Drink: are alcohol-free alternatives finally coming of age?

With more and more of us choosing to drink little or no liquor these days, its boom day for the alcohol-free market

What to drink when youre not drinking? Not so long ago, the choice was very limited: tonic without the gin, perhaps? Lime and soda sans vodka? An oversweet fruity number? Or( yawn) another sparkling water? Perhaps it is no wonder that those of us of a certain age tend to be heavier drinkers than the younger generation: alcohol consumption in the UK fell 26% between 2002 and 2012, and the number of people aged 16 -2 5 who drink little or not at all has risen by 40% in a decade. So its no great astonish that the marketeers are muscling in with a raft of decent alcohol-free tipples designed to please these sober kids and their boozy parents, too.

Brew Dogs Nanny State: serve with hot dogs.

Most low-alcohol beers are still thin and dull, but Brew Dogs Nanny State ( around 1.25, widely available) is clean and hoppy, with body and balance, and stands up well against its alcoholic craft beer cousins.

When it comes to wine, most with no or low alcohol tend to be fairly grim, too. Torres Natureo Muscat ( 5.99, Waitrose) is vinified as wine, then de-alcoholised by distillation and comes out at a healthy 0.5% abv. Its off-dry, but not too cloying, and would sit well on a springtime supper table, especially if the food is somewhat spicy: try it with something Thai.

Seedlip is a non-alcoholic, zero-calorie distilled drink thats caused a stir even among die-hard drinkers. Treat it as a gin or vodka: I like the savoury freshness of Seedlip Garden ( 27.95 The Whisky Exchange, 27.99 Waitrose ), flavoured with peas, fodder, rosemary and thyme. Drink it with tonic and a cucumber slice.( Seedlip recommends Fever-Tree Elderflower tonic, but it runs just as well with good old Schweppes .) For a similar grown-up botanical hit with tonic( and at a fraction of the cost ), try a few drops of bitters: classic Angostura( about 10, widely available) with a slice of orange; or the deliciously zingy Fee Brothers Grapefruit Bitters (8. 71 thedrinkshop.com, 9.85 The Whisky Exchange) with a sprig of mint.

If you do like something fruity, try your hand at constructing shrubs, or drinking vinegars, as the hipsters call them. These are fruit cordials induced with vinegar, which dedicates a pleasing, sour tang. Mix 1kg fruit with a litre of cider vinegar and 750 g sugar, leave in a covered container for two weeks, then strain and bottle the liquid. To serve, dilute 1:5 with still or fizzy water. Soft fruit seems to work best: raspberries with crushed black peppercorns thrown into the mix, or gooseberries with chopped green chillies, say. Handily, theyre also instead good in cocktails, for when you do get back off the wagon.

Kate Hawkings is co-owner of Bellita in Bristol. Fiona Beckett is away.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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