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Go No-Lo this January

Tørstigbar is a new No-Lo bar in Brighton's Kemp Town (credit Newsquest)

After the annual festive splurge of food and drink at the end December many of us have the best intentions to take a break and detox in Dry January, writes Nick Mosley.

Although I’m partial to drinking copious cups of lemon or turmeric tea every January instead of my usual regime of wine quaffing and cocktail sipping, there’s plenty of no alcohol and low alcohol beer, wine and spirits now on the market meaning you can still enjoy a proper grown-up drink without breaking your new year resolution.

This relatively new all-encompassing drinks category is catchily called ‘No-Lo’ and it’s a trend that appears unstoppable with an increasing number of young adults foregoing alcohol consumption altogether. UK consumer research company KAM recently revealed some fascinating insights into the emerging category including that 29% of adult pub visits don’t include any alcohol consumption at all meaning there’s exponential growth opportunities for drink makers to introduce new no-lo drinks to the marketplace.

It seems that no-lo drinking has finally found its day and – I dare say – its way. Former Coronation Street star, Kevin Kennedy – aka Curly Watts – made a valiant effort with his dry Kennedy Bar in central Brighton back in 2014 but it was way ahead of its times. However last month, Brighton saw the opening of a new alcohol-free bar – Tørstigbar in George Street, Kemp Town – clearly showing that operators now deem there are commercial opportunities to be had with those who want to enjoy a social night out but want to steer clear of the hard stuff.

There are various process in creating a 0% drink but I won’t bore you with the technicalities: life is way too short to get into the fine details of osmosis. Safe to say that in most, if not all cases, an alcoholic beverage is brewed, fermented or distilled in the first instance then the alcohol is removed. For reference, for a drink to be classed as low alcohol the alcohol by volume (ABV) needs to be under 0.5% which incidentally is the about the same level of alcohol as a ripe banana – no wonder chimps have such big grins.

When it comes to no-lo gin style drinks, without doubt the big names are Tanqueray 0.0 and Gordon’s, the latter of which is available as a classic London dry style and a pink gin. On the nose, you’ll get a real sense of both of these world-renowned gin brands – Tanqueray 0.0 is pleasingly particularly heavy on all important juniper and citrus – but they really need mixing with a premium tonic water to reveal themselves in all their glory. Personally, I’d go for a mixer that is citrus or Mediterranean herb led.

Ginamis is an impressive example of a Dutch distilled zero percent gin spirit

Fighting the independent no-lo gin corner is relative newcomer – Ginamis – that heralds from the birthplace of gin, The Netherlands. The stylish branding and bottling perfectly complements this flavoursome small batch 0% spirit. There’s a lot – and I mean a lot –  going on in every sip of Ginamis: made from water filtered through the Dutch coastal dunes, it has more botanicals than you can shake a stick at, which in the absence of alcohol as a flavour carrier creates a drink with genuine body and taste. Floral notes are derived from poppies and lavender, boosted by spicy coriander seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom. The drink is led by lemon and herby rosemary on the nose.

No-lo wines are de-alcoholised versions of the real thing meaning they’ve gone through an additional process. Removing the alcohol leaves a grape-based drink that is sort of ‘wine-y’ but also lacks a certain something – that je ne sais quoi – so additional natural flavours are typically added to create depth. You’ll find decent selections of alcohol free wines at any major supermarket or neighbourhood vintner including offerings from many of the most recognised world wine brands including Codorníu and Freixenet.

I’ve found one of the most successful no-lo sparkling wines is Thomson and Scott’s Noughty. It’s lighter than a regular sparkling Chardonnay – and doesn’t linger in the mouth for as long as you’d perhaps want – but still maintains a nutty edge. It’s also pretty low on sugar and produced from organic grapes so there are two additional wins.

Personally, I think in terms of taste the most successful no-lo sub-categories are beers and bitter liqueurs. Pretty much every brewery now offers a zero or very low ABV beer, with most being pretty decent substitutes for the real thing. I’ve always got a few bottles of Belgian Leffe Blonde 0% in the fridge – fruity with a bitter edge and notes of clove and vanilla; it’s really refreshing and I find hard to believe it’s alcohol free. Without naming names, you can buy it at Tesco.

Guinness 0.0 is as close to Ireland's black gold as you can imagine

Hence I’ve found sampling the new Guinness 0.0 a revelation. I can’t say Guinness is something that I drink regularly but this is a close match to a pint of the gorgeous black stuff: balanced flavours of chocolate and coffee, smooth and the unique dark colour of Ireland’s favourite beer. It has all the taste of Guinness without the alcohol and – pleasingly – has the same creamy head.

In terms of no-lo spirits, hands down it’s bitter liqueurs that are closest to their boozy brethren. If you like Aperol and Campari then your luck is most definitely in when choosing a no-lo alternative. Martini’s Aperitivo Vibrante and Lyre’s Italian Spritz will satisfy negroni cocktail lovers everywhere with their bittersweet orange-led notes. Both are equally perfect serves with a herbal tonic water, plenty of ice and a slice of orange.

Despite having no alcohol, no-lo drinks aren’t necessarily cheap due to the aforementioned additional processes, however with a few 0% options in the drinks cabinet you’ll be doing your head, your health and – a-hem – your waistline a favour this month whilst still feeling you’re treating yourself. Bottoms-up to that!


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