A no-alcohol, or “dry” January sounds like a terrible way to start the year. But is it really as bad as it sounds?
Dry January began in 2012 with 4000 people, but has since exploded, with over 4 million taking part in January 2018. Many bars and restaurants have jumped on the trend. Dishoom now has a sober martini and a dry old fashioned, and Skylon is using Seedilp, a no-alcohol spirit.
But some people are teetotal all year ’round. The Office for National Statistics reported that 20.4% of Brits (10.4 million people) are teetotal. And with Mintel saying that almost two thirds of Brits on a diet ‘most of the time’, there’s no wonder that people are now looking for healthy and delicious low and no-alcohol options.
Unfortunately, the choices aren’t usually that great. When Radio 2 presenter Janey Lee Grace took on dry January last year, the first event she went to was an awards ceremony where the only alcohol-free options were lukewarm water and concentrated orange juice that she had to serve herself! This was in comparison to her companions, who were waited on hand and foot with ready-served Champagne and wine. And concentrated orange juice doesn’t sit well on a healthy, low-sugar diet.
So what does? I’ve picked out a few of my favourites from the Tried and Supplied database to help any readers daring enough to continue Dry January into February.
One of the great things about botanical drinks is that they appeal to a sophisticated adult palette, and are low in sugar. The distilled botanicals by Seedlip and herb waters by No. 1 Rosemary Water are particularly good.
Seedlip produce more complex flavours distilling multiple ingredients together like sugar snap peas and various herbs for their Garden 108 served with tonic and garnished with a pea.
By contrast No. 1 Rosemary Water bring out the taste of individual herbs. The company was inspired by the hamlet of Acciaroli, Italy, where 1 in 10 inhabitants lives past the age of 100 and claim their secret is chewing rosemary leaves. Recently, together with the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew they have branched out to produce a range of 10 different botanicals covering Basil, Juniper and Fennel. These drinks are a great way of enjoying the pure flavour of herbs that typically you would normally only taste within a complete dish.
You might not like concentrated orange juice, but if it’s done well and isn’t the concentrated kind, juices can be both delicious and healthy. True Nopal offer juice from the native American super-food, prickly pear. This bright pink drink contains only half the calories of leading coconut water brands and is a lively addition to any mocktail. It’s not super sweet, but very refreshing – somewhere in between cranberry juice and pear juice if you can imagine that.
Other drinks companies such as Clever Kombucha take fermented Assam tea to create delicious flavours such as peach lavender and raspberry lemon balm. Believed to provide micronutrients and beneficial bacteria, kombucha is a fizzy drink that contains only traces of alcohol. Classed as non-alcoholic, it can be used to create sophisticated mocktails or enjoyed on its own. It’s a strange one, because it tastes a bit like sparkling apple cider, with a hint of vinegar. But in a nice way!
But if you’re just gasping for that pint and can’t wait to enjoy a nice chilled lager the moment you’re into February, then you might be more on for Gen!us. Jason and Charlie at Genius Brewing believe that everyone should be able to enjoy a great tasting beer without worrying about a high alcohol, high calorie content. Launched in 2018, their Gen!us Craft Lager is the UK’s first light craft lager. Brewed with the finest pilsner malts and three hop varieties, Gen!us is only 3% alcohol and contains just 72 calories per can compared to 180 calories in a typical lager.
With all these interesting options, even I might be persuaded to give “dry” January a go next year. Maybe by then we’ll even be seeing teetotalers getting drink envy from their alcohol-drinking companions…