More people than ever are embracing sober drinking, and today our options for a delicious non-alcoholic tipple have expanded far beyond sipping on sickly soft drinks. And whether it’s making your favourite non-alcoholic cocktail or using seasonal produce to create your own drinks, it’s never been easier to whip up something delicious yourself. Not sure where to start? Get inspired by our ideas for a booze-free happy hour at home.
The quality of non-alcoholic cocktails are better than ever, with brands now making a dazzling array of products. Take Lyre’s, which offers an impressive range of spirits and aperitifs that let you make pretty much any of your favourite cocktails, minus the booze (and the hangover).
Fans of bitter Italian-style aperitivo cocktails will love Lyre’s Italian Spritz and Aperitif Rosso. Use these and the brand’s Dry London Spirit to make a convincingly punchy non-alcoholic negroni, or fans of a spritz should try the Italian Spritz with Lyre’s Classico Grande, an excellent non-alcoholic swap for sparkling wine. Just remember that all-important spritz ratio, 3:2:1 of fizz, aperitif or liqueur, and sparkling water.
Love short, stirred cocktails using dark spirits? Try Lyre’s American Malt, perfect for drinks such as old fashioneds, manhattans and boulevardiers, while those craving something tart and zesty should try out the brand’s White Cane Spirit for making non-alcoholic daiquiris and mojitos.
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There’s nothing that perks up an evening more than an espresso martini, and now you can have your non-alcoholic cake and eat it, too. Try using Lyre’s Coffee Originale and White Cane Spirit along with espresso and vanilla syrup for a delightfully enlivening drink. Top tip? Make sure your espresso is as fresh as possible, as this helps to create the all-important creamy head in the drink.
Finally, when it comes to making non-alcoholic drinks it’s worth keeping a few ingredients to hand that will enhance your cocktail experience. For rum flavours in cocktails, trying mixing a little apple juice with a dash of almond extract – this works especially well in a mojito – while fans of a margarita should try using pickle juice and agave syrup to recreate the savoury, herbaceous flavours of tequila. Love sangria and mulled wine? Try using hibiscus tea and pomegranate juice to echoes the fruity, berry flavours of these drinks. Finally, although bitters are alcoholic you can safely add a few dashes to a drink without feeling the effects – flavours range from spicy to citrus and floral, and are a great way of adding depth and flavour to any drink.
When it comes to non-alcoholic drinks that pack a punch, shrubs are one of your secret weapons, Easy to make and delicious to drink, these tart syrups of fruit, sugar and vinegar can be diluted with sparkling or tonic water for a grown-up drink. We’ve got plenty of recipes to get you started, from pomegranate and rosemary shrub to pineapple and grapefruit varieties. Once you feel confident making shrubs, branch out into creating your own recipes. They’re a great way to use up seasonal gluts of fruit, and you can add all sorts of ingredients as extra flavourings, from herbs to spices. They also make great homemade gifts if you package them in flip-top bottles and mason jars.
Try our homemade shrubs recipes here
Craving a gin & tonic? Making a non-alcoholic version is a cinch thanks to Lyre’s Dry London Spirit, mixed with tonic water and plenty of ice. Take this to the next level, however, by going big with garnishes as these can really accentuate the flavours of your drink.
There’s a huge range of ingredients to choose from. Citrus fruits such as blood oranges, lemon and grapefruit work well either in wedges or twists of peel, as do soft fruits and berries like strawberries and raspberries. Herbs, especially woody ones like thyme and rosemary, work well with tonic water, and whole spices are flavour bombs, think cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and more. It pays to think about flavour pairings as well. Lemon and thyme; strawberry and black peppercorn; and orange and star anise are all winning pairings.
Make your own kombucha
Fermented drinks can offer the funk and complexity that alcohol usually offers, and kombucha – funky, fizzy, fermented tea – is a great non-alcoholic alternative. There are lots of excellent readymade kombuchas out there, but did you know it’s easy (and cheap) to make your own at home? Try our guide to DIY kombucha – there’s minimal kit needed, and ingredients are simple, all you need is sweetened tea and a scoby (similar to a sourdough starter, which you can buy online or beg off a kombucha-producing friend) to get you started. We’ve got recipes for lime and ginger, raspberry and pineapple kombucha, but you can use almost any type of fruit to flavour a booch – ingredients such as rhubarb, pear, strawberry and peach all work well, or you could even use left-over citrus and ginger peel as a flavouring. As well as being delicious drunk on its own, kombuchas also make a great base for cocktails, especially in spritzes and highballs.