Not long ago, being a non-drinker meant hours of sipping soda water and lime in a bar – or, at best, a glass of mixed fruit juices topped with a cocktail umbrella.
But no longer. Following the runaway success of non-alcoholic spirits firm Seedlip, the zero per cent booze market has blossomed.
These drinks, packaged in beautiful bottles, may be free of alcohol but they still taste like their alcoholic counterparts.
Reporter Sara Malm, pictured, investigates the world of non-alcoholic spirits
Some of the new products try an emulate existing spirits such as gin while others use entirely new flavours – but without the need for alcohol
Siobhan Payne, of DrinkUp.London – the organiser of London Cocktail Week, the country’s biggest drinks festival – says that low-alcohol and alcohol-free cocktails are here to stay
Some companies aim to emulate existing spirits such as gin, while others have created their own range of vibrant botanical infusions.
And they have given mixologists new materials with which to fashion a fresh wave of mocktails. Anyone for a No-jito, a non-alcoholic spin on the rum, mint and lime classic? Or how about a No-groni? Far from being a fly-by-night trend, Siobhan Payne, of DrinkUp.London – the organiser of London Cocktail Week, the country’s biggest drinks festival – says that low-alcohol and alcohol-free cocktails are here to stay.
Whether seeking to be healthier or simply wishing to avoid a hang-over, more Britons than ever are shunning alcohol.
One in five adults claims not to drink at all – an increase of a third in just over a decade – and many more are trying to cut down.
Alcohol Research UK estimates that 4.5 million people took part in Dry January this year.
Siobhan adds: ‘People want to be healthier and we are becoming more and more conscious of what we put in our bodies.
Some 4.5 million people claimed to have taken part in Dry January this year
Sara says starting work at 6am means a new range of non-alcoholic spirits are most welcome
‘However, it’s also about a feeling of not wanting to miss out on a special moment just because you aren’t drinking. You can still have that luxury of a nice cocktail in a social setting, treat yourself after a long day at work, or sit in a bar and be served something from a bottle on the top shelf rather than having an orange juice or a Diet Coke.’
Siobhan says there is a big non-drinkers’ community on social media and it is gaining in popularity. ‘Non-alcoholic spirits are aspirational and a special treat, but one you can enjoy without putting the following day at risk.’ Having worked behind a bar myself – and mixed my fair share of cocktails – I remember all too well a time when punters asking for a mocktail would not be faced with many options. But now times are changing.
My days as a reporter often start at 6am, so I have often found myself nursing a soda and citrus or having to make my excuses before sundown to prevent feeling lousy the following day. So I wholeheartedly welcome the range of new and delectable non-alcoholic spirits that are popping up in bars and supermarkets across the country.
With this in mind, I have picked my five firm favourites, right – which have all been tried and tested.
Shake it up with this three zero-alcohol cocktails
The beauty of new non-alcoholic spirits is that they pack enough of a punch to come through in sours and fizzes and don’t disappear when you mix with fresh juices or cordials.
These three drinks – one ‘whisky’, one ‘gin’ and one long refresher – should expand your repertoire to satisfy non-drinking guests as well as yourself at any given hour of the day! In the name of research, I have also tried non-alcoholic rum and can wholeheartedly recommend you avoid it.
You could try these three cocktails to provide you with a tasty drink without any alcohol
A non-alcoholic version, below right, of an A&B Sour, which combines the classic cocktails whisky sour and amaretto sour. I used less syrup than in an alcoholic sour as Whissin is fairly sweet anyway.
Method: Separate one egg and pour the egg white, 35ml lemon juice, 7ml Orgeat almond syrup and 50ml Whissin non-alcoholic whisky into a cocktail shaker and do a ‘dry shake’ – without ice – in a shaker for 15 seconds. Fill the shaker with ice and shake again until the tin feels cold against your hand. Pour the sour into a short tumbler with ice or straight up in a martini glass. Decorate with twisted lemon peel.
The three cocktails are all made with their own non-alcoholic spirits
Do you normally throw carrot peel in the bin? End the waste by turning it into carrot cordial and treat yourself to a long and refreshing cocktail.
METHOD: Put 500ml water, 500g caster sugar and 250g carrot peel in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and let it simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, and let it cool before straining it into a bottle. Once cool, combine with 50ml Seedlip Grove 42 and ice. Top with soda and garnish with a sage leaf.
A classic Negroni is made with equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. This non-alcoholic version uses Sea Arch as a gin substitute and Crodino in place of Campari. It is a fizzier and slightly lighter than the real thing but has orange and herbal notes.
METHOD: Pour 25ml Sea Arch, 25ml Crodino non-alcoholic aperitif and 25ml Versin non-alcoholic vermouth into a tumbler filled with ice and garnish with lemon peel.
Five of the best
While it is produced in the UK, Caleno uses inca berry (also known as physalis) from Colombia, which gives this drink its sweet and tangy tropical notes. Those with a sweeter tooth will enjoy it on its own, but it is also delicious served with an equal measure of pineapple juice and topped with fresh lime and soda. £24.99, calenodrinks.com
Caleno uses inca berry (also known as physalis) from Colombia, which gives this drink its sweet and tangy tropical notes
2 Seedlip Grove 42
Seedlip has quickly become the market leader with its range of gin alternatives made with herbs and botanicals. The company’s latest offering, Grove 42, has wonderful warm orange notes as well as ginger and lemongrass. Try it in a Peel cocktail (see below). £27.99, seedlipdrinks.com or from Selfridges
Seedlip has quickly become the market leader with its range of gin alternatives
3 Sea Arch
On its own, this is tangy, herbal and a little bit bitter, which makes for a great ‘gin’ and tonic alternative. Sea Arch is distilled by a pub-owning couple from Devon using sea kelp, juniper berries and cardamom. £26.95, notginltd.com
On its own, this is tangy, herbal and a little bit bitter, which makes for a great ‘gin’ and tonic alternative
4 Herbie Virgin
Herbie is a Danish gin brand which uses a tried and tested method to make a ‘virgin’ version. This still has the dry and peppery notes needed to do the trick in a non-alcoholic version of a Tom Collins, or simply serve with tonic and a slice of fresh apple.
£24.99, onlyhere4.com or in store at John Lewis
Herbie is a Danish gin brand which uses a tried and tested method to make a ‘virgin’ version
Crodino is relatively new to Britons but it has been enjoyed in its native Italy for decades. It is a non-alcoholic aperitif made with aromatic herbs and is heavy on the orange notes. This is an alcohol-free Aperol Spritz in a bottle, and only requires the addition of ice and a slice of orange for you to hold on the last weeks of summer.
£9.25 for ten bottles, melburyandappleton.co.uk or available in well stocked Italian delis
Crodino is relatively new to Britons but it has been enjoyed in its native Italy for decades