Giving up alcohol for a short period is becoming more and more common with the rise of ideas like Dry January, Ocsober or Feb-Fast – but having done each of these a few times (and even written a book on them!) I know that drinking sodas all night gets old very fast and if you’re going to stay off the wagon you need to find non-alcoholic drinks you enjoy.
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The good news is that the alcohol-free drink market has exploded in the last few years and so there’s now plenty of options to keep you interested. But which are the best non-alcoholic drinks to swap to? Here’s what I – and a few other fans of all things boozy – plus a couple of long-term non-drinkers recommend for when we’re off the sauce!
What is Classed as Non-Alcoholic?
Before we get to the recommendations though a quick explanation is needed; alcohol-free drinks do not always contain absolutely no alcohol.
To be classed as non-alcoholic in many countries a drink can still contain up to 0.5% ABV – and pretty much all of the brands below state they may contain up to 0.5%.
In real terms, this is not a lot of alcohol. You won’t get drunk on that alcohol percentage unless you try extremely hard. A 330ml bottle of 0.5% ABV beer, for example, contains 0.165 units of alcohol. You’d have to drink over ten of them to have the same amount of alcohol as in one pint of 3.5% normal beer.
Also, when it comes to the alternatives to spirits, diluting then with a mixer will take the ABV level down much further.
If you’re just trying to cut back for health reasons, or during Dry January, don’t panic too much – even orange juice and bread can contain some level of alcohol.
However, you might still want to read labels carefully if you’re trying to completely avoid any alcohol for health reasons. Where a brand clearly states their ABV I have mentioned it below.
Also note, that you need to be over 18 to order some of the drinks mentioned below.
The Best Non-Alcoholic Spirits
Non-alcoholic spirits are one of the fastest-growing non-alcoholic sectors – and, this is one of the best.
It’s basically fake gin. It uses juniper – the main ingredient in gin and mixed with a tonic and a lemon you’re going to get a pretty good replacement for a G&T. It’s 0.5% ABV.
Morin Gin Syrup
The absolute, best gin substitute is Morin Gin Syrup but I think it might have been discontinued. If you see it, snap it up. You can find it listed on amazon but they don’t seem to have it in stock – check though just in case it comes back. It smells exactly like gin!
This is classed as a non-alcoholic spirit and it comes in three different varieties. The big benefit to it is, you can find it in bars – so, if you’re actually out and about and not drinking, it’s a good choice.
Of the three I think I like Spice 94 the best (click the picture above to order it online). I has kind of a warming taste which is similar to the sensation you get from alcohol. Try it with tonic (it does not work with soda!)
Check out the Seedlip range here.
My friend Charlotte is the queen of alcohol-free drinking.
She runs the Instagram account Healthyeatslondon and pretty much every week she’s talking about a new non-alcoholic drink on there and she regularly quits all booze for months at a time using her arsenal of alternatives – and so I asked her to suggest some of her favourite alcohol-free drinks for this piece.
This gin-alternative was one of the first things she grabbed (we were on a video call to her kitchen at the time!). It’s a mix of juniper and Inca berry that the creators say aims to ‘bring back the fun in not drinking.’Click to see more about it here.
It’s not great news if you prefer darker spirits, as right now the alternatives to things like whisky or rum, don’t score as highly on taste tests as the fake gin blends, but this one seems to be a favourite. It’s made by the same team that produced Cedar.
They don’t say exactly which spirit they are emulating to avoid direct comparison (and a little matter of labelling laws that require a certain brown spirit only allowed to be called that if it has a high ABV) – but we’ve been told that whiskey drinkers might want to give it a try.
You’ll find Celtic Soul at Sainsbury’s.
A friend of mine who works on one of the big health magazines recommended this range – and, it seems the team at Delicious mags are also fans saying ‘they taste just like their boozy brothers’ so, sounds like they are worth a look.
The range is huge – they have an alternative to Aperol, a white ‘rum’ and a dark ‘rum’ – there’s even a non-alcoholic Absinthe!!!Have a look at the complete range here.
Recommended by a nutritionist friend of mine, she likes them because not only are they non-alcoholic, they also contain some extra botanicals with functional benefits.
Their Livener product, for example, contains energisers like guyausa and ginseng.
Nightcap, on the other hand, mixes hops, valerian and lemon balm with stress busting ashwagandha.See the whole range here
The Best Non-Alcoholic Beers
Cobra Zero Lager
I am not a craft beer drinker. I do not like beer that tastes like beer. I like beer that tastes like water – so, when I’m picking an alcohol-free beer, tend to err on the side of lager.
This is probably my favourite of the alcohol-free lagers in the UK. It’s still a little bit sweeter than the real thing but makes a great accompaniment to curry.
It says it is 0% ABV.
You’ll find it in supermarkets, or click to order it now for delivery.
My absolute favourite non-alcoholic beer though is Carlton Zero which you get in Australia although not yet in the UK.
It’s really really good – even The Boyfriend can drink it – and it says it’s 0% ABV. Keep an eye out. If you see it, try it. Or, if you are reading this in Australia, you can order it online from Dan Murphys.
Admittedly, a debate rages over here as to whether Carlton Zero is better than Heineken Zero.
And that one is a bit more widely available outside of Australia. It is 0.05% ABV – that’s not a typo.Find it on amazon here.
Coast Beer Co Hazy IPA
When the Good Housekeeping Institute recommends something then you take the suggestion seriously – and this was their highest-ranked beer in a recent taste testing. So, it’s probably worth checking out.
It’s 0.3% ABV
In the UK you’ll find this in Tesco. If you want to buy it online or from somewhere else, here’s where to find their online store.
Brew Dog Nanny State
Regular tops the best tasting lists this is for those who like things hoppy. It’s not technically non-alcoholic – it’s one of those ones that falls into the up to 0.5% criteria but if you’re a craft beer fan this could be the one to reach for.
Pick up a six pack here (well, get it delivered).
Their Punk AF is also super popular. Click the picture if you’d prefer to order that one.
Also gets mentioned a lot as a good alcohol-free malty alternative. It also has 0.5% ABV.Click here to check that one out.
Pistenhead Non-Alcoholic Flat Tire Beer
Describing itself as a dry-hopped lager, this has very good reviews – with people who’ve tried a few different non-alcoholic drinks saying it’s the best they’ve tried and a bit fuller in flavour than many of the others.
It’s also a 0.5% ABV choice.
Click the picture below to see more or have it delivered.
The friend of mine who suggested this likes his beer – a lot – and he says this is the best non-alcoholic beer he’s tasted.
It’s also 0.5 ABV.Click to check it out here.
Big Drop Milk Stout
‘It’s gorgeous,’ said a comedian friend of mine. Short but sweet recommendation but works for me!
It says it never contains more than 0.5% ABV.
They also do a Pale Ale and a Sour beer that sounds interesting (I love sour beer).Check out the whole range here
I’m confused by the description of this as their website describes the product as a wine alternative but their tasting notes say ‘binary botanical superior table beer is unlike any beer you have tasted before. Its tropical aroma, prosecco-like taste, and clean finish come from the infusion with organic hop leaves and choice of wine yeast. It is a flavourful beer brewed to be enjoyed with food,’ so I’m not sure if it’s beer or wine but, Charlotte tells me it tastes like beer – and that she’s a big fan – so we’ll put it in here.
This is also 0.5% ABV – click the picture above to find it on amazon.
The Best Non-Alcohol Wines (and wine alternatives)
Wild Life Botanicals
Okay, so it’s not strictly non-alcoholic – it has 0.5% alcohol per bottle, but this is Charlotte’s suggestion for the best wine alternative.
They do a sparkling and a rose that she’s particularly fond of, ‘and the bottles are gorgeous’ she told me.
The range is made in England and another selling point is that their sparkling has just 35 calories a glass!
Check out their website for details and to shop.
Edenvale De-Alcoholised Wine
Suggested by one of my non-drinking Aussie friends as the best one she’s tried, they offer a full range of white, red, rose and sparkling that’s made as normal wine, but then the alcohol is taken out. It’s not totally alcohol-free, but it doesn’t contain less than 0.5%.
Okay, so it might be the first place you think of to buy drinks of any kind but bear with me.
I’m not sure if they only sell this around Christmas time, but the non-alcoholic version of this mulled wine is absolutely delicious.
Check the food store next time you’re in picking up some tealights to a wardrobe!
Other Great Non-Alcoholic Drinks
While all of the suggestions above aim to directly replace alcoholic drinks, there’s a heap of other non-alcoholic suggestions you might want to check out…
I haven’t yet found a great completely non-alcoholic white wine. And so, I tend to turn to this white grape juice drink instead.
If they sold this in pubs I would drink it instead of wine (unless I’d had a very long day).
As it is I pop it in a champagne glass come 6pm, sink onto the sofa and I’m as happy as Larry – especially the morning after.
You’ll find Schloer in major supermarkets.
This fermented drink is alcohol-free but tastes a lot like wine. Annoyingly, I am allergic to Kombucha and so it’s off-limits to me – thankfully, Charlotte isn’t and she firmly recommends Equinox.
The brand describes itself as a grown-up soft drink. And of course, it has the added benefit of providing a dose of beneficial gut bacteria as you drink.
Meda CBD drink
This was Charlotte’s final suggestion. It’s a soft drink that comes with added CBD oil, ‘which means it gives you that calm feeling you get from drinking but without alcohol,’ she told me.
Might be the one to choose if you’re trying to deal with a hard day.
Click here to check out their shop and the different varieties on offer.
Don’t want to buy anything specific but just want a nice non-alcoholic option, give one of these a try.
Apple juice and sparkling water: Apparently this one is handy if you’re trying to convince other people you are not drinking as it looks like champagne. ‘I ordered it in a champagne glass when I was trying to hide that I was pregnant,’ says one friend.
Elderflower cordial and soda: This is my pub go to when I’m not drinking as a lot of pubs will have elderflower. It ask for it with an empty wine glass. Drinking from a wine glass is my number one tip for surviving alcohol free months like Dry January or Ocsober (you can see the others here).
Simple mocktails: Asking the barman at your local to whip up a mocktail might not go down that well – but there’s a couple of simple mixed drinks they can do. Try a Pink lemonade – lemonade with a splash of grenadine or raspberry syrup or a Shirley Temple – ginger beer with a splash of grenadine or raspberry syrup. Also, try bitter lemon – with a salt rim. Wet the glass, dip it in salt, then pour in the bitter lemon –it’s kind of like a margarita when you sip it.
Books of Brilliant Mocktails
If you want to whip up something more complicated, check out the recipes in the books below – all of which aim at more of a grown-up tastebuds. Click the pic to see more about each book
Where To See Even More Non-Alcoholic Drink Ideas
If you ever want to be amazed at quite how many alcohol-free drinks there are out there head to the website for a little establishment called The Alcohol Free Shop – who specialise in de-alcoholised and non-alcoholic drinks.
Logging on to their site is like visiting a magic treasure trove of shiny new (saintly) tastes …I quite fancy the Palermo Amarino Bitters – apparently, they’re a “marriage of maraschino cherry and caramel” – one shot of that and I wouldn’t need dessert..
Oh and if you want any further help with your mission to quit, you can also check out my book on doing just that. Called Quit Alcohol for a Month it’s a ‘how to’ guide for taking a month off from booze and contains even more suggestions for alcohol-free drinks, mocktail recipes plus a heap of psychological tips that’ll keep you on the wagon.
Click the picture below to check it out
Main pic: istockphoto.com © ansonsaw