non-alcoholic cocktail … I’m not sure that they have been able to do that before.” 

Indeed, when I arrive at The Clove Club, head barman Rob Simpson pours us an elegant Seedlip-based apple and chestnut cocktail called the Woodland Wander, and describes why Branson has filled an important gap in the market. “This is such an exciting product. Some of our customers don’t drink and we want to give them the same experience of those who do. Now we have more options.”

Later, at a friend’s Christmas house party, those who have been going since 6pm are getting slowly sozzled. Some, seeing me pour Seedlip into a glass and adding tonic, ask what I’m doing and are confused when I declare it to be booze-free. “But it’s so good!” they exclaim after tasting it, utterly gobsmacked.

By midnight and nearly seven hours’ out, it’s time for bed. I wake up fully compos mentis at 8am and make a mental note to take Seedlip nights out more often. Ben Branson, you’ve started a revolution.

For more information, visit

You can purchase it here:

Plus product number 2 is on it’s way! 🙂

And I’ve tasted it and it’s lovely – all the taste of a good botanical gin but none of the downside of drinking spirits either at the time or the following day ……

And if you want a cool venue to drink your cool new spirit – how about?


The first UK club night to go BOOZE FREE.

Look after you body and your mind with full power partying Kachette in Shoreditch.


Taste Test: Non-alcoholic beers

The Guardian very kindly did a taste test on some of the alcohol free beers currently available in the UK so I thought I’d include it here. Why? Because I drink alcohol free beers and think they can be a useful thing to take to a party or have in the pub if you don’t want a soft drink.  If you would like to read the full review you can go here but the scores on the doors looked like this:

  • Becks Blue 2.5/5
  • Bavaria Malt 3/5
  • Bavaria Wit 3/5
  • Bavaria Fruity Rose 2/5
  • Fosters Radler 0% 3/5
  • Cobra 0% 1.5/5

Interestingly in the comments after this piece they were all raving about Erdinger non-alcoholic pils!  One I need to try.

As for me, do I agree with the Guardian newsdesk?  My favourite is the Bavaria Malt – taste’s most like a beer to me.  Becks Blue is good too.  Absolutely did not like the Cobra and the Fosters Radler left a lot to be desired too (the original was only 2% ABV so it’s just fizzy lemonade!).  Haven’t tried the Bavaria White beer or Fruity Rose so will give them a whirl at some point.

I personally feel that there is a time and a place for these non-alcoholic beers but it is down to each individual and if drinking these is triggery for you then stay safe with soft drinks.

14 days to go



Virgin Mary

Virgin Mary

The Christmas Mocktail bar is closing its doors tonight and there was only one possibility that we could drink tonight.

150ml or 5fl oz tomato juice
30ml or 1fl oz fresh lemon juice
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
dash Tabasco sauce
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 stick celery

Pour the first four ingredients into a highball glass filled with ice cubes. Season to taste. Stir well. Add the celery stick to use a a stirrer.

Day 94. Merry Sober Christmas to you all xx

Day 100 in the house!

Not mine but my other halves 🙂

In honour of his achievement I am posting something he wrote back in January 2008.  We were both struggling with our alcohol dependence and firmly in the camp of denial at the time and this piece of writing reflects his desire to escape the prison of booze even then.

Goodbye, Al

Rose’s bloodshot eyes leap out at me from thick black outlines smudged with tears. ‘If I’d have known it would end up like this I’d never of gone near you in the first place, Al. All those years ago. All those precious years. The best years of my life. Potential. Wasted. My career as a dancer. Dancers never last long… but I didn’t even get started. Because I met you, didn’t I?’

With her weaker left hand, Rose pulls me in as close to her barren chest as she can. Her right hand grips the smooth metal handrail that encircles the balcony of her flat, fifteen floors up, in that area of London where Hackney pushes its grubby nose up against Islington’s kitchen window.

She brightens all of a sudden, saying, ‘But you gave me the confidence to try new things that I never even dreamed of doing before. You made me feel special… made me feel young… made me feel clever and… articulate. For a while, in my innocence, I saw you as a… door? To the Big Wide World. A more exciting existence. A more dangerous one, at least. I remember it was you who introduced me to all kinds of narcotics, so that I could spend the night in your arms, taking you deep inside of me, til the light of dawn broke through the cocaine cocoon.’

‘My friends tried to tell me that you were bad for me. One by one, they gave up on me and left, saying that you’d changed me. But you always stuck nearby, didn’t you Al? Sometimes you were my only friend. I didn’t care. I didn’t think I was missing out on anything. I thought I only needed you. You didn’t judge me like they did; didn’t laugh at my foolishness; didn’t talk behind my back; didn’t conspire against me.’

Rose takes a deep breath of the night air, lets it out between her peanut brittle teeth and quivers like a cold clarinet in her black satin nightie.

‘You’re the reason that I never married, Al. Every time I met someone special, they disappeared off the face of the earth as soon as they found out about you and the hold that you have over me. I try as hard as I can to keep you away, sometimes for months. You always come back and ruin it for me. Like a bad smell. Your odour seeps from my every pore. I kill myself with the guilt.’

Rose gulps and seems to be holding back tears, croaking, ‘I think you’ve done enough damage now… don’t you?’

I say nothing. I have no feelings. No remorse. No desire. And Rose expects none of these things. I don’t even have the faintest idea what she is about to do next.

She holds me out beyond the railing, gripped in her trembling hand and whimpers, ‘Goodbye Al.’

With those words she pours me out of my bottle. Then with a dramatic flourish, she sends it hurtling after me, smashing into my liquid, soaking into the concrete of the car park.

New home of theelectrumblog!

New home of theelectrumblog!

Do you like the blog crawl instead of a pub crawl! 🙂

So the other reason for wanting to mix another mocktail today was to celebrate my new blog venue. I’ve been mulling over the whole sobriety thing ever since I stopped drinking 93 days ago. I loved theelectrumblog but the name was a little esoteric and didn’t really declare its intentions. So with only a week to go until I hit my 100th day I am nailing my colours to the mast and celebrating the very best thing about not drinking in the title of my new blog home! 🙂

Now my old self is saying ‘lets just see you slip up royally in the next 7 days now that you’ve made this big declaration’ whereas the new me is saying ‘I am grateful for what the last 93 days has shown me and this home is about the external manifestation of my internal intentions’ (oh and f**k you wolfie 😉 )

So now for the mocktail recipe:
Blueberry breezer

3 passion fruit
1 mango, peeled and stoned
125g or 4oz blueberries
Mineral water

Take the flesh of the passion fruit. Mix it with the mango, then with the blueberries and place all the ingredients in a blender. The amount of mineral water will depend on the consistency you prefer.

Chin chin!

Cherry Delight

Cherry Delight

So first day of the holidays and the kids are already taking lumps out of each other and driving me batty so I’m hitting the bar early 😉

I apple, chopped, peeled and quartered
1 pear, skinned and chopped
37.5 g or 13oz cherries

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. This can be diluted to taste with ice and sparkling mineral water.

It’s making caused a temporary truce in the household with both kids giving it a 10/10 and I agree it is delicious.

As I was want to do in my former life I would always be ‘demob happy’ or guilty of peaking too soon and so Christmas Eve would have inevitably been ruined by my warm up session the night before and in honour of that tradition tonight I will be hitting the bar twice with another mocktail being created later 🙂 Day 93.