Dry January has always been a challenge, but 2021 has made going sans alcohol even harder. If you have stuck with it this far – through Zoom meetings, home-schooling, and an inescapable sense of existential dread – then you deserve a treat in this final weekend of the month.
We’re already well-versed in low- or no-alcohol beers, but there’s a growing market for zero per cent spirits. And while Dry January affords a marketing hook for this kind of product, they aren’t only for temporary or longer-term non-drinkers. Just as we have seen increased interest in vegetarian and vegan foods from people who happily eat meat, an explosion in the availability of complex and interesting non-alcoholic beverages is encouraging more people to experiment with booze-free options.
Having tried a few, I recommend Warner’s Botanic Garden Spirits 0% Alcohol. Launched last October, it’s a first step into the alcohol-free spirits market for the award-winning craft gin-makers. Staying true to the Warner’s ethos of self-sufficiency and sustainability, 90 per cent of the ingredients used in the spirits’ production come from Falls Farm, the distillery’s Northamptonshire home.
Almost half of UK adult drinkers are looking to reduce their alcohol intake, and for anyone whose new year’s resolution was to shed a few pounds, you could neck a whole bottle of Botanic Garden Spirits and still have consumed fewer calories than you would in a single G&T.
Having said that, necking a bottle is not the best way to enjoy these spirits. Warner’s suggest that the “perfect serve” for their Juniper Double Dry is 50ml in a tall glass, topped with premium Indian light tonic water or blood orange soda, and garnished with orange and ginger. For their Pink Berry, they recommend the same quantity and glassware, but with Mediterranean or Indian tonic water, mint, and raspberry.
If eschewing alcohol altogether is not for you, you can always use these as substitutes for gin in non-virgin cocktails. For instance, the negroni has become a lockdown favourite, partly because its sophisticated, bittersweet flavours can temporarily jolt you from the undifferentiated repetition of day-to-day existence, but also because its simple recipe of equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet red vermouth is so easy to assemble.
Unfortunately, this booze-on-booze-on-booze formula means that some people find them heavy-going, and although swapping out the gin for Warner’s Juniper Double Dry won’t quite make your negroni crushable, it might make your early morning Skype call a less daunting prospect.
There are two varieties of no alcohol spirits available. The Juniper Double Dry pairs a hefty dose of juniper, with cinnamon, cardamom, lemon verbena, and lemon thyme. It is crisp, vegetal, and herbaceous, and – the absence of alcohol notwithstanding – it captures much of the taste and vibrancy of a fine craft gin.
The Pink Berry combines raspberries and blackcurrant sage with the tingle of chilli, ginger and Szechuan pepper. It may not have a clear analogue among alcoholic spirits, but its sweet, rounded, fruitiness could well appeal to people who are deterred by the piney intensity of gin.Both Botanic Garden Spirits are available from Marks and Spencer, online via Ocado, and direct from Warner’s Distillery.