If you are looking to cut down on your drinking this month, here are some good non-alcoholic alternatives to your usual tipples.

What is it about January that turns the party animals of December into some of the most boring self-righteous people I have ever come across?  Just a few hours after rolling into bed in the early hours of New Year’s Day, they squeeze themselves into Lycra and started pounding the pavements and parks at ridiculous hours.  My normally quiet gym is now full of over-enthusiastic gym bunnies who, with a bit of luck will have disappeared in few weeks.  Alongside this dramatic uptake in exercise, most have adopted a Dry January regime, and are deeply into herbal teas and no-alcohol drinks.

 

For some this is not a bad idea.  After the excesses of the festive season everyone’s liver needs a period of rest and recuperation. A break from alcohol does prove to yourself that you are not dependent on it, and it can help weight-loss, sleep, concentration and also frees up lots of time to devote to running around the park.

 

To cater for this abstemious crowd there are several new beverages on the market to provide wine-like drinks without the alcohol.  Many are simply awful.  As alcohol is removed from a wine, beer or spirit, there is lost of texture and flavour. Many drinks replace the alcohol with sugar which does nothing for their overall balance, however there are some good products out there and here are some of the best.

 

Lyre’s

This is a completely new range of non-alcoholic ‘spirits’ which actually do taste like the full alcoholic version.  Just entering the UK market right now the range includes a Dry London Spirit, which is a lookalike gin, although since it is non-alcoholic it cannot use that name. There is also a brilliant Aperitif Rosso with flavours of blood orange, vanilla and citrus that makes an excellent long drink with tonic water and a twist of orange peel.  I sipped this for over an hour, and after a while I forgot it contained zero alcohol yet I was delighted that I didn’t get the usual alcoholic hit.

I also enjoyed the Lyre’s Italian Orange which makes a brilliant spritz with tonic water and the Coffee Originale that mixes flavours of espresso, spice, caramel and nuts.  It makes a delicious Espresso Martini.  At present these drinks are made in Australia so are taking their time to get into the shops but one of the major supermarkets will soon be listing the Dry London Spirit at around £22, and the Lyre’s range is now sneaking into bars across the county.  Look for them in the non-alcoholic section of the cocktail list.

Bax Botanics

Much closer to home, Rose and Chris Bax have developed their range of non-alcoholic spirits from their ‘Taste the Wild’ courses which they run from their woodland base near Boroughbridge.  They inspire a love of foraging and artisan cookery and have developed an extensive knowledge of wild herbs and flavours. Rose Bax has been making alcohol-based herbal drinks for many years, but one day she decided to create an alcohol-free version using spring water.  This was such a hit when she poured it for course participants that she and Chris have set up Bax Botanics so they can sell the product to a wider audience.

Bax Botanics Verbena is definitely herbal underpinned by lively citrus notes, orange peel and just a hint of mint.  With tonic it makes a delicious refreshing drink.

Bax Sea Buckthorn has a complex character, with herbal notes backed by spice, and a clear orange tone.  This also needs ice and tonic to turn it into a long drink, preferably garnished with a twist of orange zest.

Find these Yorkshire-made non-alcoholic spirits in bars across the county and at Field and Fawcett in York at £17.95 for a 50 cl bottle. Also available at Booths.

No and Lo Alcohol wines

Torres in Spain were the first to really tackle very low alcohol wines in a serious way.  They are made by taking regular wine, then spinning it so fast that the alcohol comes off, just like the cream comes off the milk. This is called the spinning cone method, and if you have ever used a centrifuge, you will know how it works.  At some point in the process the flavours come off too, but they are collected and added back, making sure that all the flavours are balanced.  Also, unlike many low or no-alcohol wines, they don’t add lots of sugar to compensate for the lack of alcohol.  These are the ones I am happy to pour for non-drinking guests, with the Natureo Muscat version, at 0.5% alcohol the best with its light, grapey taste and refreshing style. Find it at Waitrose at £5.99.

Tesco has a wide range of good value low-alcohol wines although you need to choose carefully. The sparkling wines are particularly good.   Low Alcohol Sparkling White is made from Spanish Sauvignon Blanc grapes and again this is spinning cone wine, so the de-alcoholised wine (0.5% alcohol) is made and then given some fizz.  It is dry, frothy has a crisp, lively style and is certain to please drivers and those who have given up drink.  The rosé version is good, but slightly over-sweetened, however it will be good in summer sunshine, maybe with a strawberry added for good measure.

Of the still wines in the Tesco range, head for the Cabernet Tempranillo red, which has just 0.5% alcohol. It has all the right juicy red fruit flavours although it is just a little sweet, but teamed up with a rich-tasting lasagne that sweetness disappears and it makes a good match.

Tesco also has a low alcohol G&T which hasn’t been anywhere near a bottle of gin.  It has gin botanicals mixed with low calorie tonic water and, served over ice with a slice of lemon can easily masquerade as a proper gin and tonic.  Each 250ml can contains just 12 Calories, so it fulfils both diet and no-alcohol requirements of an abstemious January.

 

 

About The Author

Christine Austin

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

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