Dry January is here and so many of us at this time of the year are usually trying to get healthy by exercising more, dieting and restricting their intake of alcohol after the December festivities. Apparently there are a whopping 3.1 million people in the UK giving Dry January a go in 2018, according to a YouGov poll…not to mention the recent trend of ‘mindful drinking’…
‘Mindful Drinking’ is the idea to change one’s attitude and emotions about alcohol, perhaps by stopping drinking altogether on a night out, or just cutting down. It is about learning to drink what you want to drink instead of what you perceive to be socially acceptable. This is something that is increasingly being reflected through the behaviour of younger people such as millennials, with fewer than half (48%) of those aged 16 to 24 report drinking alcohol in the previous week compared with 66% of those aged 45 to 64.
“I wanted to create something that was about supporting you to reach the goal you set yourself – whether you are doing a sober sprint, drinking more mindfully or going alcohol-free.” Laura Willoughby, Club Soda’s founder
So this is very much about making a choice about what is right for you, whether on a night out or whilst at home. I have to admit that when it comes to drinking alcohol-free, I usually think of beers as this is something I would consider doing, especially with the regulation around drink driving in Scotland. Note that non-alcoholic beer in reality is not completely alcohol-free, it tends to include products with an alcohol content of 0.05% or less. Also it is worth noting that they are not necessarily always healthier as some brands use sugar instead of alcohol so the calorie content may still be the same.
Plus the taste and quality of alcohol-free beers is much higher these days which have helped to increase their appeal with examples of products such as Heineken 0.0%; BrewDog’s Nanny State and the limited edition Innis & None.
“People now see alcohol-free beer as a viable option because some of them taste convincingly of beer.” Joe Wadsack, Drinks Expert
The phenomenon of non-alcoholic drinks is expected to hit $2 billion by 2021, according to a Research & Markets report. But what about alcohol-free distilled spirits? Or even distilled spirit substitutes? Is there a role for them to play?
The main brand to emerge in this market is Seedlip. This British company founded in 2015 by entrepreneur Ben Branson, who also has the support of the world’s largest distiller, Diageo. They took a minority stake back in 2016 through their Distill Ventures investment vehicle – see here.
Seedlip has grown quickly with listings across the on trade and off trade (Tesco for example), priced at around £27-£28 per bottle.
Surendran & Bownes have launched a 0% alcohol ‘spirit’ called Labdanum and priced at £20 for a 50cl bottle sold exclusively through Borough Wines & Beers and designed to give “discerning drinkers a detox-friendly spirit alternative”. Its makers claim the organic, vegan-friendly, alcohol-free ‘spirit’ is similar to the ‘London Dry’ gin style, but has “added complexity from the use of exotic aromatics more common in perfume making than gin production”. For a report on this launch – click here for article.
Other options of non-alcoholic gins include: the Danish Herbie Virgin gin who lay claim to being the “first non-alcoholic gin in the world”; Teetotal G’n’T at £39.99 for 24x200ml bottles and the Spanish GinSin 12 Botanics at £6.99 for a 70cl bottle.
There is even an alcohol-free “whisky” brand from US company ArKay (as well as their equivalent alcohol-free versions for vodka, gin and rum). However the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has stated that “the product as labelled is illegal under EU law.”
“By law, whisky must be at least 40% abv. It is not permissible to use the description ‘whisky’ with other words such as ‘alcohol-free’.”
“Any link to whisky could mislead consumers and damage the reputation of the whisky category. The SWA will conduct further investigations and take appropriate action as necessary.”
My personal opinion is that the jury remains out on the subject of alcohol-free distilled spirits. I fully understand the idea behind it and the potential benefit of having an alcohol-free option available at certain occasions, i.e. designated driver; pregnancy; during work week at lunch time; or for improved health and well being.
However, there are already alcohol-free options or alternatives available within the on trade in bar and restaurants for those of us who usually like to drink distilled spirits with a mixer or as part of a cocktail, through soft drinks; flavoured waters; and especially through mocktails or virgin cocktails (pictured above). It is much more difficult to provide a similar taste experience for someone looking for an alternative to beer for example, unless of course they opt for an alcohol-free version.
Also, I have to be open with the fact that the prospect of spending £27 on a bottle of an alcohol-free distilled spirit at the supermarket is something I cannot understand or justify to myself (yet)…I came close to doing so once but that was only out of sheer curiosity.
As per the advice given to all of us, I would suggest consuming alcohol in moderation, and looking for alternatives already available in your local pub or supermarket when this is not an option or when this becomes the ‘mindful’ choice…