Tuesday, 7 August 2018

My top ten alcohol-free drinks

I was recently contacted by a member of my family who told me that she is planning to stop drinking alcohol for at least a year and asked  "but what do you drink instead? I get so bored of water!".  After seven months of sobriety, it didn't take me long to put together a long list of suggestions.  The world is definitely geared up for non-drinkers nowadays, with more alcohol-free drinks options being introduced the whole time.  The UK leads the way over Hong Kong but I have found great alternatives to booze in both countries, so here are my top ten alcohol-free drinks in no particular order.

1.  Becks Blue 

Beer was rarely my drink of choice unless I was watching rugby and couldn't be arsed to fight my way to the bar very often.  However, one of my favourite booze-free tipples has turned out to be alcohol-free beer.  I've sampled quite a few including: Erdinger Alkohol Frei and Bitberger Drive (wheat beers); Bintang 0.0%, Free Damm, San Miguel 0.0% , Amstel Free, Becks Blue (lagers); and Vetlins (pilsner).  My favourite is definitely Becks Blue, which tastes just like regular Becks (in my opinion anyway).  Unfortunately I haven't managed to find this in Hong Kong yet but hopefully one day I can get it there too.  This has been my go to drink in the UK this summer.

2. Crodino

One of my favourite drinks for the past few years has been Aperol Spritz, and Crodino, made by the Campari Group, is a great alcohol-free alternative.  The first time I tasted Crodino I was so convinced that I was actually drinking an Aperol Spritz that I had to check and double check that I hadn't accidently picked up someone's Aperol. Unfortunately it hasn't been very easy to track down Crodino in Hong Kong (in the UK you can order it on Amazon), however I am fortunate enough to have an awesome Italian friend who personally imports it for me when she goes back home to Italy.

3. San Pellegrino Chinotto

I stumbled across Chinotto by accident at Stazione Novella, our favourite bar in Hong Kong.  Apparently Chinotto has been around since the 1950s and is made from the extracts of Chinotto oranges.  I like it because it is bitter/sweet and a really unusual flavour.  

4.  Sanbitter

In my opinion, the Italians know how to cater for the non-drinker in style.  Sanbitter is similar to Campari and I like it with lots of ice, a slice of orange and a splash of soda water.  It is quite bitter but really refreshing and a delicious aperitif.  I have found this, or a similar product, for sale in Il Bel Paese in Hong Kong.  

5. M&S Sparkling Summer Cup Mocktail

I have always loved Pimms.  Throughout my life in England it was the marker that summer had finally arrived, so there is a certain amount of nostalgia attached to the drink.  As such, I was overjoyed when I bought a four pack of M&S Sparkling Summer Cup Mocktail to discover it tasted exactly like Pimms.  Having found this I literally stripped M&S's shelves of the product and lived off it for about a month so now I'm a bit sick of it.  However, by next summer I'll be ready to reintroduce this into my booze-free repertoire!

6. Stowford Press 0.5%

Going to school in the West Country, cider was my starter drink and it has always been one of my go to drinks, despite its high calorie count.  I have tried Sainsbury's Low Alcohol Cider, which is slightly sweeter than I like but still very cider-y rather than apple-juicy and refreshing.  Stowford Press is better still and only 81 calories per bottle versus around 140 calories for regular cider.

7. Kopparberg Mixed Fruit Cider (alcohol free)

I've also enjoyed Kopparberg's fruity ciders, particularly in a pub beer garden or at a barbecue in the summer.  Therefore I was so happy to see that Kopparberg make alcohol free versions of a few of their fruity ciders.  Poured over a lot of ice, Kopparberg mixed fruit ciders are super refreshing.  They are easy to come by in supermarkets in the UK but I haven't managed to find them in Hong Kong yet.

8. Sainsbury's Alcohol Free Sparkling Wine

As someone who was firmly on the Prosecco-drinking band wagon, I have been keen to find a substitute.  However, finding an alternative has proved challenging.  In Hong Kong I found The Bees Knees Alcohol Free Sparkling Wine at CitySuper but was really disappointed as I felt it tasted more like a pear cider than a sparkling wine.  Back in the UK I bought a bottle of Nosecco - alcohol-free prosecco - to try.  However, before I could get my hands on it, my family went on a prosecco bender and, failing to read the Nosecco label, polished off the entire bottle before realising it was alcohol-free.  They reported back that it was revolting (despite not leaving a drop of it for me) so I haven't bought another bottle to sample.  I did buy some Alcohol Free Sparkling Wine from Sainsbury's, which is OK but a bit Asti Spumante tasting.  It might improve with a few drops of Angostura Bitters to take away some of the sweetness.  While I definitely haven't found an adequate prosecco alternative, at least you can blend in at a celebration when you are drinking something like this.  Oh, and it is less than a quarter of the price of a bottle of prosecco.


9. Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Aromatised Low Alcohol* Cabernet Sauvignon Wine

I have tried and tried but I just can't find a really good low alcohol* or de-alcoholised* red, white or rose wine.  I have sampled a few, including Eisberg, but all of them have a bit of a sweet grape juice flavour to them.  However, what I have discovered is that when you mix Sainsbury's Low Alcohol Cab Sav with lemonade, some orange slices and ice, it makes a fairly authentic and very yummy sangria.  I have shared my non-alcoholic sangria with various drinkers this summer who were surprised at how good it was.  Alternatively, if you pour this wine over ice and tell yourself it's a refreshing fruity drink rather than a red wine, it makes quite a tasty aperitif. 


10. Kombucha 

Apparently fermented foods are a big thing right now so Kombucha, a fermented tea drink, must be bang on trend.  There has been a lot of talk about Kombucha on the Facebook sober groups and I have to admit to being rather sceptical - fermented tea sounds disgusting.  However, I saw Kombucha in M&S a couple of weeks ago and picked up a couple of cans to sample it.  I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised how good it was.  Also, although I haven't tried these yet, Jonny Wilkinson has just launched his own Kombucha drinks brand which you can buy in Sainsbury's.

Apart from the drinks I've highlighted above, my alcohol-free drinks of choice are mocktails and many of the Hong Kong mixologists are creating the most amazing non-alcoholic cocktails - maybe I'll write a blog about the best bars for mocktails in Hong Kong, I'll enjoy doing that research!

These days, there are so many great alcohol-free and low alcohol* options that non-drinkers are spoilt for choice.  For those living in the UK, Canada or USA, you can sample and buy lots of alcohol-free drinks from the Dry Drinker website, or find out about other booze-free options by visiting Club Soda.

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* UK drinks labelling is really confusing.  As it stands, the rules in force across the UK (Regulation 42 and Schedule 8 of the Food Labelling Regulations 1996) uses the following terms “alcohol-free”, “non-alcoholic”, “dealcoholised” and “low alcohol”.
  • ”‘Low alcohol” refers to products between 0.5% and 1.2% ABV.
  • “Dealcoholised” refers to products that are 0.5% ABV or less.
  • “Alcohol-free” refers to products that are 0.05% ABV or less.
  • “Non-alcoholic” refers to products with 0% ABV, but cannot be used for products that are usually alcoholic, such as beer or wine.

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