Over recent years there has been a major shift in attitudes towards drinking – or not drinking – alcohol. Long gone are the days when skipping the wine meant eye rolls from your peers and resorting to sickly sweet juices or a slightly sad-looking tonic water.
Now the shelves are packed with delicious alternatives to wines and spirits and every dinner party (or at least the dinner parties we hope to have in the post-COVID era) includes at least a couple of guests who would rather skip the booze.
This week I’ve been embracing abstinence and trying out some of the new alcohol-free drinks options on the market.
Wilfred’s Non-Alcoholic Spirtz
Anyone who knows me knows that I love an Aperol or Campari Spritz. The summer months for me are defined by a transition from full-bodied red wines to an aperitivo hour marked by a glass of something cold, bitter and orange accompanied by a salty snack. I am a big fan of a bitter aperitif, and these guys have always had my back!
In Italy, non-alcoholic alternatives to Aperol are easy to come by. The supermarkets are well-stocked with little bottles of Crodino. Yet I’ve struggled to get my hands on these in the UK. (The only exception being at the tiny Italian deli on St Paul’s Road in Islington). Thus, when I was given the chance to try Wilfred’s version of this classic bitter aperitivo I jumped at the chance. You just add tonic and ice to this carefully crafted blend of natural botanicals and voila! Made with zesty bitter orange, aromatic rosemary and a hint of rhubarb this drink is delicious. Really, really delicious. And what is great is that it keeps well in the fridge, so, as with a traditional spirit there is no rush to finish the bottle in a hurry – although it’s so tasty I don’t think it will last long in my fridge!
The makers at Wilfred’s were as frustrated and uninspired by the overly sweet and usually unhealthy non-alcoholic options available as we drinkers were. As an engineer and inventor with a passion for cocktails, Wildfred’s founder, Chris Wilfred Hughes, embarked on a journey of experimentation. More than 100 unique recipes later, he created the perfect Spritz.
Wilfred’s is made in Britain with natural botanicals, 0% alcohol and only 21 calories per serving.
Find out more
Saicho non-alcoholic sparkling iced tea
The other brand I’ve been sampling this week is Saicho, who make delicious sparkling iced-tea drinks.
Designed to be paired with food and sipped like a glass of wine, flavours include Jasmine, Darjeeling and Hojicha. The founders of Saicho spent two years of testing hundreds of different teas from around the world before choosing their first three teas; carefully selected to pair well with food.
Each tea is cold brewed for 24 hours to extract the most delicate and complex flavours from the tea leaves. The teas are then finely balanced with a hint of sweetness and a dash of acidity. As a finishing touch, sparkling the drink enhances the flavour.
My favourite was the Jasmine tea, which was delicate and floral in flavour. It was recommended to be paired with creamy pasta, so I enjoyed it with a Bosh! carbonara. I really liked that it wasn’t too sweet. It had a subtle tea flavour at the end, which wasn’t too overwhelming.
Darjeeling is often referred to as the ‘Champagne of tea’ due to its deep fruity and floral flavour. This tea is hand-picked in the summer when the muscatel flavour is most pronounced and the leaves have turned a beautiful purplish-brown colour. Saicho recommend pairing it with grilled meats, although as a vegan I paired it with grilled aubergine!
Originating in Kyoto in the 1920s as a way of utilising leftover leaves, stems, stalks and twigs, Hojicha is a roasted green tea from Japan. It is quite smoky in flavour and reminded me of a Lapsang Souchong. Saicho recommend pairing it with Asian salads or cured meats.
As the teas are sparkling they definitely tasted better on the day of opening. They also contain caffeine, which is something to keep in mind if you are monitoring your caffeine levels or sipping on these late in the evening. However, they were really flavourful, complex and interesting and a good talking point for any dinner party or perfect to take on a picnic.