Crumbs picks: booze-free alternatives for Dry January

by Jess Carter

03 January 2019

Your round! Here are some ‘low and no’ sips that we’ve been giving a dry (ahem) run…

Caleño juniper and inca berry non-alcoholic spirit, £24.99/70cl; available online from Wise Bartender and direct from Caleño

Launched this month, this Colombian inspired ABV-free tipple offers an exciting new alternative to booze-infused lubricants. Sunny and tropical, it’s fresh and vibrant, showing o the sweet and zesty nature of the South American Inca berry.

It’s the creation of Ellie Webb, and has been in the making for the last year. “To make this, we follow a similar process to gin,” she says. “However, we aren’t looking to create alcohol, but capture the delicate botanical flavours that you’d normally find in a spirit. A selection of 10 carefully chosen botanicals are gently distilled, including juniper, cardamom, coriander, Sicilian lemon and, of course, the Inca berry. We use a process of ‘steam distillation’ to ensure we capture the essence of each botanical.

“Our hero ingredient is the tropical Inca berry; golden and sweet yet tangy, with pineapple, mango and citrus fruit flavours.”  

Wiper and True small beer, £1.99/330ml; from Independent Spirit of Bath, Corks (North Street and Cotham), and online from Beer Hawk

With the same distinctive character and full-bodied nature of this Bristol brewery’s standard creations, this beer might be low in ABV (2.7%), but it’s not short on flavour. Bright and zesty, it’s got some serious hop factor, too.

“We’ve been brewing it for a few years and it’s always got great feedback, but it’s only been the last six months or so that sales have really taken off,” Wiper and True’s Martin Saunders tells us.

“There are three main differences between how we brew it versus our other beers. Firstly there’s less malt, which means less sugar for the yeast to eat and therefore less alcohol. We balance this by having a higher ratio of oats as part of the malt bill, as that adds body. Finally, we tend to choose hops with sweeter flavour profiles and less bitterness. It’s probably the hardest beer for us to get right, as precision is paramount with a more delicate flavour profile.”

So, alcohol is actually an important part of a beer’s taste, then?

“It’s kind of like salt in cooking – it enhances the flavours from the other ingredients,” says Martin.

Seedlip Garden 108 Non-alcoholic Spirit, £27.99/70cl; from Grape and Grind in Bristol, Neston Farm Shop near Bath and online from Wise Bartender

Founded in 2013 by Ben Branson, Seedlip was perhaps the first example of distilled ABV-free drinks on the local market. It’s now served all over the world and is no stranger among Michelin-starred restaurants and high-end bars. Not bad for a business that began in Ben’s kitchen.

“I had no idea what would happen [when we launched],” Ben says. “I made 1,000 bottles that I thought would last five months. They sold out in Selfridges in three weeks! The next batch sold out in two and a half days, and the third batch in 30 minutes online. It was surreal.

“This movement is still so young, but the early signs are extremely positive; 2019 will set the trajectory for the next five years. All I know is that the movement will gather pace and continue to change very quickly.”

There are three drinks in the range – and Ben’s hinted at new launches coming soon. This grassy and herbaceous Garden 108 is made with garden herbs and pickings from Ben’s family farm and has a juicy, almost sweet edge – perhaps thanks to the peas in there! – and a lingering earthiness. Try serving it simply with tonic to let the botanicals shine.