By Anya Cooklin-Lofting
More than any time of year, the Christmas build-up requires a hefty serving of our social lives. I’m sure I’m not the only one with a calendar filling up with after-work drinks, Sunday lunches and dinners with friends in anticipation of the over-stuffed calendar itself; we book ‘drinks’ in as early as possible to combat the time-poor Christmas preamble, simultaneously succumbing to it. While full-bodied red wines, Baileys over ice and endless flutes of bubbles have come to characterise the Christmas season over the years, this year, it’s all about pacing yourself with drinks in the no and low alcoholic drinks category.
For interested parties, the term ‘sober curious’ is nothing new. According to Healthline, “sober curiosity often begins with some concern about alcohol’s impact on your life. It usually involves some questioning of drinking culture and your own patterns of alcohol use.” The concept works on the basis that, “you can have concerns about your drinking habits even if you don’t meet criteria for alcohol use disorder.” So, will you join the ‘sober curious’ with no or low-alcohol alternatives to your favourite Christmastime tipples?
If you love a classic cocktail and want to enjoy your favourites without the hangover, Strykk is your new best friend. Strykk’s founder, Alex Carlton, couldn’t find a decent non-alcoholic gin, so in 2018, he launched a line of Not Gin and Not Rum, joined just a year later by Not Vodka. The 100% natural spirit alternatives are completely alcohol-free and have no added sugars, artificial flavours or allergens. For Strykk, it’s not about giving up the booze completely. Instead, it’s about giving people options. So you fancy an espresso martini, but not the vodka-induced headspin? All the same ingredients come together to make a cocktail that tastes just like the real thing, using Not Vodka instead of one of the usual suspects.
Three Spirit is also all about giving drinkers a choice, opening up the conversation about what we drink and why. Each of Three Spirit’s alcohol alternatives is plant-based, vegan, cruelty-free and developed by bartenders themselves to ensure high standards of taste and texture, or what the team calls, ‘mouthfeel.’ Three Spirit also has spirit alternatives you can heat for seriously festive fancies. In particular, its Social Elixir combines brilliantly in a warm pan with cloudy apple juice, lemon, orange, coles, star anise, cardamom and crushed allspice berries to make a mulled cider alternative. Three Spirit’s Zen Hot Toddy recipe is also particularly appealing on a cold autumn evening: stud a lemon with cloves and cut it into slices, warm a cup with hot water (and remove), add maple syrup, a 60ml serving of Three Spirit’s Nightcap, star anise and the studded lemon to a glass and stir. This recipe even comes with an optional dash of whiskey for those who want some for a low-ABV drink.
Botivo is the sister company of Rum Runner, a company that makes unique cocktails and provides bar services for private and corporate events. While Rum Runner specialises in traditional cocktails, Botivo is an alcohol-free aperitif made using all-natural ingredients made via a centuries-old process. The botanical flavour comes from rosemary, thyme, gentian, wormwood and orange zest, while its bite comes from raw apple cider vinegar, its sweetness from raw honey. Botivo can be used in myriad ways, from refreshing summertime pitchers to warming, festive tipples. A seasonal favourite amongst the team includes a 25ml serving of Botivo, 100ml of cooled ginger and clove tea (made by combining 40g ginger and 4 cloves in boiling water) and a muddled plum. Strain the mix over ice into a whiskey tumbler and enjoy.