In advance of Club Soda’s ‘Mindful Drinking Festival’ in July, Nick Mosley takes a look at the no and low alcohol drinks category and puts them to the taste test.
Over recent years there’s been a huge increase in interest in the No-Lo (no alcohol, low alcohol) drinks category. In fact in 2020-21 UK sales doubled to £200 million, led predominantly by a trend amongst younger drinkers to consume less alcohol.
Unsurprisingly the quality of No-Lo drinks has greatly improved. Sure alcohol-free beers have been around for decades but they always played poor cousin to their boozy big brothers. Nowadays as brewers, wine makers and distillers can see genuine growth and profit in the category, serious consideration is being put into the products to ensure all of the taste but none of the hangover and also a lot less empty calories.
Alcohol-free wines have come on in leaps and bounds and can now be found in every supermarket. Although its challenging to replicate the deep tannins of red wines, No-Lo white wines and sparkling wines really hold their own.
“Noughty Brut is outstanding value for top quality sparkling wine”, said Miriam Watson, brand ambassador for Thomson and Scott, producers of the Noughty wine range.
“The Chardonnay characteristics still clearly shine through even though alcohol has been taken out. Also the rosé sparkling is delicious with Tempranillo notes shining through”.
Of particular interest are spirits with many of the biggest brands – including Tanqueray and Gordons – joining newcomers such as Lyre’s, Seedlip and Ginamis. Although some of these drinks are 0%, to be included in the No-Lo category they can go up to 1.2% ABV with the small quantity of alcohol making a more rounded drinking experience.
For those who are interested in finding out more about No-Lo drinks then make a date for the forthcoming ‘Mindful Drinking Festival’ hosted by Club Soda at the Old Market in Hove on Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 July.
Club Soda began seven years ago as a Facebook group to support people who wanted to moderate their drinking or cut alcohol out of their lives completely. They champion mindful drinking to facilitate long-term behavioural change through a range of supportive online courses, and it seems that they’ve achieved success in helping many thousands of people change their relationship with alcohol for the better.
At the Old Market, alongside over 40 low and no alcohol drinks to sample ranging including wines, beers and zero percent spirits, there’ll also be inspirational talks and masterclasses covering socialising sober, mental health and drinking within limits, plus the opportunity to pick up some no-lo cocktail tips from local bartenders.
The event is free to attend due to the generosity of sponsors Double Dutch mixers, Heineken 0.0, Lyre’s alcohol-free spirits and Noughty Alcohol-Free sparkling wines but tickets need to be pre-booked via www.joinclubsoda.com/festival/
Lyre’s Italian Spritz
I’m a huge fan of bitter drinks such as Campari – which makes the perfect negroni cocktail or a refreshing aperitif with soda water – so I was intrigued to sample this product from Lyre’s. I found it a little sweet on the first sip but it quickly settled into the reassuringly familiar amaro bitter taste. Very drinkable. £23.50 (0% ABV, 83 calories per 100ml).
Thomson & Scott ‘Noughty’ organic white sparkling Chardonnay
This is a winner, and that is high praise indeed from a fan of sparkling wine. Although a tad sweeter then the Sussex, Spanish and French sparkling wines I would typically drink, I doubt you’d notice you were drinking an alcohol-free product. It’s slightly nutty on the nose with very fresh crisp green apple and rhubarb on the palate and a pleasingly fine mousse. It’s an absolute steal at £8.99. (0% ABV, 14 calories per 100ml).
Thomson & Scott ‘Noughty’ red Syrah
The Noughty red isn’t as successful as their sparkling. It’s very fruity – think strawberry rather than blackberry – and that’s about it. There’s a mild viscosity but very little feeling that you’re drinking a red wine rather than a fruit juice. £9.95 (less than 0.5% ABV, 60 calories per 100ml).
Bemuse Tarragon, Basil and Hops low alcohol mead
Mead is probably Britain’s oldest alcoholic drink, made by fermenting honey mixed with water and herbs. This low alcohol version is absolutely delicious; you can really taste and smell the honey and the combination of herbs is perfect. Sensational. £3.50 (0.5% ABV, 14 calories per 100ml).
Heineken 0.0 beer
As the world’s biggest brewer, if Heineken can’t get an alcohol-free beer right then there’s no hope for anyone. As with regular Heineken this isn’t going to change your life but is a perfectly acceptable example of a lager with just the right amount of bitterness. (Not more than 0.05% abv, 21 calories per 100ml).