You want a great night out (or in) but no hangover? You are not alone!
The festive season is fast approaching yet for many it is greeted with a certain amount of apprehension.
With movements such as Go Sober For October and Dry January involving increasing numbers of people, ‘mindful drinking’ is the buzzword about town.
Often, the non-drinker of a party is made to feel inadequate in some way – an afterthought who doesn’t deserve any special treatment.
Even the word ‘abstaining’ seems to imply a penance.
But things are changing. There has been a shift in attitude towards alcohol recently and many young people are drinking less and demanding more for their tastebuds.
I think pub owners are beginning to address the need for a range of more grown up alcohol-free drinks.
Obviously a pub makes money from wet sales, yet, no alcohol doesn’t mean less profit these days.
We have all been the ‘non-drinker’ at times, whether it’s down to pregnancy, watching our weight or sugar intake, being the driver, or simply a desire to cut down and wake up rested and alert.
It seems that customers are prepared to spend money on something interesting and more thoughtful, that they can drink throughout the evening, when going alcohol free.
I have found in the past that the culprit for tedious drinking has not been the absence of alcohol, but the lacklustre beverage I have had to sip with a sinking heart. It leaves me wondering, ‘how I will manage all night?’
As a pub owner and somebody who loves the complexity of wine, the bitter notes of beer, a too-often sugary alternative doesn’t make the grade, especially with food.
What I miss when alcohol is removed is the texture and depth of flavour, and this is where the cocktail can come into its own.
Yes, there are good non-alcoholic beers to be had, and a range of interesting mixers that are great to have as back up, but so many delicious concoctions can be made from what we have in the garden or store cupboard.
It is fun to experiment and play, as well as being easier on the pocket.
My pub hasn’t particularly noticed a move towards more mindful drinking outside sober October and dry January, yet there is definitely a cultural shift with the younger generation coming into pubs.
I think the new drinking palate craves a cleaner taste, with zingy flavours and textures, and just a small addition or an unusual ingredient can transform the mundane to the surprising.
Botanicals are the new byword for mixologists making non-alcoholic cocktails interesting, but that can simply be translated at home into tea infusions or herb and flower syrups.
Smoky lapsang souchong can give a hint of the peat found in single malts, while Montmorency cherry concentrate can impart a fruity acidity and depth without sweetness.
There is nothing more wonderful than to offer non drinking guests a lovingly created drink to make them feel welcome and part of the gang, and equally to create something that compliments any food you have put time and effort into making.
Below is one of my favourite autumnal recipes, blending luscious pear with warm notes of woody rosemary.
Non-alcoholic revelling this season can be a grown up, delicious and sophisticated affair with just a little imagination and fun.
Pear and Rosemary on the Rocks
This is an elegant drink for an autumn evening, as the shadows begin to lengthen and a chill appears in the air.
For me, a ripe pear is a luscious and fragrant treat, particularly when paired with a hint of warm, woody rosemary.
Ingredients (for one):
You will need: tumbler, shaker, strainer
60ml pear juice from 2 small pears, or good quality shop-bought pear juice (not from concentrate)
30ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
25ml Simple Herb Syrup made with rosemary (recipe below)
A sprig of rosemary and a slice of pear to garnish
Combine the pear juice, lemon juice and rosemary syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice, and shake well.
Strain into a rocks glass and top with a splash of sparkling water.
Garnish with a sprig of rosemary and a slice of pear. For a longer drink, add more water and a dash of lemonade.
Simple herb or flower syrup
The intensity of a herb’s flavour varies throughout the year, so you might need to experiment with these lovely syrups.
Just use a teaspoon to test the strength as it simmers, and adjust as necessary.
Ingredients (makes a 400ml bottle):
Your herb/flower of choice, for example:
- a few good sprigs of mint
- 2–3 tbsp lavender buds
- 12 lemon verbena leaves
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- a sprig of rose-scented geranium leaves
- a dried hibiscus flower
Put the sugar and water in a pan on a low heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves.
Bring the syrup to a simmer, add your chosen herb or flower and then continue to simmer for a further 5–10 minutes.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Strain the syrup into a sterilized bottle.