Zero heroes: the best alcohol-free cocktails in London
Hops, rhubarb-and-red-fruit cordial, Real Kombucha
You might associate hops with your favourite IPA, but this drink is an alcohol-free dream. The flowers here add a bitter edge to a pink and sparkling elixir. Combined with tart kombucha and rhubarb, plus sweet vanilla and a sharp grapefruit tonic top, it’s like a twist on a summer spritz. A fresh rhubarb candy teeters on the top of your glass, but you’ll still be steady on your feet after knocking back a few of these.
Blackcurrant, liquorice, sage
Hackney’s Every Cloud has been serving low- and no-alcohol drinks since its launch more than two years ago. Its current offering is inspired by an ice cream devoured by the bar’s owner, Felix Cohen, on his holidays on the Isle of Man. It blends a malty liquorice-and-brown-sugar cordial with blackcurrant soda made by east London soft-drink producer Square Root, and is served with sage leaves perched like bunny ears on the top. The result is nicely sour, with a mild medicinal vibe: like a cough sweet, in a really good way.
Smoked demerara, orange bitters, applewood, cayenne, orange peel
There’s nothing quite as indulgent as an old fashioned – a cocktail best made slowly and with a lot of care. So it’s good to know that Dishoom staff dedicate as much energy to the Dry Old Fashioned, stirring away until it’s just right. To recreate those lingering whisky flavours, they smoke brown-sugar syrup with hickory wood, while ginger juice adds a suggestive tingle. They’re secretive about the rest, admitting only that in-house ‘copy bitters’ and ‘spirit essence’ are in the mix. It all combines to deliver a number as smooth and smoky as Sinatra.
Seedlip, pineapple, raspberry, soda
This replica of a singapore sling, served at Spitalfields’ Bar Three, really looks the part: it’s a tall, resplendently scarlet drink. It doesn’t disappoint on flavour either. Fermented raspberry and pineapple cordials work together to recreate zingy holiday flavours. And the Seedlip Spice 94 – a non-alcoholic botanical spirit – gives body and warmth. This cocktail’s deservedly the most popular of three ‘free’ drinks available at Bar Three, although punters have been known to ask for the addition of a cheeky nip of rum in there.
Orange juice, toasted coconut, cream, yuzu, tonka bean
Bar supervisor Nikolett Maczo was asked to make ‘something tiki’ for Sexy Fish’s zero-booze cocktail list. There’s no denying this drink’s tropical charms – it’s served in a mermaid glass, with a fishtail-shaped biscuit spread with Malaysian coconut jam jutting from the top. A potion of orange, yuzu, toasted coconut syrup and cream, it’s a sober take on the Painkiller (rum, pineapple, cream of coconut, orange juice). Alcohol-free tonka bean bitters give a warm spice flavour that could easily be mistaken for rum – it’s like having the hard stuff without getting shipwrecked.
Plum, bay leaf, brown sugar
Basement bar Eve has developed drinks for a sober night out that also pair with the food in upstairs sister restaurant Frog. Plum is the most popular choice on the ‘Non-Intoxicating’ list, consisting of black tea infused with, you guessed it, plum, mixed with bay-leaf-infused white tea, demerara sugar syrup and soda. It’s not the most visually appealing drink – a puddly, orangey-brown liquid in a wine glass – but it’s dazzlingly similar to your fave vino, with background fruitiness and a tannin-heavy taste. Plus you get to dodge the red-wine hangover. Cheers to that.
Pink peppercorn hydrosol, strawberry shrub, verjus, soda
Shrubs are all the rage for 2019. And no, they’ve got nothing to do with topiary. A shrub is a sweet drinking vinegar, which Sager + Wilde makes all the more palatable with macerated strawberries. This intense combo joins Austrian verjus (an acidic juice made with unripe grapes) and pink peppercorn hydrosol (a non-alcoholic botanical drink distilled in the bar’s own copper still). It sounds complicated but all you need to know is this: it looks like a negroni and has an in-your-face, bubblegum-ish flavour that’s ideal with brunch (the bottomless kind is so 2018).
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