Parties, picnics and pubs: the ultimate guide to non-alcoholic drinks

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7 min read
AUTHOR: Molly Long

It’s been a long hard road to get to a place where non-alcoholic drinks are as satisfying and cared for as their alcoholic counterparts.

Even five years ago, many non-drinkers would have felt resigned to a pint of flat lemonade at a pub, or a well-meaning glass of tap water at a party. And of course, the prying questions or sideways glances – Pregnant? Drinking problem? Sick? – came free of charge.

However, tides are turning now and there are more people than ever choosing to abstain from alcohol, and more brands willing to cater for them with the best non-alcoholic drinks the market has seen. From well-known brands offering zero-alcohol alternatives, to small indie producers, the market has never been more diverse.

The reason as to why someone doesn’t drink is ultimately irrelevant. What is important is being able to offer them (or provide yourself with!) a delicious zero-alcohol tipple for any occasion. So, whether you’re off to a picnic, heading down the pub or looking to buy a present for someone else, these are the good alcohol-free drinks and award-winning brands you need to know about.

What is a non-alcoholic drink?

An alcohol-free drink is really any beverage which doesn’t contain alcohol. For this reason, there is quite literally and endless number to choose from – technically, even milk, smoothies and milkshakes are non-alcoholic drinks!

However, when talking about non-alcoholic drinks, most people are referring to drinks which can be consumed in contexts where you’d normally drink alcohol. For example, with dinner, at a party or to celebrate good news.

As this list of non alcoholic drinks will explore, there are non-alcoholic versions of pretty much every alcohol out there – from wine and beer, to liqueurs and spirits. Additionally, if you prefer a non-alcoholic drink not based on the real thing, there are plenty of soft drinks which are just as delicious.

How are non-alcoholic drinks made?

With alcohol, the manufacturing methods are a huge part of how the drink is perceived, consumed, marketed and shared. Vineyards are an intrinsic part of the world of wine, for example, while wooden barrels are synonymous with whiskey.

Manufacturing methods for alcohol-free drinks vary – some are near identical to their alcoholic counterparts, while others are made completely differently. Other great alternatives are made by simply removing the alcohol from the liquid at hand.

Best non alcoholic drinks

There are plenty of alcohol free drinks in the UK. From wine to tequila, we’ve rounded up the best drinks that are non alcoholic.

Alcohol-free wines

Starting in the category which has arguably come the longest way, we have alcohol-free wine. In times past – when it was actually available in stores or on menus – zero-alcohol wine was often super-sweet and syrup-like or intensely sour.

Alcohol usually forms a sort of backbone with wine – its inclusion adds body and texture, but also can help a wine carry flavour much better. All zero-alcohol wine begins life as alcoholic wine, so stripping out this component has historically resulted in an unbalanced and unpleasant drink.

In more recent years, money and attention has been funnelled into the category – with excellent results. Many non-alcoholic wines are now just as complex in taste and body as their alcoholic counterparts, offering some of the best alcohol free drinks the market has.

Top brands to try…

Alcohol-free beer

Those on the lookout for alcohol-free beer traditionally haven’t fared much better than wine drinkers. Luckily, the world has moved on from solitary bottles of Becks Blue shoved to the back of pub beer fridges.

There are many ways in which breweries create alcohol-free beer, but the most common are dealcoholisation, limited fermentation, dilution and fermentation free brewing. Some breweries even use a mix of all four to produce their signature formulas – and methods can be used to make drinks across the beer spectrum, from stouts and lagers to pale ales and pilsners.

Alongside more well-known brands like BrewDog, Heineken and Corona, craft beer breweries have poured huge time, care and effort into producing alcohol free drinks. These are usually available in bottles and cans and, increasingly, on draught in pubs. Proving that more and more venues are paying attention to their teetotal guests.

Give this a go…

Alcohol-free cider

For the uninitiated, alcohol-free cider sounds a lot like apple juice. However, those who have been on the search for such a drink will know that more effort is needed to truly replicate the refreshing taste of cider than just juicing fruit.

As with all the best non-alcoholic drink options, the secret to a great zero-alcohol cider is in the flavour and texture of the drink. Too sweet, and the result is headache-inducing; too sour, and all the fun of the experience shrivels up.

Like non-alcoholic beer, there are plenty of options available to non-drinkers in the form of bottles, cans and draught. Additionally, there are just as many flavour options as alcoholic cider.

Our recommendations…

Alcohol-free spirits

At first thought, non-alcoholic spirits sounds a bit like an oxymoron – what are spirits if not highly alcoholic? However, a more detailed consideration of the category shows that actually, spirits have much more to offer than simply their high ABV.

Gins, for example, can have complex and flowery botanical notes like orange blossom and tropical fruit. Meanhwhile certain whiskeys (and whiskies) can be smoky and woody. Additionally, certain liqueurs have iconic flavour profiles that are valuable way beyond their alcoholic content. For all these flavours and more, those who choose not to drink can feel they’re missing out.

It’s welcome then that so many brands are taking notice and investing great care in the development of non-alcoholic drinks in the UK which take the place of spirits. Consumed with a mixer like tonic, sparkling water or orange juice, as part of a cocktail or simply served chilled, this new generation of drinks are some of the best alcohol free drinks available, offering all the deliciousness of spirits without the headache.

Why not try…

Other non-alcoholic drinks

While everything we’ve recommended so far has been based on alcoholic equivalents, there are plenty of alcohol-free drinks in the UK that are unlike anything else currently on the market. These drinks are non-alcoholic first and foremost. But plenty are still perfect for celebrating or otherwise enjoying.

From kombucha, to special soft drinks and decidedly more grown-up juices, these drinks are just as tasty as alcohol (if not more!) and will complement any event or meal. And with ingredients like ginger, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and yuzu, many are healthy non-alcoholic drinks too.

Top drinks to try…

Is your food business up to date with the developments of the low and no alcohol sector? These upcoming Masterclasses reveal all:

Low/no alcohol drinks on the UK market – How to navigate the complexity of product information regulations

Tuesday 28 June 2022 | 10:00 – 12:30 BST

How to innovate in low/no alcohol drinks

Wednesday 29 June 2022 | 14:00 – 16:00 BST

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