Shunning the booze this month? Luckily, supermarket shelves are now stacked with tasty alternatives to keep you on the wagon
So how is it going for those of you who are doing dry January? Struggling? Getting bored with soft drinks? Although I’m not doing it myself (let’s face it, it would be hard, considering the day job), I thought a few suggestions might help you through the next 13 days.
The good news is that it’s never been as easy to go booze-free, with supermarket shelves rapidly filling up with alternatives to the classic alcoholic drinks. According to sector pioneer Ben Branson of the non-alcoholic “spirit” Seedlip, there have been more than 30 launches in the past six months alone. And Seedlip’s launching a new sister brand, an aperitif called Aecorn, in the next few weeks.
There’s certainly a market for the stuff. Dry January aside, a quarter of adults say they’re looking to reduce their alcohol consumption, according to market research company Nielsen, with almost a third of 16- to 24-year-olds not drinking at all, statistics that mirror a similar desire to eat less or no meat. This has resulted in a rash of booze-free bars, such as Redemption in London, which has just opened its third branch, the Brink in Liverpool and Cafe Sobar in Nottingham.
Ironically, the gin craze has also encouraged a corresponding boom in tonics, which are often more enjoyable to drink on their own than to match to the spirit you happen to have in the house. I particularly like the Long Tail range of mixers, which, unusually, is designed to go with dark rather than white spirits. Try Island Spice (£18 for 12 200ml bottles on Amazon), a refreshing blend of chinotto (an orange-type citrus fruit), gentian and spices, which also goes well with rum when/if you come off the wagon.
The downside is that a lot of these products seem unnecessarily expensive, given that they don’t attract the same tax as spirits, though Branson points out that there are 36 distillations involved in making Seedlip.
Even less understandable is the amount currently being charged for various “plant waters” for which unproven health benefits are claimed. For instance, the £3.28 you have to pay for 250ml of TreeVitalise Birch Water or the new Twinings Cold Infuse range “to liven up your water in a hassle-free way” (12 “infusers” cost £3.98 in my local Tesco, compared with £1.70 for 20 fruit-flavoured teabags). Clearly drinks companies realise they’re on to a good thing.