AS we head into 2023, resolutions and good intentions for the new year are just around the corner – which for many includes cutting back on booze after the excesses of Christmas – but how do you choose the best alcohol-free alternatives?
Whereas only a few years ago your choice was limited, now there’s an abundance of alcohol-free drinks on the market, including beers, wines, spirits, ciders and grown-up soft drinks such as kombucha.
Coupled with this increase in alcohol-free drinks there’s also been an increase in the number of people buying them. It may have started with Dry January for many, but there’s a whole sober movement going on, people who have turned their backs on alcohol because of its detrimental effects on health – it’s a depressant, causes and worsens anxiety, is bad for your liver, brain and skin, and gives the worse headaches, among many other negatives.
Are alcohol-free drinks any good?
Soft drinks and fruit juice are all very well, but after a while they’re just too sweet, or you simply want a different type of flavour – alcohol-free drinks solve that problem. However, if you’re expecting them to taste exactly the same as their alcoholic counterparts, then you’re likely to be disappointed. There’s something missing in them – and that of course is the alcohol kick.
So for example, zero alcohol gin will have the aroma and flavour of gin, but it will taste different because there’s no alcohol in it. This is a good thing, as manufacturers have had to try harder to create a drink that stands tall among its alcoholic competitors – the bar has been raised and there have been many outstanding alcohol-free drinks emerge as a result.
How do I drink alcohol-free?
When you’re kicking alcohol, whether that be for Dry January or longer, one way to soften the shock is to make a thing of your replacement – if you’re drinking wine then drink from a beautiful wine glass, or if you’re drinking spirits add garnish in the way you would have done previously. Janey Lee Grace, founder of The Sober Club, advises keep the ritual, change the ingredients. And that makes a lot of sense.
It's estimated that almost nine million (one in seven) UK adults will take part in Dry January, so if you’re one of them, you’re thinking of giving up the booze for good, or you’re merely sober curious, then check out our reviews of the best alcohol-free drinks available. There’s so much to choose from and you’re bound to find one to suit you.
(AD) Beavertown Lazer Crush Alcohol-Free IPA
- (AD) Beavertown Lazer Crush Alcohol-Free IPA, £1.60 for 330ml from Beavertown – buy here
This IPA contains just 0.3% alcohol and is full of flavour.
I tried this for the first time recently and it’s lovely – pale in colour and refreshing. I prefer it cool rather than cold from the fridge, and it doesn’t make me feel bloated like lager often does. This could easily become one of my favourite drinks, even though I’m generally more of a wine than beer girl.
As an aside, the artwork on the can is amazing!
A pilsner malt with azacca, citra and amarillo hops. Suitable for vegans.
Thomson & Scott Noughty Dealcoholized Sparkling Chardonnay
- Noughty Dealcoholized Sparkling Chardonnay, £9.25 for 750ml from Thomson & Scott – buy here
Everything about Noughty screams sophistication (in an ever so well-mannered way) – the satisfyingly loud pop when you open the bottle, the dark green glass of the bottle itself, even the raised detail of the label.
Best of all though is the taste. It is amazing!
This dealcoholized sparkling wine is full of fizz so is great for celebrations and perfect for seeing in the New Year. The flavour is dry, which I love, and to me it really tastes like wine.
Suitable for vegans and also available in a rosé version, which is also high on my favourites’ list.
La Gioiosa Italian Sparkling Wine
- La Gioiosa Italian Sparkling Wine, £4 for 75cl from Morrisons – buy here
Another contender in my favourite sparkling wine stakes. This Italian prosecco is made from the must of Glera grapes and has a refreshing, crisp taste. It’s dry, but fruity at the same time and is very drinkable.
Hailing from Treviso in northern Italy, it takes its name from the province’s motto ‘gioiosa et amorosa’, which means joyous and amorous. It certainly makes me happy.
The price point is also good so you don’t have to save it for special occasions.
Pentire Adrift Botanical Non-alcoholic Spirit
- Pentire Adrift Botanical Non-alcoholic Spirit, £27.80 for 70cl from Pentire – buy here
This is one of the new generation of alcohol-free spirits that has an identity in its own right and makes no apologies for its eschewing of alcohol.
It is flavoursome and contains ingredients native to Cornwall, such as rock samphire and sage, as well as Cornish sea salt and lemon. I find it works particularly well with cold tonic water, which enhances its almost bitter edginess.
Refreshing and different, I love the picture it paints of windswept shores, outdoor living, miles of sandy beach, and warm and sunny weather. Roll on summer!
Also available: Pentire Seaward.
Freixenet Rosé 0.0% Sparkling Wine
- Freixenet Rosé 0.0% Sparkling Wine, £5 for 75cl from Sainsbury’s –
When I drank alcohol, Freixenet was my favourite sparkling wine because of its in-your-face bubbles, big personality and robust flavour. It had everything I wanted from a cava – and the alcohol-free version I’m delighted to say, is the same.
Although it’s available as both rosé and white, I prefer the former. The white is good too, but the rosé, well that is tangy, very fizzy, fruity and dry – everything I love in my alcohol-free cava.
Another one that comes in at a good price point.
Suitable for vegans.
Whitley Neill Raspberry Alcohol Free Spirit
- Whitley Neill Raspberry Alcohol Free Spirit, £22 for 70cl from Sainsbury’s – buy here
Fans of Whitley Neill’s Raspberry Gin are in for a treat with this alcohol-free version. I tried it for the first time over Christmas and it is quite delicious.
First off, when you taste an alcohol-free gin straight, don’t expect the kick – the alcohol has been taken away remember. However, what you do get is the real flavour of the botanicals coming through. This one as you would expect, tastes of fresh raspberries but there’s a bitter push of juniper behind it, which stops it being overly sweet.
Add tonic and it really comes into its own. The tang added by the mixer creates the taste you expect from gin and tonic, and for me, the missing alcohol is no miss at all.
Also available in Rhubarb & Ginger.
Lyre’s Coffee Originale Non-Alcoholic Spirit
- Lyre’s Coffee Originale Non-Alcoholic Spirit, £23.50 from Lyre’s – buy here
Upon pouring this dark alcohol-free spirit, you’re greeted by the heady aromas of coffee and chocolate – delicious! It also brings a warmth to the back of your throat that I’ve not found with other non-alcoholic drinks.
Taste it neat over ice and you’ll get the full flavour of coffee beans and spices in your glass, however, mix it with Lyre’s Non-Alcoholic White Cane Spirit, add a shot of espresso and vanilla syrup, and you have an amazing alcohol-free espresso martini.
Nirvana Bavarian Helles Lager
- Nirvana Bavarian Helles Lager, currently on offer at £1.35 for 330ml from Ocado – buy here
Another new taste I’ve discovered while researching this feature and one I’ll be returning to going forwards, this lager is refreshing and bubbly without being overly gassy.
I love the flavour – and the fact there’s only 66 calories in a bottle. It’s brewed in East London to Bavarian traditions and is a World Beer Awards medal winner.
Nirvana also brews a Dark & Rich Stout, Classic IPA, Organic Pale Ale and Hoppy Pale Ale – all of which I can’t wait to try.
Adnams Ghost Ship Citrus Pale Ale 0.5% alcohol
- Adnams Ghost Ship Citrus Pale Ale 0.5% alcohol, £1.30 for 500ml from Tesco – buy here
This tasted heavier than the other pale ales I tried and it had an almost ‘toasty’ flavour, which though different to what I’m used to was nonetheless pleasant. A friend who knows his pale ales declared it tasted like the regular alcohol version and he loved it.
It has the citrus taste of citra hops, which is blended with East Anglian malt to create regular Ghost Ship, which is then put through a de-alcoholiser to remove the alcohol.
Suitable for vegans.
I Heart Zero Sparkling White
- I Heart Zero Sparkling White, £3.50 for 75cl from Slurp – buy here
This fizz is light on the palate, crisp and perfect for parties so have a few bottles of this on hand for non-drinkers this New Year.
The flavour is dry, which appeals to me, and it is so easy to drink. It tastes lovely and is very affordable.
Also available in a rosé version.
Krombacher AlkoholFrei Weizen
- Krombacher AlkoholFrei Weizen £1.90 for 500ml from Ocado – buy here
An alcohol-free wheat beer that certainly delivers on taste.
I used to be partial to wheat beer but until I started research for this review, I had no idea an alcohol-free version even existed – and it doesn’t disappoint.
The colour is slightly lighter than I remember but the flavour is all there. Good both at room temperature and cold from the fridge.
Freestar Prime Time 0.5% Craft Lager
- Freestar Prime Time 0.5% Craft Lager, £1.75 for 330ml from Tesco – buy here
According to its makers this is ‘the alcohol-free beer for beer lovers.’ The flavour is light and smooth, and it’s not too fizzy, so an all-round good alternative to regular lager and a great introduction to the sector for anybody trying Dry January.
The taste is apparently down to the combination of pilsner malt, saaz, hallertau and perle hops, and Belgian yeast, which are gently filtered before bottling. Whatever the technical terms, it definitely works.
A UK winner at the 2019 World Beer Awards in the low alcohol category, Freestar was also the world’s first alcohol-free beer brand to certify as a B Corp – the company’s brewing process uses less water, less energy and creates less waste than other traditional brewing methods.
Old Mout Pineapple and Raspberry Alcohol-Free Cider
- Pineapple and Raspberry Old Mout Cider, £1 for 500ml from Asda – buy here
Flavoured ciders have become really popular in recent years and this pineapple and raspberry variety opens up the sector to non-drinkers. If you’re a fan of the alcoholic version the chances are you’re going to love this – it’s sweet, slightly fizzy and definitely tastes of pineapples.
Nice, but it’s a little too sweet for me – I prefer the Berries & Cherries version, which I’ve discovered pretty much goes with all kinds of food when you’re eating out (just as well as often it seems to be the only alcohol-free drink on offer in pubs).
Suitable for vegans.
Butcombe Brewing Co Goram IPA Zero
- Butcombe Brewing Co Goram IPA Zero, £1.99 from Wise Bartender – buy here
A golden and eminently drinkable IPA from the Butcombe Brewing Company. The flavour is full and rich, leaving a satisfying bitterness on the tongue after drinking.
Brewed with a combination of hops from England, New Zealand and the United States, this award-winning IPA took the country and gold accolades for the UK in the No & Low Alcohol IPA Category of the 2022 World Beer Awards. Well deserved.
Adnams Wild Wave 0.5% Cider
- Adnams Wild Wave 0.5% Cider, £1.30 for 33ml from Ocado – buy here
This is a traditional-style cider that tastes of apples and is no less refreshing for its lack of alcohol.
I don’t know if the fact it’s fully fermented has anything to do with it, but it tastes like the real deal to me, crisp and dry to drink. I defy any cider drinker not to like it.
I can see this going down well with a picnic in summer.
Crossip Rich Berry
- Crossip Rich Berry, £24 from Crossip – buy here
Unlike some of the drinks included in this list, Crossip isn't really trying to recreate any specific alcohol with its booze-free spirits.
We liked this for two reasons: firstly, because there's no opportunity for comparison, it can't fail to effectively evoke real alcohol — it stands alone.
Secondly, it means that you can happily mix it with alcohol, should the mood take hold of you. For example, we paired its Dandy Smoke with a couple of shots of rum, which was delicious.
However, don't fear this is just posh squash. The people over at Crossip use a maceration process (whereby fruits are soaked and softened in liquid) to recreate the texture of an alcoholic drink, meaning that when you pair the spirit with a mixer, you get the unmistakable consistency of a cocktail.
There's also a complex blend of flavours involved, to remind you that what you're drinking isn't just ordinary cordial. Our favourite flavour, the limited-edition Rich Berry, includes spicy notes of nutmeg, clove and cinnamon, as well as things you'll have to google like Wormwood and Gentian. However, the blackberry and damson flavours are prominent enough to not make the drink overly challenging.
You can use it to make an ordinary long drink by pairing it with tonic or soda, or make it more of an occasion by including it in mulled wine or a bramble – you can find recipes on the brand's website. The only thing we found is that we had to use more of the spirit than recommended to achieve the flavour we wanted. Each to their own, though.
If autumn berries aren't your thing, there's other flavours to choose from, including Citrus and Hibiscus.
Gordon's Alcohol Free 0.0% Gin
- Gordon's Alcohol Free 0.0% Gin, £11.99 from Amazon – buy here
Chances are you'll have heard of Gordon's. The famous London-born company has been distilling gin for centuries, with hoards of fans behind them, and has now tried its hand at a bold, piney and juniper-forward alcohol-free gin.
As you would with any spirit, pour it over ice with a splash of your favourite tonic for a classic gin cocktail.
This 70cl bottle from Amazon is only £12, which is a great bargain compared to some of its competitors, and it's a great alcohol-free, botanical-forward alternative to your usual G&T.
Want to hear what we thought of it? Read our review of Gordon's Alcohol Free Gin before you buy.
Sipsmith FreeGlider Non-Alcoholic Spirit
- Sipsmith FreeGlider Non-Alcoholic Spirit, £22.45 from The Whisky Exchange – buy here
This gorgeous bottle from fancy gin brand, Sipsmith, certainly proves that going alcohol-free means you don't have to opt for something that compromises on flavour.
This beautiful wax-sealed bottle is less than 0.5% ABV and would make a beautiful gift to the cutter-downers in your life, thanks to its golden-framed swan illustration.
The tasting notes are juniper and citrus, and Sipsmith recommends a splash of light, fizzy tonic and a wedge of bitter grapefruit for the perfect balance of flavours.
Seedlip Grove 42
- Seedlip Grove 42, £20.45 from Master of Malt – buy here
This citrus-forward alternative to gin is for those who prefer their spirits a little fruiter, rather than bold and piney or full of herbaceous juniper flavours.
This option from Seedlip Grove features blood and bitter orange, mandarin, lemon, lemongrass and ginger.
It's fruity and fragrant, and best served with a slice of orange, and topped up with soda water.
Caleño Dark & Spicy Non-Alcoholic Tropical Rum
- Caleño Dark & Spicy Non-Alcoholic Tropical Rum, £18 – buy here
Caleño has certainly cracked the dark and spicy alcohol-free alternatives to tropical rums with this fiesty little number.
It's packed with fruity pineapple, coconut, ginger, black cardamom, vanilla and lime for an ultimate taste sensation, even when going tee-total.
It's zero sugar, low calorie, gluten free and plant-based without sacrificing flavour.
Each batch is distilled for 48 hours, then left to mature for up to two weeks before the bottling process begins.
This exotic rum alternative goes best with ginger ale and fresh, zingy lime.
McGuigan Zero Chardonnay
- McGuigan Zero Chardonnay, £4 from Ocado – buy here
White wino? Us too. Save yourself the dreaded wine hangover and opt for this alcohol-free Chardonnay from fabled wine makers McGuigan instead.
With alluring aromas of white peach and vanilla, this white smells and tastes super fresh, with notes of stone fruit, sweet melon and a well-rounded oaky finish.
It's Australian, and best served chilled within two days of opening (we don't think you'll have a problem managing that).
Torres Natureo De-Alcoholised Red
- Torres Natureo De-alcoholised Red, £10.20 from Masters of Malt – buy here
Treat yourself to a taste of Spain, without leaving your sofa… and without the alcohol!
This alcohol-free red from Torres in Spain is made using a combination of Garnacha and Syrah grapes, and all of the alcohol is removed after fermentation – losing none of the flavour.
It's tart, with oodles of red currant, and a pleasant dryness that would go just lovely with cheese.
Eisberg Cabernet Sauvignon Alcohol Free Red Wine
- Eisberg Cabernet Sauvignon Alcohol Free Red Wine, case of six, from £16.50 at Amazon – buy here
Plan on seriously cutting down, or going tee-total, but want to treat yourself to a nice glass of red? Look no further than this bargain case of six Eisberg alcohol-free red wines from Amazon, priced from just £16.50 (that's less than £3 a bottle!).
Its rich, and deep ruby in colour, with notes of cherries and plums – plus, if you're not that into red, you can mix and match the six-strong case with other alcohol-free wine alternatives, like Merlot, Rose, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and more.
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As well as our round up of the best non alcoholic drinks, why not check out our round up of the best wine glasses?
And if you’re having a party, make sure you have plenty of ice with these handy ice cube trays.
We’ve also picked out the best reusable straws to help you cut down on plastic waste.
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