Believe it or not, we are hastily moving towards spring, and crisp refreshing drinks will soon be in order. A firm favourite is always a G&T, chilled and beautifully garnished. But what if you’re not drinking?
Worry not, we’ve found plenty of fantastic alcohol-free alternatives to the G&T, each still boasting mature botanical aromas and flavours. We are confident that when served over ice with the right mixer and garnish, nobody would guess that there was no alcohol present here. Perfect for special occasions, or for supping after a long working week. Here is a little round-up of some of our favourite alcohol-free gins and similar drinks.
Borrago #47 Paloma Blend
There are many reasons to love Borrago, not least the fact that their products contain absolutely zero sugar or calories, so they’re totally guilt-free! They call their drink a non-alcoholic spirit because it is to be mixed and consumed much as you would vodka or gin. The branding is sophisticated, from the beautiful design work to the quality of the bottle and label. They keep their ingredients and process close to their chest, not wanting to give away all their trade secrets!
We tried their signature serve, over ice with a good tonic (we kept things simple and went for a classic Fentimans). The aroma before mixing is quite potent, minty and medicinal, and puts us in mind of old toothpaste brands, Euthymol and Arm and Hammer! But don’t be put off, you need to mix it to get the full effect and appreciate all the botanicals. They’re very elusive about the ingredients used, but we pick up spearmint, citrus, a touch of clove and some subtle pepper notes. We added lime and mint as our garnish and found this incredibly refreshing, as much if not more so than a G&T. We can picture enjoying this at a special occasion outdoors on a clear summer’s day. Cucumber or juniper berries would also make a great garnish here, we suggest mixing it up but keeping it light. We would avoid anything too bitter when garnishing this.
Jeffrey’s Tonic Syrups
Jeffrey’s are on a mission to elevate the G&T to the next level, and their syrups are a fantastic way to add some exciting flavour to your tonic. As they suggest, we mixed syrup 1:5 to tonic and served over ice, which worked a treat. As they are syrups, they have a nice viscosity to them, which adds a little texture to the mouthfeel, making them a great slow-supping option.
First up is the Yarrow, Rosehip and Elderflower. Fragrant floral notes from the yarrow and elderflower, with a little warmth from the rosehip. This is well rounded in the mouth, and the bitterness of the tonic balances some of the sweeter elements beautifully. We also tried the Lime, Galangal and Orange. This is a delicious and mature twist on the usually rather dull lime cordial. The galangal provides a warming gingery kick, but is a little sweet, with less fire than regular ginger. There is a pithy orange quality also, providing a nice citrus lift. The lime flavour is fresh and authentic, almost kafir, nothing artificial present here.
These syrups are at once nostalgic and mature in taste. They remind us of drinking dandelion and burdock as children, but with less sweetness, and a more grown-up bitter finish. These are perfect without garnish, the flavours are complex and coat the whole palate. But if you wanted your drink to look a little special, we would opt for dark fruit acidity, blackberries would be perfect. This is a great syrup to execute Laura’s top pub tip which involves taking some of your own cordial (in this case Jeffrey’s) in a small bottle so you can always pimp your own soda. You could also use these to jazz up a gin cocktail if you’re entertaining friends who are drinking, but it stands up perfectly without any alcohol.
Square Root London Gin & Tonic
We are huge fans of Square Root London and love the authenticity of the flavours they create. This is their Gin & Tonic which they launched recently; you can find it in all Draft House venues. We got an early taste at one of our legendary mindful pub crawls, and the whole gang were very impressed. We compare this to a still traditional lemonade. It has all that zingy citrus flavour, but with added juniper and a little spice, not too sweet, in fact pleasantly savoury. They’ve used lemon zest as well as lemongrass and quinine, which makes for a complex citrus flavour. They’ve used a steam distillation of gin botanicals and a juniper tincture to give the classic Indian tonic water flavour.This is very easy drinking, but a fantastically mature product from Square Root.
Tesco Low Alcohol G&T
Low cal version
This is a pleasant surprise from Tesco, we compare it to a house G&T, nothing to write home about, but satisfies the desire for a good botanical fix. The great thing here is that they actually have two variants, one of which is low calorie. This is a fantastic option if you don’t want to commit to a whole bottle of non-alcoholic spirit. Also good to grab on the go, if you want to take something along to watch the cricket, or your friends are opting for train beers or miniatures for a journey. The taste is authentic, plenty of citrus and juniper, and pleasant carbonation. The low-calorie option is not as flavoursome as the full calorie version, perhaps just a little lacklustre.
It’s no wonder that this was a real show stopper at last month’s Queers Without Beers alcohol-free pop-up bar, we can’t get enough of Memento! A delicious and refreshing non-alcoholic spirit made with a variety of botanicals, each distilled individually and then blended. These botanicals are Rosmarinus officinalis, lippia citriodora, rosa and helichrysum italicum. The aroma is hefty, not dissimilar to kombucha or drinking vinegars. Lots of lemon and citrus, with some spice and honey too. When mixed with tonic, the intensity is lessened, and you get more of the floral flavours, some parma violet hints and rose. Still an underlying citrus element to tie together all these delicate flavours. The bottle is beautifully designed, with wooden lid and base. There are five transparent panels on the label, which reveal a landscape image on the other side of the liquid. These vertical slits are representative of the five senses, and the landscape in the background is said to be a memory, a Memento if you will. The brand has managed to seamlessly tie together ancient distilling tradition and modern branding, to meet the modern alcohol-free market head-on. This can be enjoyed neat for an intense flavour, and they also have several serving suggestions on their website for making some fantastic non-alcoholic cocktails.
We’ve sampled both of the products from Seedlip, and they are two fantastic non-alcoholic spirits. Garden 108 is made using peas, hay, spearmint, rosemary and thyme. Mixed with tonic this makes for a super light and crisp beverage. The peas are the predominant flavour, bringing a slightly sweet legume character to the party. The recommended serving is elderflower tonic and fresh peas, and this works really well. Plus, we reckon serving up peas as a garnish would be a great talking point at any gathering. It also works perfectly with a plain or low cal tonic if you’re not a huge elderflower fan.
We also tried the Spice 94, which is equally enjoyable. This is made with allspice, cardamom, oak, lemon, grapefruit and cascarilla. This is perhaps a little heartier, but still very refreshing. The woody quality is very much in the foreground, it’s reminiscent of spiced candles and incense, almost in the realms of sandalwood. There is a wonderful citrus element here too, an orange peel flavour.
We don’t recommend drinking these neat as the flavours are too intense, but by all means, experiment with flavoured tonics or sodas.
Temperance Spirit Company’s Teetotal G’n’T is a firm favourite amongst the Club Soda community, and it’s easy to see why. They had a large group of blind taste testers try the product in the early days, and almost all of them couldn’t believe that this was an alcohol-free option. Teetotal G’n’T comes premixed in a 200ml bottle, so it’s really convenient if you don’t want to ‘build’ your own drink. The flavour is authentic, matching up to any house on the menu. Juniper, a little lemon and coriander, and a slight sweetness to balance the bitter tonic. They have some great garnish suggestions on their site, from simple herbal additions to some fun ideas, like watermelon and ginger! This provides a good chance to play around with some creative flavour combinations and create your perfect tipple.
A fantastic option for the health-conscious is Duchess. This is a great choice if you’re dieting as it has no calories. The taste is quite aromatic, with orange peel and clove, the aroma is softly spicy. They’ve carefully crafted their own special blend of tonic to marry with the distilled juniper, and the resulting flavour is balanced and authentic. Duchess recommend garnishing with a twist of grapefruit peel, which works a charm. We also found that a fresh sprig of tarragon was a delightful addition, elevating some of the savoury characters of the spices. The Duchess is elegant and guilt-free, and absolutely perfect for picnics or beach excursions, especially as it is pre-mixed.
Many of the alcohol-free gins reviewed here are available online from DryDrinker – don’t forget to use discount code CLUBSODAVIP at the checkout to get 5% off your shop!