If you’re feeling a little bit shy about trying the vast number of alcohol-free spirits and aperitifs that have hit the shelves lately, you’re not alone.
While the labels and packaging look attractive to a new generation of adventurous non-drinkers, test-driving teetotalism and taking a detour down sober street can be a bit more confusing for those used to ordering their go-to G&T or vino. Cutting out, or cutting down on booze used to conjure images of having to stand in the pub chucking back fizzy drinks or lime and soda all evening. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case.
With the rise of mindful drinking and demand for ‘low and no’ wines and spirits, the brands behind these distillations and sophisticated sips are leaders in their field – and they’re putting the same expertise into their sobering libations as you’d expect in a top-notch wine or premium spirit. These drinks are sociable, satisfying and specialised.
“Four years ago, Seedlip articulated the challenge that many of us have experienced, the dilemma of ‘what to drink when you’re not drinking’. In previous years, those who chose not to drink, for whatever reason, were relegated to juicy or juvenile drinks,” says Claire Smith-Warner, MD, AEcorn Aperitifs.
“Today, Seedlip has pioneered a non-alcoholic drinks category, giving bartenders tools to offer interesting and complex drinks, as well as providing something simple to serve at home but multifaceted in taste.
“With the addition of AEcorn aperitifs, there’s even more choice. Now, ‘not drinking’ is an opportunity to enjoy exciting and dynamic drinks and the age of the mocktail is long behind us,” she adds.
So whether you’re watching what you drink, or are the designated driver this festive season, we’ve rounded up the best non-alcoholic serves and caught up with some of the founders behind the brands to help you keep a clear head…
7 non-alcoholic and ultra-low alcohol drinks to try
1. AEcorn Dry, Bitter and Aromatic Non-alcoholic Aperitifs (£19.99 each, 50cl, Waitrose)
Waitrose have recently listed Aecorn, made from English grown grapes (pinot noir, meunier and chardonnay), pressed early (verjus) and blended with herbs, roots and bitter botanicals to create a collection of bold, bittersweet and complex non-alcoholic aperitifs. Here’s their NOgroni cocktail recipe to try at home…
Ingredients: 25ml AEcorn Bitter, 25ml AEcorn Aromatic, 25ml Spice 94 (£26.50, 70cl, Waitrose).
Method: Half fill a rocks glass with ice. Add the ingredients, stir well and garnish with a slice of orange.
2. Wild Life Botanicals Blush and Wild Life Botanicals Nude Ultra-low Alcohol (£15 each, 0.5% abv, Wild Life Botanicals)
A Cornish corker, these plant-based bubbles are infused with ‘an uplifting elixir of botanicals, vitamins and minerals’ and draw on the power of herbs to support everyday wellbeing.
Cited as ‘bubbles with benefits’, a 125ml glass delivers 15% of the daily reference intake of the eight active vitamins and minerals. As for the tasting notes, expect hints of seasonal gooseberry, greengage and a fresh zing of lime from Wild Life Botanicals Nude, while the Blush ‘evokes rosehip tea, strawberries and cream, and Cornish orchard fruits’.
3. Feragaia Alcohol Free Spirit (£27.95, 50cl, Master of Malt)
Scotland’s also shaking things up with this new expression that brings together 14 botanicals from land and sea (including seaweed and chamomile), distilled, blended and bottled in the Scottish Lowlands. Amber in colour, it’s described as having a ‘taste of clean complexity and warming finish’.
Best enjoyed on the rocks or topped with a light tonic, as Jamie Wild, Feragaia co-founder, points out: “Awareness and intrigue in low and no drinking has never been greater. Sober October has been a strong driver for the topic and the momentum it carries.”
4. ATOPIA Spiced Citrus Low Alcohol Spirit (£23.89, 70cl, The Drink Shop) and ATOPIA Wild Blossom Low Alcohol Spirit (£24.99, 70cl, The Dry Drinker)
From the makers of Hendrick’s Gin, their master distiller, Lesley Gracie, has turned her hand to ‘natural distillates, flavours and extracts’ to create an ultra-low alcohol spirit available in two variants: ATOPIA Spiced and ATOPIA Wild Blossom.
“Inspired by the more mindful, lifestyle choices of today’s consumer, the exquisite liquid comes in two perfectly balanced flavours,” says Gracie. “We’ve ensured there is no compromise on flavour – the taste of ATOPIA is full, from first taste to finish.”
We tasted Wild Blossom, with its medicinal, floral nose and contains orange blossom, lavender, apple and wormwood. With a grown-up complex bitterness, the suggested serve is in a tall glass with plenty of ice, tonic and a slice of green apple for garnish.
5. CEDER’S Non-alcoholic Spirits (£16 each, 50cl, Sainsbury’s)
“We created CEDER’s [an alt-gin] with a mindful purpose in mind – to offer an everyday escape, to everyday people. We’ve been blown away by the success of the brand in its first year, which is why we’ve recently launched CELTIC SOUL to tap into the dark spirits occasion,” says Craig Hutchison, founder, CEDER’S.
6. CELTIC SOUL Non-alcoholic Dark Spirit (£25, 70cl, Sainsbury’s)
“CELTIC SOUL is a bold non-alcoholic dark spirit inspired by Celtic values. It celebrates one’s journey in life with the ambition to challenge the norms, reinvent a treasured heritage and ignite new possibilities,” explains Hutchison.
“We recommend enjoying CELTIC SOUL as a refreshing long drink, in a tall glass, with ginger ale, ice cubes and a twist of orange.”
7. Caleño Juniper and Inca Berry Non-alcoholic Free Spirit (£24.99, 70cl, Caleno)
An instant mood booster, “Caleño is a tropical non-alcoholic spirit, here to bring ‘more joy’ to not drinking,” says founder Ellie Web.
“Inspired by my travels around Colombia and the colour and vibrancy of South America, we source zingy, zesty and tropical botanicals, which are carefully steam distilled and perfect for when you’re ‘not drinking’,” she explains.
A crowd-pleaser (no bitter, herbal infusions here) that’s bright and fresh, serve it neat over ice or with a splash of tonic and garnish with an Inca berry.