Forget Sober October, trend for non-alcoholic drinks is here to stay
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Maybe it's because we found ourselves drinking too much in lockdown, or it could be because there's a growing impetus for healthier lifestyles in the wake of the pandemic, but more people are binning the booze for non-alcoholic alternatives.
As someone who used to love wine and now choses to live a drink-free life, it can be boring having three pints of Coke - not to mention a bit jangling on the nervous system - and sometimes I want a grown-up drink...
Just as vegetarianism entered the mainstream in the 'nineties, it seems as though we are seeing a similar trend emerge when it comes to opting for an alcohol-free lifestyle.
The city's newest pub, the Alban's Well, offers mocktails like the Orchard Sour - Seedlip Garden, cloudy apple juice, elderflower, ginger, cucumber, mint and lemon. Meanwhile Bill's offers mocktails including a virgin Mary and Everleaf spritz and The Ivy is serving virgin Bellinis and a dry London mule.
Sean Hughes, owner of Dylan's in George Street, said: "We have seen a 200 per cent rise in non-alcoholic sales since the last time we were trading and now have a selection of six non-alcoholic gins and a selection of homemade sodas which are very popular at the restaurant.
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"The non-alcoholic options are an exciting opportunity to test the skills of our cocktail team and a good challenge to create something unique and enjoyable for those wanting to reduce their alcohol intake without comprising on taste and quality."
Herts Ad food and drink writer Becky Alexander said we're actually behind the times when it comes to non-alcoholic options: "St Albans pubs, restaurants, cafés and bars are a bit slow to pick up on this trend to be honest.
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"They could all increase their ranges – adults don’t want to drink orange and apple juice in the evenings. Most fizzy drinks like lemonade are too sweet, don't go with food, and we outgrew them years ago.
"There are so many great no/low alcohol drinks out there now. My favourites include Pentire, Sea Arch and Seedlip – all great gin alternatives. Aecorn is delicious too, which is like a Campari, and lovely with a blood orange soda or tonic.
"Low alcohol beers are now hugely popular with Adnams Low Alcohol Ghost Ship sales fast catching up with sales of the original. Pubs should offer a range of styles – not just lager!"
Julia Jenkins, owner of Flagship Wines, said gone are the days of flavourless beers and wines where the alcohol has been stripped out, leaving a bland, sugary liquid.
"Pre lockdown quality non-alcoholic drinks were increasingly available with somewhat quirky flavours to overcome the lack of alcohol. In my mind they should thought of and enjoyed as a drink in their own right not a product designed to taste like wine or gin without the key ingredient that defines the taste, namely the alcohol!
"Post lockdown there has been a move to drinking less or nothing at all, and during that time this category has seen a significant shift not only in the plethora of products available but their quality too, as people want a choice of quality drinks to enjoy.
"For example, in the wine section Cava Producer Vilarnau has launched Vilarnau 0.0% alcohol organic sparkling drink that is an enjoyable glass.
"The market for non-alcoholic gins has grown and the number of brands available has increased in tandem . Besides the well-known Seedlip craft gin producers such as Sipsmith have their own non alcoholic version called Free Glider and Gordon’s Alcohol Free Gin makes a lovely gin, though it stands apart from the alcoholic version due its flavour which has less of an edge, being slightly softer and sweeter, less complex and with a short flavour.
"It's easier to produce appealing non-alcoholic beers that taste like beer due to the presence of the two key flavour factors - hops and malt - in both categories."
The health benefits of giving up alcohol, even on a temporary basis, are also pushing many people towards teetotalism.
Personal trainer Vicki Senanayake explained why she has periods of abstinence: "What can I say to tell you how enlightening not drinking alcohol is to every aspect of your life?
"It’s like a fog lifts after 28 days, I call it clarity, life is put into perspective. It's not easy but you slowly form new habits.
"Your energy levels rise, you sleep better, anxiety is less and the physical results are amazing. Years come off my face, my skin, eyes and puffiness that I didn’t even realise I had just disappears.
"I did read some brilliant books which helped me understand just how poisonous alcohol is and joined a FB group called OYNB (One Year No Beer) and the support from others' failures and successes was invaluable.
"It’s not easy to go to functions with the peer pressure from others trying to make you drink but if I explain how I just can’t drink and it doesn’t suit me anymore they tend to leave me alone.
"It’s the most amazing thing I have ever done and recommend to anyone to give it a go. Start with one month, then three and finally try a year."