What to drink when you’re not drinking
“What can I drink when I’m out socialising or fancy a drink at home that doesn’t contain alcohol, isn’t packed with sugar and still gives me that celebratory feel?”
This question comes up a lot, especially now we’re into the festive season so consider this your go-to resource for the days you feel like treating yourself to no alcohol.
Whether you’re deliberately making a conscious effort to abstain from alcohol, you just don’t fancy drinking one night or you’re on a health kick and want to get your body back on track, knowing what your options are will help you to not be stumped at the first hurdle.
Tom and I are not t-total so I want to make that point clear, we get a surprised look from people when they see us drinking as they expect us both to not drink because of what we do for a living, but we’re very much about balance, and everything in moderation.
We love a G&T on a Saturday night or a glass of blushed wine on a hot summers day with a tapas-filled lunch, however, sometimes we’ll go weeks without drinking because we ‘just don’t feel like it’. Our happiness isn’t tied to whether we drink or not and we never argue over who’s driving home and who’s drinking because we’re both more than happy enjoying the company of each other and our friends, so I think that’s an important point to raise.
Whether or not you’re drinking shouldn’t rule your night; if it does, it’s worth doing a little digging and finding other ways you can unwind, detach from work and have some ‘me time’ in your day that doesn’t revolve around alcohol. Having a drink can often be the slice of someone’s day where they can sit still, have some time to themselves to enjoy a moment of calm, a moment of stillness and a chance to take a breath and sink into a comfy sofa with their feet up. I’m not suggesting we take that away, moreover, we explore if there are any more ‘health-giving’ options we can introduce to give you the same opportunity, but with a more long-lasting, restorative effect on the body.
One of our clients and good friends who Tom and I are both working with via our ‘J+T Intensive’ nutrition and fitness coaching has just completed 25 days of no alcohol, not because we told him to, we didn’t say “We’d like you to go alcohol free for ‘x’ number of days”, but because he wanted to “treat his body to a fresh morning” – his words not ours.
One day rolled into the next day and he thrived off the headspace that being alcohol-free bestowed on him. Tom and I really enjoyed the way our client framed going alcohol-free. It wasn’t from a place of deprivation or obligation, but from a place of opportunity, gifting his body, his business and his family with a more clear-headed, well rested, focused and ultimately healthier him.
I love that approach.
Being armed with options allows you to proactively walk into a bar and choose something that you feel happy with, or to have supplies in your cupboards or in your fridge at home for when you fancy something but a cup of tea doesn’t cut it.
There are certain alcohol-free drink choices where you’d be nutritionally better off having a glass of wine than the sugar-filled virgin cocktail that’s on offer. I want to make you aware of what these healthier alternatives might look like so you can reduce avoidable sugar, particularly late at night when your body doesn’t need an influx of refined sugar, but instead I want to create a situation where your body is nutritionally better off for having opted for one of the below options.
Treating your body to an alcohol-free night or two shouldn’t be ground to a halt because you’re uninspired by the drinks on offer.
The range of non-alcoholic drinks available to the non-drinker has improved over the past couple of years. It used to be that your only options were water (with or without bubbles), a sugary carbonated or fruit juice-based drink, a mocktail which is laced with sugar syrup of some kind, non-alcoholic beer or wine. None of those inspire me in the slightest and I certainly couldn’t enjoyable drink them all evening long.
It’s no wonder that so many people who are choosing not to drink say they feel a bit left out.
If you’re hoping for something a little more complex, a little more ‘adult’ in the flavours then you’re in the right place.
Here are our top 10 alcohol-free drinks of choice.
1). ICED TEA
This drink is particularly enjoyable when the weather is warmer. Simply make a cup of your favourite herbal tea (blackberry, lemon and ginger, vanilla chai….you name it) and serve it in a tall glass with ice. If you have a blender you can blend the tea with the ice, and you’ll have an instantly refreshing beverage and if you want to incorporate some more flavour, add some orange/cucumber peel to your glass.
At a bar:
Some bars do elderflower tea or other teas that they can put on ice for you. Ask for no sugar as this is where the sugar syrups come out
2). SEEDLIP AND TONIC
Seedlip is a delicious, alcohol-free distilled spirit that is made from natural botanicals from blood orange, mandarin and ginger, through to allspice berries, cardamom and oak bark.
There are three different blends that have their own unique flavour profiles: the Spice 94, Garden 108 & Grove 42, simply serve them with a glass of tonic or incorporate them into a more sophisticated non-alcoholic cocktail with one of their suggested recipes. The Spice is my favourite, as it’s incredibly festive with notes of cinnamon.
I love the Spice 94 with soda water or sparkling water, with a garnish of orange studded with a whole clove. It tastes delicious with kombucha and ginger, too.
- Seedlip Spice 94
- Sparkling water
- A wedge of orange
- 1 whole clove
Website: https://seedlipdrinks.com (they have their own recipe book for more ideas and inspiration)
3). REAL KOMBUCHA
These are fermented teas of different flavours that don’t have any fruit juices, or sugary flavourings added – it’s just the flavour profiles of the teas and the techniques of brewing that give them such an elegant taste.
There are three different flavours: Smoke House which (brewed from a delicate smokey black tea and cider-like in flavour), Royal Flush (brewed from Darjeeling tea and almost prosecco-like) and Dry Dragon (brewed from pan-fried green, Sauvignon blanc like in flavour). Because of their different flavour profiles, you can pair them with different foods from meats, fish dishes and desserts and they can also be used as the base to your mocktail to give your cocktail not only greater flavour complexity but also a boost in health kick.
Pour some Real Kombucha’s Royal Flush into a champagne glass and garnish with a slice of fresh orange or some fresh orange peel.
Taken from Real Kombucha’s website, this is a festive spin on mulled wine using Real Kombucha’s Royal Flush.
- 2 bottles of Real Kombucha Royal Flush
- 2 teaspoons demerara sugar
- Zest of 1/4 of a lemon or 3-4 vertical shavings off a medium lemon
- 6 bruised green cardamom pods
- 1” piece of cinnamon stick and/ or star anise
- Add the two bottles of Royal Flush to the pan and bring to a boil.
- Add the demerara sugar, lemon zest, 6 cardamom pods, and a 1” piece of cinnamon stick.
- Steep for at least 20 minutes to let the flavours round out.
- Remove the ingredients so you don’t overwhelm the drink. Serve in a glass and garnish with lemon
Website: https://realkombucha.co.uk/ (they have more recipe inspiration on their website)
This photo is of my mum, brother, Tom and I on the afternoon that Tom and I moved into our first flat in Menorca in July 2017. If we had known about Real Kombucha then or if I was brewing my own kombucha like I am now (more on this another time), then our glasses would have been filled with half kombucha, half sparkling water as that is our champagne-like go-to these days but we didn’t, so we enjoyed cava instead! Everything in moderation.
4). SODA WITH FRESH LIME OR LEMON
At a bar:
This is the most simple option for you to choose at a bar as all bars will have these two ingredients.
If you’re wanting to jazz it up slightly, here’s a mocktail you can make at home:
- 2 tablespoons live apple cider vinegar
- Juice 1/2 lemon
- 1 teaspoon runny honey
- soda water
Serve in a tall glass. This drink has a delicious savoury tang akin to a drink with alcohol. It’s seriously sharp and refreshing and feels very light and clean which is a nice antidote to the heavier food around Christmas time.
Live apple cider vinegar with the mother still included is beneficial to gut health, too. Mix the honey, lemon and apple cider vinegar together well before topping with ice and soda.
5). APPLE JUICE MULLED WINE
Here’s a delicious, fruity alternative to mulled wine that’s super simple to make and the kids will love too. Apple juice is naturally sugary so I wouldn’t encourage more than 1-2 glass and drink plenty of water to dilute the sugar impact on your body.
- Organic apple juice
- Cinnamon sticks
- Star anise
Warm the apple juice over a crackling open log fire, add a couple of sticks of cinnamon, star anise, a couple of pegs of cloves, and then serve it with a dehydrated apple ring.
6). NON-ALCOHOLIC OR VIRTUALLY ALCOHOL-FREE BEER
A simple option to choose, these ones get the best reviews amongst the beer connoisseurs:
BrewDog Nanny State, 0.5%
Estrella Damm Free, 0%
Big Drop Chocolate Milk Stout, 0.5%
7). SHRB DRINKS
Shrb is a botanical-based non-alcohol beverage. Made with vinegar, herbs and spices. The combination works so well, they may leave you wondering, as I did, “Why on earth have I been drinking Diet Coke all these years when this wonderful Nectar of the Gods exists?”
8). CEDAR-S WILD NON-ALCOHOLIC GIN
9). FEVER-TREE LIGHT TONIC WATER WITH LEMON / LIME CUCUMBER
No explanation needed for this one.
10). FEVER-TREE NATURALLY LIGHT GINGER BEER
There we have it! Our list of alcohol-free alternatives. We hope you find it really useful, particularly over the festive season, but also beyond.
All our very best,
Jess and Tom