I fully support those doing Sober October, though I’ll be cheering from the side-lines with a glass of champagne in hand. It can be a worthwhile if rather grim undertaking, so here are my top tips for dealing with tee-totalism with style, flair and, most of all, flavour.
Gone are the days of lacklustre lemonade or tap water, now there are a range of beverages deliberately designed to complement food or take the edge off at the end of a long day. Beers have typically cornered the alcohol-free market, their 5% alcohol being lower and therefore much easier to replace than a wine’s typical 13%. Huge steps have been taken recently however so banish ideas of sweet grape juice from your mind and get ready to revel in your pre-Christmas detox.
Australian brand Plus & Minus has a range of red, white and rosé wines that have had the alcohol removed using ‘Ultra Membrane’ technology to retain as much of the flavour as possible – their Chardonnay (£14.40, zerozilchzip.co.uk) is one of the best 0% still wines on the market.
If you’re not ready to take the full plunge but want to reduce the booze then I suggest LECAP, a rosé from South Africa’s Western Cape (£14.99, lecapwine.com). Made from cold-pressed Merlot grapes, this blush is crisp and refreshing and, with its berry and floral notes, it can pair with a number of dishes from spicy Asian food to grilled meats.
There is a certain sense of ceremony that comes with opening a bottle of wine. This can be from cutting the foil and drawing the cork, decanting a red and of course, popping a bottle of bubbles. Is there a more celebratory sound than a cork shooting off into the sky? (Bad practise in wine circles, but we all know it feels good). Don’t let Sober October deprive you of this. My favourite alcohol-free fizz is Thomas & Scott Noughty AF Organic Chardonnay Sparkling (£9, Sainsburys) which delivers the luxe party spirit in sober style.
Then, of course, comes cocktail hour. If you are someone who enjoys the crisp freshness of a G&T or the pithy warmth of a well-made negroni then you need a serious substitute.
I am a big believer that tequila makes me happy – and not just because my teens were spent dancing along to Terrorvision – but even without the booze, so does Clean & Co’s Clean T (£16, Waitrose).
Designed to replace tequila in cocktails, it is so close I swear you could grab the salt and lime and reminisce about the mistakes of your youth with it straight. The bottle is glamorous too, making a stunning addition to any drinks cabinet.
The drink that seems to be sweeping the board currently however is Botivo (£26.95, botivodrinks.com). Packing a punch of herbaceous, citrus refreshment, the bitter edge is similar to a negroni, making this an easy win for the end of the day when topped up with tonic and a slice of orange. Sober October is starting to sound more doable.