The party season is coming soon, and there are some really good non-alcoholic drinks around at the moment that are worth your time. An increasing number of people are avoiding alcohol for a variety of reasons such as social changes, health reasons, pregnancy, tackling problem drinking or being the designated driver, and it’s nice to be able to offer them something properly quaffable as part of your hospitality plans.
For me, the best non-alcoholic Christmas drinks are packed with rich festive flavours, such as sweet spices, oranges and tangerines, or notes of dried fruit, coffee or chocolate. Some of them are also similar to richer, darker spirits such as rum or brandy, or even cream liqueurs. I’ve tried several booze-free drinks that are facsimiles of the alcoholic versions, plus several novel ‘mocktails’ that take the place of alcoholic drinks without trying to ape ones that already exist.
Facsimile booze-alike drinks have the added advantage of keeping prying or judgmental comments away since you just look like you’re drinking a standard pub drink. If you’re just after a quick beer, I can’t recommend Heineken 0.0 enough (£4.00 for 6 x 330ml cans at ASDA, also on offer at Ocado this week. It’s the best flavoured alcohol free lager I’ve tried yet, it’s pleasantly crisp and refreshing, and it’s regularly sold out in our local supermarket which suggests quite a lot of other people feel this way since it hit the shelves too. Ironically I’m not much of a lager drinker and not a fan of standard Heineken at all, but it’s a different type of recipe they’re making it with and that might explain it. Until a palatable non-alcoholic bitter or stout comes along then this beer will do just fine.
While I haven’t found any showstopping dealcoholised wines in recent weeks, I’m still a fan of Sainsbury’s alcohol free sparkling wine, £2.75 for 75cl (and also their rosé). They’re all best served well chilled, and are a nice way to raise a toast without drawing attention to yourself.
My top pick for Christmassy spirits-like drinks has to be the excellent Temperance Spirit Company’s Teetotal Cuba Libre, from £1.99 per bottle (from the makers of the top notch Teetotal Gin and Tonic). Buy it by the half case from the manufacturers, or via Harvey Nichols or Amazon UK.
If you prefer a much lighter, and more fruity ‘rum’ mocktail then try Punchy Drinks’ 0% ABV Peach & Ginger. The main flavours are peach and spices, mostly a little cinnamon and sweet ginger, although I don’t get much rum if any to be honest. However, it’s an easy drinker and could be a good standby. Available from the manufacturers for £35.00 for a 24-bottle pack, or £1.99 per bottle from WiseBartender or £1.89 per bottle from LightDrinks.
Moving away from the like-for-like booze substitutes, we enter the world of other interesting soft drinks. Nix and Kix make a range of flavours, each with a tiny hint of cayenne pepper as a backnote. Their Blood Orange and Turmeric is a festive favourite with its deeply orangey spices and I’ve reviewed it before here, but you could also try their Mango Ginger (which could stand up to a mince pie or Christmas cake) or their sweeter, softer Peach Vanilla to ring the changes.
For a slightly hotter (but not too ferocious) chilli kick, I really like Chillio drinks, whose shop goes live soon. My top pick for festive serves has to be their sophisticated Pink Grapefruit & Ginger with Jalapeno, which is complex, bitter and interesting; definitely one for the grown ups. They also have the sweeter Pineapple, Coconut & Lime, which has a pina colada feel, and the unique Watermelon & Prickly Pear which I’d happily serve up alongside tacos or other Mexican-style food.
It’s also worth checking out the latest seasonal offerings from Square Root, as they often have interesting flavours, although they tend to sell out quickly. While I’m writing this they have a non-alcoholic shandy up for grabs that looks interesting, although I haven’t tried that one yet.
Making your own
There are also a few non alcoholic party drinks you can make at home yourself. For example, Irish Cream fans should have a go at making the clever Fake Baileys Irish Cream recipe by Laura Willoughby, co-founder of mindful drinking movement Club Soda.
I’ve also come up with a really easy booze-free Bucks Fizz style recipe you might like to try, which has the added bonus of looking like the boozy version so you can toast along with everyone else. For one glass you need:
- 2 drops of prosecco flavouring
- 60ml apple juice
- 60ml orange juice (the nicer quality, the better)
- 60ml sparkling mineral water
Add the ingredients to a champagne flute, and stir very gently to mix so that you don’t knock out all of the bubbles. Serve immediately. You can find prosecco flavouring at Sainsbury’s or specialist baking shops such as FoodieFlavours.
Are you cutting down on alcohol or looking for interesting soft drinks this season? Do you have any favourites?