Dry January? Try these non-alcoholic drinks
Guinness, 0.0%, from £4, 4x440ml can, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons There are two ways to approach a month off the sauce, as many of us have vowed to do this January. Either you go for non-alcoholic drinks that are their own thing, and always have been (of which more below). Or you can adapt what I like to think of as the Linda McCartney model: weaning yourself off your favourites with a clever simulacrum that doesn’t contain the substance (animal products for Linda; alcohol for you) you’re trying to avoid. As someone who would happily own up to being vegan-curious but not quite ready to move beyond flexitarian status, I’ve eaten my share of Quorn sausages, beetroot-blood burgers and fake chicken schnitzel- type things, and I’m impressed by just how far they’ve developed in the past couple of years. Realistic booze substitutes have moved on, too, with the choice now extending far beyond the lonely bottle of Clausthaler (itself much better than it was), and with the latest big brand 0.0% contender from Guinness coming extremely, satisfyingly close to the real thing.
La Gioiosa Italian Sparkling White, 0.0% £5, 75cl, Morrisons Other convincing low-alcohol beers that I’ve found can fill in a flavoury gap without the alcohol include Estrella’s crisply refreshing Spanish lager Free Damm (from £4.50, 6x330ml, Sainsbury’s Morrisons and others) and two IPAs: Connecticut-basedzero-alcohol specialist craft brewer Athletic Brewing Co’s citrussy, balanced IPA (£10.99, 6x355ml, uk.athleticbrewing.com) and East Anglian brewer Adnams’s 0.5% version of its trusty Ghost Ship (£10.99, 8x500ml bottle, adnams.co.uk). What all four beers I’ve mentioned here (and other top-notch no-alcohol brews)get right are the richness of texture and depth of flavour : there’s nothing watery about them. This is something winemakers haven’t managed to achieve just yet. The best wines are low-alcohol (with around 7-9% abv)rather than no alcohol. The most drinkable zero-alcohol wines make up the textural shortfall with sugar and bubbles, so the sweetly fizzy end result of a wine, such as La Gioisa’s, is more fizzy pop than prosecco-alike.
LA Brewery Strawberry & Black Pepper Kombucha, £35, 12x300ml, LA Brewery The most common advice that vegan chefs proffer to people making the switch to a plant-only diet (as, again, so many of us are doing for what I suppose I’m going to have to call ‘veganuary’ this year) is to try to break away from meat-centred thinking – don’t treat vegan cuisine as coping with something missing; think of it as an opportunity to celebrate all the many and diverse ingredients found beyond the meat counter. And of course, you can take the same approach to going alcohol-free. Admittedly, this is easier to achieve online: outside big urban centres, pubs and restaurants still rely on standard sweet fizzy drinks or mineral water as alcohol-free alternatives. Still, it would be hard I think, for any palate used to the complexity of the best alcoholic drinks to feel they were missing out if they were offered something as deliciously sweet-sour-spicy as the strawberry and black pepper kombucha (fermented tea) of Suffolk’s LA Brewery.