Alcohol-Free Drinks for the Festive Season

Written by on December 24, 2011 in Food & Drink, Seasonal - 3 Comments

New Year is just a blur for some (image: scottchan)

Christmas comes with all sorts of traditional drinks, most of them alcoholic. Some people think if you’re not drinking alcohol, you might as well walk inside a cupboard and turn off the lights. But, whilst this can be fun in the right company, there are alternatives.

It’s still important to feel like you’re part of what’s going on, and the tastes and scents of the drinks are a major part of that, so here is a glut traditional Christmas drinks, and some ideas for what to have instead.

Mulled Wine

Mulling in the wine sense means combining with spices, typically things like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, often also heating it. The exact preparation varies from country to country, though it’s present in some form throughout most of Europe.

Alcohol-free mulled wine is a bit of a gift for non-drinkers, because the complexity of flavour from the spices allied with the warmth mean that it’s got a lot going for it, with or without alcohol. There are three main options for preparing your own alcohol-free mulled wine:

– Make your own in a pan, like in this Delia Smith recipe.

– Add pre-prepared mulling spices, which often come in syrup format to your red grape juice or non-alcoholic wine. Maybe best not to pick a sparkling , as that might be a bit weird.

– Buy it ready made, as with IKEA’s ready-made Swedish Glögg Alkoholfri or Rochester Mulled Berry Punch.

But if that’s all still too much effort, and you’re not prepared to operate anything beyond a kettle, buy some Mulled Wine Tea.

Buck’s Fizz

Christmas morning is about Buck’s Fizz. Well okay, it isn’t – it’s about people trying to read the expressions of each other as they open their respective presents, like some weird game of poker. In fact it’s a shame there isn’t a second phase in which everyone gambles their presents. Though what you’d do with a doll that cries real tears and a bottle of flavoured vodka I’m not quite sure. Pair them off, perhaps.

Anyway, back to the drink: Buck’s Fizz is traditionally made up of two-parts orange juice with one-part Champagne. Alcohol-free Buck’s Fizz is made by simply substituting sparkling white grape juice for the Champagne. With there being no alcohol around, the flavour and texture becomes more intrinsic to the ‘specialness’ of the drink. So get one with juicy bits so the bubbles chase the pith about like an orange snow globe.

Port

Port is a Christmas staple, in the UK at least, and is often drunk with cheese during the fill-any-remaining-gaps-in-your-stomach ceremony. But this Portuguese fortified wine poses a problem for non-drinkers, since an alcohol-free port is a difficult thing to find (unless you live near Holyhead).

Whilst you’ll struggle to match the depth of flavour of port, a good red grape juice or non-alcoholic red wine will at least give you something to complement your favourite milk-based foodstuffs.

Whisky

You might think that spirits are irreplaceable, but there are actually alcohol-free whiskies out there. There’s the Spanish drink Whissin and Black Zero for a start, although the Scotch Whisky Association is less than enamoured with the idea.

The problem is that it’s probably not a good choice for vulnerable former-drinkers, certainly if it’s any good at its job. In fact, forget clever titles like Whissin (sin is Spanish for without) it should just have ‘RELAPSE’ in big letters on the bottle. Furthermore, there can be better routes than trying to directly copy something whose flavour fundamentally relies on the presence of alcohol.

So, if you’re looking for something non-alcoholic but with a short sharp bite of flavour, a better bet might be something with the zing of ginger, like Great Uncle Cornelius’ Finest Spiced Ginger or Rochester Ginger.

Champagne

It’s New Year’s Eve and people right across the world are lining up for the competition of who can break their unrealistic resolutions the fastest. But what to drink instead of Champagne?

Our recommendation is for a sparkling white grape juice, made from the Muscat grape, with ASDA Extra Special Sparkling White Muscat Juice a particular favourite with this writer.

Get a good one, and the wonderful Muscat aroma means you won’t miss the alcohol. Plus many manufacturers produce them in that mixture of skin-lacerating foil and lightbulb-shattering cork that we associate with celebratory drinks.

And remember that just because your drink is alcohol-free doesn’t mean it should be served in some cast-off glass – drink it from a flute. I mean the glass. Actually, what the hell – drink it from an actual flute. I mean, it’s only once a year, isn’t it?

About the Author

Neil Bennion stopped drinking alcohol for health reasons back in 2006. He's been ridiculed all over the world for his lifestyle choice, but he must like it because he keeps coming back - or rather, going away - for more. Neil is a freelance travel writer who blogs about productivity on the road at Wandering Desk. Note that Neil is not a health professional (thank goodness) so the traditional disclaimer about everything being your own fault applies.

3 Comments on "Alcohol-Free Drinks for the Festive Season"

  1. Joe February 1, 2012 at 8:38 pm · Reply

    The hard part of replacing port with cheese is the need for something somewhat sweet (but mostly asphyxiatingly heavy in flavor) to take the place of the port when complementing a cheese. Not easy, but a deloused mulled wine might just do the job.

    If it wasn’t for the sweetened condensed milk, I’d suggest Vietnamese style Coffee (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVNdwx3elys), but it might work with some kind of supercharging additive on the scale of an Anaheim pepper or something.

    • Neil February 3, 2012 at 11:52 am · Reply

      Thanks for your ideas – that coffee looks great!

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