The botanical bubbles that are booze-free: Tired of Dry January? Try fizz that’s been foraged from the forest
- Sales of alcohol-free alternatives are expected to grow by 17 per cent this year
- From pine trees to mushrooms, sustainably foraged ingredients are all the rage
- UK-based writer Helen McGinn puts booze-free botanical drinks to the test
There was a time when going dry for January meant sticking to water or, at a push, a glass of gloopy elderflower cordial.
But the growing trend for cutting back on the booze has seen the no-and-low drinks category boom in recent years.
Sales of alcohol-free alternatives are expected to grow by 17 per cent to more than £550 million this year, according to a recent report from drinks market analysts International Wines and Spirits Record.
From pine trees in soda to mushrooms in beer and botanicals in fizz, sustainably foraged ingredients are all the rage. Some even claim to deliver health benefits — from boosting immune support to packing antioxidants.
But do these trendy drinks really deliver on taste, or should we forage elsewhere? Drinks expert Helen McGinn puts a selection to the test . . .
UK-based drinks expert Helen McGinn puts a selection of booze-free botanical drinks to the test – including Fever-Tree Damson & Sloe Berry Tonic Water (pictured)
Fever-Tree Damson & Sloe Berry Tonic Water 500 ml, £1.95, Tesco
This is made from Herefordshire-grown hand-picked damsons and sloes, foraged from the foothills of the Black Mountains on the Welsh border by the ‘Queen of the Hedgerows’, foraging expert and author Liz Knight and her team.
A bright purple tonic, it is packed with jammy plum fruit flavours with a just-right bitter edge. While it’s designed to be mixed with gin for a seasonal take on a G&T, this fizz is delicious on its own over ice with a twist of lemon. And with just 28 calories per serving you can make mine a double. 9/10
Fungtn Lion’s Mane IPA 0.5 per cent ABV 330 ml, £2.95, lowandnodrinks.co.uk
Helen said Fungtn Lion’s Mane IPA 0.5 per cent ABV (pictured) is smooth and nutty with a lovely, gentle froth to it and enough flavour for you to not miss the alcohol
Seeing the growing demand for healthy, sustainable drinks, Fungtn founder Zoey Henderson set about creating a low-alcohol beer with the added goodness of antioxidant-packed, immune system-boosting super-mushrooms.
Brewed with adaptogenic functional mushrooms, this IPA-style beer is my pick of the range, made using organic Lion’s Mane mushrooms, known for their distinctly earthy character. It’s smooth and nutty with a lovely, gentle froth to it and enough flavour for you to not miss the alcohol. It’s low in calories, too: around 63 per bottle. Magic! 8/10
Wild Life Botanicals Nude 75 cl, £15, wildlifebotanicals.co.uk
Helen said Wild Life Botanicals Nude 75 cl (pictured) doesn’t taste like prosecco, but it’s much nicer to drink than most of the fizzy grape juice currently sold as non-alcoholic ‘wine’
Created by Cornish Sea Salt co-founder Ellie Bradshaw when she couldn’t find a suitable non-alcoholic alternative to Champagne or prosecco.
This dry, vegan-friendly bubbly is made from plant ingredients including lemon balm, damask rose, ashwagandha (a medicinal herb found in India), rosemary and damiana (a Texan shrub with aphrodi- siac qualities).
It also contains vitamins (including B6, B12 and C) said to be good for boosting the body’s immune system and metabolism. Attractively packaged, what’s inside is impressive, too, with gooseberry aromas and citrus fruit flavours.
It doesn’t taste like prosecco, but it’s much nicer to drink than most of the sweet, fizzy grape juice currently sold as non-alcoholic ‘wine’; and at only 35 calories per glass, I’ll definitely take a top-up. 7/10
Pine Forest Soda 6 x 250 ml cans, £15, idylldrinks.com
Helen said Pine Forest Soda cans (pictured) is delicious on its own or in place of tonic in a G&T
This comes from friends Marcis Dzelzainis and Luke McFayden, both with years of experience running some of the world’s best bars. Their pine forest soda is made from sustainably sourced foraged pine needles (pine has been used by herbalists for centuries due to its various medicinal properties).And with 10p from every can sold going to Rewilding Britain, an organisation that supports large-scale restoration of eco-systems, they’ve put their money where their mouth is.
Made from Douglas fir and Scots pine distilled with water using a traditional copper pot still, this is like lemonade but less sweet (45 calories per can) and with the faint flavour of pine. Delicious on its own or in place of tonic in a G&T. 9/10
VINEGAR & TONIC
Sprigster Non-Alcoholic Shrub Infusion 70 cl, £26, sprigsterdrinks.com
Helen said Sprigster Non-Alcoholic Shrub Infusion 70 cl (pictured) is delicious, serve a measure over ice in place of gin and top up with tonic or soda
This is a modern take on a so‑called ‘shrub’, a non-alcoholic vinegar-based drink that’s been around for centuries. Created by Pythouse Kitchen Garden in Wiltshire, this one’s made from a blend of botanicals picked from their kitchen garden including hops, fennel and ginger.
The ingredients are slow-cooked in distilled grain vinegar, then blended with an English Discovery apple reduction and spring water. The result is herbal with a hedgerow quality. But despite how that might sound, it’s delicious. Serve a measure (16 calories per serving) over ice in place of gin and top up with tonic or soda, a twist of lemon and a sprig of rosemary. 8/10
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