With St Patrick’s Day imminently on the horizon, we spoke to our lovely Club Soda member Kathryn O’Sullivan, who is originally from Limerick, about putting together some great alternatives to alcohol which are available in Ireland (and nationwide). Kathryn is a Dublin based blogger who occasionally writes about Irish life on viewfromzanymountain.wordpress.com and has been known to organise a Club Soda Irish event or two! Here’s what Kathryn had to say about her findings in Ireland…
Off the gargle in Ireland?
There is a saying in Ireland for a period of abstinence from alcohol – “I’m off the gargle”. So if you’re taking a break from the gargle or reducing consumption, what do you drink instead? Options can be limited but they still exist. I set out to find out more:
The first area I looked at was alcohol-free and low-alcohol alternatives. A few years ago in relation to the alcohol-free beers, there were very few alternatives, other than a dusty bottle languishing on the back of the pub shelf, but on my recent travels, I found two standouts – Erdinger Alkoholfrei and Brew Dog’s Nanny State. Firstly with an ABV of 0.5%, Erdinger is nice, refreshing and light and is readily available in most pubs as well as the major supermarkets nationwide. The second standout is Nanny State, this is gorgeous and so like a full-strength pale ale that you would have to keep checking the label to see if it was the real thing. It weighs in at 0.5% ABV and has an interesting, hoppy, bitter taste. You won’t find this in every off-licence but I have it in my local Molly’s and have seen it in some of the independents. A pub with a good craft beer selection will stock it. Other options include Beck’s Blue and as a lower alcohol option – Heineken Light. I served this at a recent afternoon barbecue and it was a great hit with people seeking a lighter option. No sign of Heineken 0.0 appearing on the Irish market yet (come on!) but if you are ever in Northern Ireland, it is readily available in major supermarkets and pubs.
Low and no alcohol wines
In terms of the wines – a lovely sparkling white option is Freixenet which is readily available in Dunnes Stores. This is dry and refreshing and, most importantly, not too sweet – as many white wine alternatives can be. I was driving on New Year’s Eve last year and I found it a great alternative and very festive, I’d imagine it would be nice during the summer too. That is if summer ever comes again to Ireland! In terms of the whites, Carl Jung is available in the supermarkets and in all off-licences. I haven’t tried a red wine alternative, it wouldn’t be for me – but Natureo Torres is also readily available. Actually, if anyone has found a nice one can they perhaps let me know!
Aldi is now stocking a low-alcohol white wine and a rosé, nationwide for a lighter option with an ABV of 5.5 %. These are known as Featherweight wines and are lovely, crisp and refreshing as well as superb value at under a fiver.
Sodas and soft drinks
Moving onto the soft drinks, there are a lot of interesting things happening here. Realising the Irish thirst for a good soft drink, there are exciting developments in the craft-soda area. Blackcastle drinks have two beautiful craft sodas – Brambleberry Sting and Fiery Ginger Ale. The blackberry drink is gorgeous, almost evocative of wandering down lanes picking blackberries on a sunny September day. I have found this at summer food festivals such as Bloom and Taste of Ireland but they are also available in Avoca stores, Dollard and Co. in Temple Bar, Dublin – and also Supervalu (nationwide). In Molly’s I also found a hopped pear and apple drink called “Designated Driver” – which was developed as a partnership between Yellow Belly Beer and Blackcastle drinks. Wow this was gorgeous, so different and in a lovely funky can too.
For people who do not like their drinks too sweet and would like to give Kombucha a go, Irish based Synerchi drinks can be found pretty much everywhere, even in Topaz garages. These are kombucha-based drinks (fermented green tea with fruit tisanes), so are super healthy, not too sweet, taste delicious chilled and are available in a variety of flavours.
Teas and coffees
Laura, founder of Club Soda is a great advocate for the soothing and energising properties of teas as an alternative to alcohol and since tea is pretty much our (other) national drink in Ireland, I found a few options. I have become a big fan of herbal tea as an evening drink. Suki Teas, a Belfast-based brand, stocks some teas in Ground Espresso Blanchardstown and in the Lime Tree Café in Kilmainham, Dublin. I am not sure about nationwide but they have a lovely website and a super efficient delivery service. The Belfast Brew, a black tea is second to none, but their fruit teas-Grapefruit, Lime and Blood Orange are fabulous. I’d imagine they would be lovely iced and added to sparkling water – Ballygowan of course!
Lily’s Tea is an Irish based company also and is available in Supervalu. The Sleeping Beauty tea and peppermint tea is wonderfully calming after a frazzled day.
In terms of coffee, we are long gone from the days of “instant only” here and you would not have to travel far to find a good coffee shop. All the chains are here of course, as well as many independents and of course Irish based Insomnia. I am a Nespresso fan and was delighted to see Irish institution Bewley’s is stocking pods of their popular blends.
Do check out Butler’s Chocolate Café if in Dublin, their hot chocolate is second to none and you can buy some for home. Plus if you get a coffee or a hot drink in their shops, you will get a lovely bonus chocolate.
Finally, as gin is currently wildly popular in Ireland, this might make an interesting alternative. Seedlip Spice, a botanically brewed drink can be used to add complexity to tonic – it is not widely available yet, but I managed to get a bottle in Dollard and Co. in Temple Bar, Dublin. It adds an interesting taste to the tonic with a few garnishes such as a slice of red grapefruit and a sprig of rosemary. Not widely available yet but watch this space. I think it may become popular.
Although not from Dublin, I am Dublin based where possible. So I’ve tried to indicate what should be available nationwide.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day all! I hope if you have Irish roots, you enjoy the festivities and find some interesting alternatives if you are off the gargle.
If you’re thinking of doing a sober sprint, would like to cut down your drinking, stop for a while or quit completely – you can sign up to our FREE mailing list for advice, inspiration, events information and more. You can also join our private Facebook group to access our webinars live (check the ‘articles’ section for the saved videos) and to share stories, advice and support with like-minded people on different stages of their journeys. Want to keep socialising but not sure which places are good for alcohol-free drink choices? Head to our Club Soda pub guide where we list the best places for mindful drinkers.