What I've Been Drinking...
This is an earlier post that I’ve boosted back to the top of the blog to coincide with #soberoctober. I’ve also done a mini update as I found a decent prosecco substitute (yay!) and while I did stay on the wagon for over four months, I slipped back into the wine habit on my weekends and holidays away, so this is good post for me personally to revise as I am going back on the wagon for the month of September and hopefully beyond. Wish me luck!
In an earlier post I told you about my alternative Dry January - dry body brushing - so this week I thought I'd share my experience of some of the drinks discovered during the real deal Dry January - of going sober - and reveal that, because I've felt so much better since banishing the booze, I'm going to continue to leave alcohol alone for a while. I say a while as I promised myself I'd never say never again (from past experience never can be quite a short time for me) but I do plan to stay sober from now on. For me the benefits of bypassing the Barolo have included better sleep (it's still not great but I think that's a 45 plus age thing and I'm quite possibly perimenopausal), improved mental clarity (haven't lost my house keys in at least a fortnight), a brighter mood (big smiles) and weight loss (which might explain the brighter mood).
I have had one major slip up, when my hubby opened a bottle of fizz after a particularly stressful week and I shared it with him. Strangely, this event actually did me some good as I felt so rubbish the next day, after sharing just one bottle of bubbly, that I realised alcohol really wasn't my friend and my resolve was stiffened. As they say a mistake's only a mistake if you don't learn from it, so I've reasoned that that night was just part of my sober life's learning curve.
The times I've found hardest have been on social occasions and at home (that sounds like all the time but I will explain). Socially, it's not been the lack of drinking options - although it would be nice to find more specialist non-alcoholic drinks on bar lists rather than mostly soft drinks and mocktails - but the reaction of others. There does tend to be a suspicion of people who don't drink in social situations, especially if you've been known to drink before. I'm quite tolerant of people trying to persuade me to 'have a proper drink' but if you're considering going teetotal yourself and want to close the 'go on, go on, go on, just the one' conversation down, some pointers for shutting them up include saying you're on antibiotics, explaining that you're attempting to get pregnant (even if you are a bloke as alcohol does affect your fertility too, as well as your performance) or say that you realised your drinking was getting out of control and you just had to stop - that one shuts everyone up because no one wants to hear about a spiral into alcoholism with a double G&T in hand. I also find going to the bar first to bring in the first round helps (even when not drinking I’ll still stand a round) and opting for something that looks alcoholic but isn't. One of my favourites is a garnished tonic water. Thankfully the success of the gin industry has benefited non gin drinkers too, with a brilliant array of tonic waters now being produced in really imaginative flavours. Also non-alcoholic beers are much easier to find and most much lighter in calories too.
At home, I really missed my wine when it came to cooking. It was a bit of a ritual really and, as I said on the Kaye Adams Radio Scotland Show when I was on discussing Dry January with the lovely and inspiring Clare Pooley who wrote The Sober Diaries, it just didn't feel right to be chopping carrots without a drink in my hand! I started pouring some sparkling water and adding ice and a slice but it really didn't feel indulgent enough, so I decided to see what was out there in the specialist no-alcohol beverage aisle. The results were a bit hit or miss but, with more and more people (particularly the younger generation) choosing to abstain, a challenge has been set for brewers, distillers and wine makers to tap into that market, meaning better brews and blends are on the horizon. But staying in the present, below you'll find my top no-alcohol tipples. I've grouped them as wines, beers and gin (ish) and included some label pics should you want to seek them out. All are available in UK supermarkets and I've listed where I bought mine, along with the prices paid, in the captions.
Don’t under any circumstance think the wine substitutes taste like wine – they don’t. But some are perfectly quaffable and if, like me, that glass of wine when cooking is more of a ritual than a craving, they’ll serve that purpose well. My favourite so far has been the Torres De-Alcoholised Syrah. It’s a little ‘thinner’ than it’s alcoholic sister - so you don't get that satisfying 'glug-glug-glug' when its poured - but it’s not as sweet as some of the other ‘reds’ I’ve tried. The bottle looks the part and the 'wine' have a good. peppery taste. A goodie.
Sweetness has been a biggest issue for me when it comes to the ‘whites’. When drinking 'proper', I liked my vinos blancos extra dry so some of the non-alcohol version tasted like sugary pop to me, so I tend to stay clear of them but if they were the only option available to me (highly unlikely) I’d go for the Leitz Eins Zwei Zero Riesling. It's got a very slight effervescence, which isn't unpleasant, just a little unusual. The flavour is good though and has a nice clean finish.
When it comes to fizz, it really is hit or miss - even with the same brand. Sometimes it’s great, sometimes so-so. The one I like best is The Bee’s Knees, which I tend to pick up for under £3 in Morrisons. It’s not as sweet as others out there - and it’s truly AF - and I put a couple of dashes of lime juice (just the squeezy bottle stuff) in to further cut any sugar hit. Served super cold, I honestly prefer this to some of the ‘normal’ proseccos available.
One thing to bear in mind is that although these wines are alcohol-free or de-alcoholised, they do often contain sulphites. So, if your sensitive to sulphites you could still feel like you have a hang-over if you decide to neck a bottle. Same goes if you start mixing them. Sounds bizarre but I say that from personal experience as I drank everything I photographed in this post and woke with a very fussy head next day. So be warned.
Beer is one thing that, until going sober, I’d never really drank by choice but now it's my number one go-to, in the shape of Beck’s Blue. I love it! Even my hubby – who isn’t joining me on this lifestyle change – admits it’s not half bad. It’s got quite a clean taste but still with a bit of bitterness. It’s also really low in calories - 39 per 275ml bottle, as seen below - which is another bonus.
Of the others out there, the Birra Moretti Zero is OK, likewise the Bavaria 0.0%. A friend gave Innis & Gunn’s Innis & None a thumbs up but I’ve yet to try it (because I haven’t been able to find it in any supermarket). The only ‘beer’ I haven’t liked it the San Miguel 0.0%. It just didn’t do it for me. It was too fruity and didn’t feel like I was drinking a ‘beer’. But taste is subjective, so you give it a go if you fancy it. Just don’t invite me round to share it…
If gin’s your thing, let me introduce you to Seedlip. It’s often billed as a gin alternative but, as I said before, don’t compare it to your usual tipple unless you want to be disappointed. Like gin, this is a taste you have to acquire and it would help if you like peas. Yes, peas. That’s because just as gin derives its distinctive flavour from juniper berries, Seedlip Garden 108 gets its flavour from peas and that flavour really packs a punch. On first tasting I wasn’t sure but at £26 a bottle I was determined not to let it go to waste. The distillers themselves recommend it served with ice, tonic water and a garnish of peas. That really didn’t work for me even if it did count as one of my five-a-day. I’ve found I can not only tolerate but enjoy this with a decent squeeze of fresh lime, a slice of lime or lemon in the glass, a few bruised basil leaves (trust me) and my favourite Fever Tree tonic. With the peas central to the flavour, some muddled mint also goes well and to make it extra fancy, I sometimes throw in some frozen pomergranate seeds. Posh or what? There's also a 'Spice' variety of Seedlip, which I'll definitely try but it's always out of stock, which means it must be popular so I'll take as a good sign. Plus, I know there's no peas in it.
So, there you have it, my top alcohol free tipples but I know there are loads more out there to try and will keep you posted on any other notables worth a glass of. And what about you? Have you any suggestions I should try? If so, please share as I'm really keen to keep on this path and discover new drinking options.
Photography by Susie Cormack Bruce
All drinks featured were purchased from the supermarkets listed and prices correct at time of posting.