Drinks for Dry January: best alcohol-free spirits, beers and ciders
The top non-alcoholic alternatives to your usual boozy tipple
Perhaps the best known of the newer non-alcoholic brands, Seedlip made its debut in Selfridges five years ago – although it was inspired by a recipe dating from 1651. Distilled from seeds and herbs, it has a flavour profile similar to that of gin, and therefore mixes well with tonic.
It is available in three varieties, the herby Garden 108, zesty Grove 42 and citrusy Spice 94, which stars alongside Æcorn bitter and aromatics in the “nogroni” – a zero-alcohol version of the classic Italian cocktail. Or try it with the Martini Vibrante, featured below.
High Point Ruby Aperitif and High Point Amber Digestif
High Point has launched its non-alcoholic alternatives to enjoy during Dry January. High Point Ruby Aperitif and High Point Amber Digestif will provide cocktails that don’t compromise on flavour or a sense of occasion but leave you with a clear head the following morning and ready to focus on the day ahead.
Crodino 1965 Aperitivo
Crodino, an Italian non-alcoholic aperitivo, launched in the UK last year. It features distinctive orange notes leading to a bittersweet flavour with a zesty and woody finish. To enjoy it, you just fill a goblet with ice, pour the Crodino and add a slice of fresh orange.
True to its name, meaning “wild earth” in Latin and Greek, Feragaia is a small batch alcohol-free spirit that is distilled using age-old techniques in the far reaches of the Scottish Lowlands. Amber in colour with a winey, vermouth-type quality, Feragaia is inspired by windswept coastlines and brings together 14 land and sea botanicals.
Æcorn non-alcoholic aperitifs
Æcorn, Seedlip’s sister brand, has a range of non-alcoholic aperitifs, including Æcorn Dry – floral and herbaceous with notes of clary sage and chamomile; Æcorn Bitter – complex and citrusy with refreshing notes of grapefruit, bay leaf and orange; and Æcorn Aromatic – complex with notes of smoked cherrywood, vanilla, kola nut and chinotto.
Unlike many of the drink-makers on this list, Martini starts with the intoxicating original, taking the same wines used in its classic vermouths and gently removing the alcohol. Then it’s infused with a collection of all-natural botanicals, including Italian bergamot. The bright pink result makes an excellent aperitif drunk neat over ice, or mixed with ginger ale or tonic water in a long glass. If your goal is to moderate rather than eliminate your alcohol intake, you can mix equal parts Martini Vibrante, Clean G alternative gin and original Campari for a drink that delivers the punch of a negroni without the post-revelry pain.
Award-winning bartender Carl Anthony Brown last year launched Crossip – non-alcoholic spirits made from botanical ingredients. A range of unique, zero-ABV varieties are available, including Dandy Smoke, reminiscent of mezcal or a peaty whisky; Fresh Citrus, a novel take on a fruit punch; Pure Hibiscus, the non-alcoholic alternative to the classic Italian bitter; and Rich Berry, which is perfect for 0% mulled wines and hot toddies.
Fluere is made with the same distilling techniques used to produce alcoholic spirits such as gin, mezcal and rum. An ideal base for non-alcoholic long drinks, the Fluere range includes four varieties: Original, Amber, Pink and Agave.
Matthew Jukes, wine writer for our sister publication MoneyWeek, is so sure there’s a gap in the market for a “sophisticated, delicious and intellectually stimulating” non-alcoholic drink that he has created his own. Two of them, in fact. With friend and co-founder Jack Hollihan, he is responsible for a pair of what they call Cordialities – grown-up cordials made from fruits, vegetables and other organic flavourings. They have very little in common with their syrupy childhood namesakes. Jukes 6, a dark berry red, is rich and slightly spiced, while Jukes 1 is brighter, fresher and full of citrus spark. Both mix well with tonic water, or even pure mineral water for the cleanest finish.
Also inspired by the complex flavour profile of fine wine, Nine Elms combines 20 flowers and herbs and spices to produce a ruby-red liquid intended to be drunk from the bottle, with food. While no one will confuse it for a hearty claret, all those botanicals give it more than a hint of tannin to balance out the bright fruitiness.
The boldest claim among our contenders comes from “social elixir” Three Spirit, which says its blend of botanical ingredients can lift your mood and cultivate a “natural, blissful feeling”. It will certainly please non-drinkers more than a token fruit juice: the dark cordial looks the part in a cocktail glass, and its herbal notes blend alluringly with ginger ale. Or try the “social spritz” – a two parts Three Spirit to one-part blackcurrant cordial, topped up with soda water.
Cotswolds Dry Gin Essence
While not totally alcohol-free, Cotswolds Dry Gin Essence is so rich in botanical character that just 5ml is needed for a full flavour G&T, which has one-tenth of the alcohol of the usual signature drink. The Cotswolds Distillery’s creation comes in a 100ml bottle with a pipette and provides 20 serves. Five full pipette drops of gin amount to 5ml (a teaspoon), which is the recommended amount for one Gin Essence serve. Cotswolds Dry Gin Essence contains 14 calories per 5ml serve and just 0.23 units of alcohol.
Lowlander 0.00% Wit
Once a pallid, disappointing impersonation of the real thing, alcohol-free beers are growing in character and confidence. Lowlander’s contribution is a case in point – its 0.00% Wit is a sharp-sour blonde brew with a distinctly zesty edge. The Dutch brewery responsible derives the lemon and orange peel used in the recipe from juice-makers who would otherwise discard the unwanted skin. The resulting ale pairs beautifully with prawns, grilled fish and spicy summer dishes.
Leeds Brewery 0PA
To hear them describe it, Leeds Brewery’s enjoyably named “0PA” (with a zero) is “specially crafted to create a well-rounded, full flavoured, traditionally styled beer”. As the i notes, it “smells worryingly like opening a can of malt extract from a home brewing kit” at first, but “thankfully it’s avoided those raw flavours from dominating and have kept the sweetness to a minimum, so by the time the dry, bitter finish kicks in you do get the feeling you’ve been drinking beer”.
Big Drop Brewing Co.
Berkshire-based Big Drop has many different types of non-alcoholic beer in its portfolio, including an excellent milk stout. If you can’t decide which beer to choose, a mixed case includes Big Drop’s light beers, darker beers or a few of both.
Smashed 0% Drynks
British alcohol-free craft brewer Drynks Unlimited has a number of products in its Smashed range of 0% beers, lagers, ales and ciders. Varieties include the Smashed Pale and Smashed Berry Cider.
San Miguel 0,0
Most alcohol-free offerings from major names turn out to be pretty disappointing, but San Miguel is an exception. Its 0,0 beer is light and convincing – one of the strongest products from an international brewery out there.
Budweiser is the sort of light, fizzy lager that works well without alcohol, and the boozeless Bud has the same carbonated bite as the original – along with a sweet maltiness and a hint of banana. A great choice with Indian, Thai or other spicy food.
St Peter’s Without
Suffolk-based brewery St Peter’s spent almost £1m developing this non-alcoholic beer. It was money well spent. It’s delicious – sweet, bitter and complex – with an incredibly low alcohol content, reportedly just 0.009%. There’s more alcohol in the average glass of orange juice.
Guinness 0.0 is “unmistakably Guinness, just without the alcohol”, said Dry Drinker. In his taste test of the alcohol-free black stuff, the Evening Standard’s David Ellis said: “I’m not convinced that I’d be able to tell this weren't the real deal if it were served to me blind.”
Thatchers Zero Cider
It’s not just the spirits and beer brands that are raising a glass to Dry January – Somerset cider-maker Thatchers also has a 0% option on its drinks menu. Crafted using a selection of bittersweet apple varieties, the blend of traditional and modern apples used in Thatchers Zero creates an alcohol-free cider with body, smoothness and character. With its crisp, medium-dry character and fruity aroma, Thatchers Zero retains the taste of a true cider but without the alcohol.