I I am sometimes asked why I don’t give more negative reviews – that is, ones that warn readers about bottles that I think are unpleasant or bad value for money. My usual response is that there are too many good things around (and not a lot of space to write about), so I prefer to focus on drinks worth buying.
However, in the much smaller soft drink and low alcohol market, these rules don’t really apply. There is a lot of innovation and experimentation going on right now and, because a good number of new producers are jumping on the bandwagon, not all of them have made it.
Alcohol-free wine is an obvious example. If you like wine, they just aren’t going to cut it for you: I keep trying and continue to be disappointed. If you’re less picky than me, however, you might appreciate Oddbird Blanc de Blancs (Amazon £ 9.99, 0%), which is at least vaguely winey, but to be honest I’d rather have a glass of kombucha or sparkling tea, like the Saicho I mentioned a year ago or so. the Real Royal Flush in today’s pick.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are plenty of more than decent alcohol-free beers, my latest find being Butcombe’s, which should appeal to those who find beers described as craft a bit too full. It’s reasonably priced, which is more than can be said for many new alcohol-free spirits and aperitifs, some of which taste positively unpleasant in themselves. I know that’s not how you should drink them, but if you need to drown something with tonic and top it with citrus to make it vaguely palatable, you might as well save yourself a few pounds and not. drink that tonic. (I exempt my favorites Pentire’s Adrift and Sipsmith’s Freeglider from these restrictions, and I can recommend the interesting Fluère and Wilfred in today’s panel, although “Do you want a Wilfred?” Or “Do you fancy a Wilfred? ‘un Fluère?’ are not the kind of invitations that easily stumble on the tongue.)
I also find it pretty hard to swallow the ecospeak on some of the latest entrants to the market, including Ful “powered by climate active nutrients” (why would you want a drink that’s Haribo Blue, though?) And the ” specially selected honey from Bemuse beekeepers positive for the planet ”(I guess all beekeepers are positive for the planet, so they don’t have to look so hard, but maybe I’m mean: it’s at least drinkable , so hallelujah for that.)
Five decent drinks to have a dry January
Butcombe Goram IPA Zero £ 14.45 for 12 x 330ml bottles butcombe.com, 0.5%. Yet another great AF beer to add to your arsenal, made in a more classic style than many craft beers.
Bemuse Low Alcohol Sparkling Mead with Hops £ 3.30 for 330ml from lowandnodrinks.co.uk, £ 19.90 for 6 cans bemuseddrinks.com, 0.5%. Pleasant, slightly sparkling honey drink. Hops are barely detectable by today’s standards, but make up for the sweetness well
Real Royal Flush of Sparkling Alcohol Free Kombucha £ 8 for 750ml from Sainsbury’s, £ 48 for 6 realkombucha.co.uk. Like sparkling tea, a good substitute for champagne or other sparkling. Delicately fruity.
Aperitif with bittersweet orange and rosemary from Wilfred £ 18 for 50cl The Alcohol-Free Co. If you don’t like cloves you probably won’t like this sweet and sour appetizer, but I have to say it’s on my street.
Smoked Agave Fluère Spirits Alcohol Free £ 20 Amazon, £ 24 Harvey Nichols. One for the budding mixologists among you. A really interesting AF ‘spirit’ with a smoky, mezcal-like character.